‘I’ ON CULTURE
I awaited Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 with great anticipation, since I really liked both the earlier films. Granted, the first one was better than the second although, but both were funny, and the characters were far easier to root for just because they were generally not the Marvel heavy hitters.
In the third film, the group is in downward trend because Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is often drunk mourning the loss of the great love of his life Gamora (Zoe Saldaña). But Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), genetically enhanced son of Sovereign leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), is after Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). In the fighting, Rocket is badly injured, but the team has a problem: there is a “kill switch” that will kill him if they try to repair him.
As a result, the whole team, including naïve strongman Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora’s enhanced through torture sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and tree person Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), go on a mission to steal the files that contain the secret of how to cure their friend. They, and we, learn that he was created by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), an intergalactic nutjob/genius (has anyone noted how many of those there are in these sci-fi movies?). Rocket was part of “Batch 89” of his experiments.
Director James Gunn has mixed in something new: real emotions. We see loss and grief. We see the casual treatment of those who seem “lesser beings,” including casual orders to destroy them, particularly heartrending when they are adorable children. Or even adorable animals. Gunn brought in these stronger emotional moments in the middle of the action, reminding us of the many horrors of our own history.
And in the end, there is real change. Characters grow and change, and not in ways we might expect. Quill, usually the wise guy, here is more balanced, more ready to fight for what is right. Gamora is not the key deputy; she spends most of the movie arguing with Quill. But we get a chance to learn far more about Drax, Mantis and particularly Nebula. The first two films focused on the romancing of Gamora by Quill. This film, although it contains some of that, is far more balanced.
This movie is really about Rocket. But it is also about tolerance and learning to accept differences — and done in a way that is both amusing and thought-provoking. We need more of that in today’s world. There is a lovely scene where Drax and Mantis organize the adults to free a group of imprisoned children. And then Rocket, looking at young caged raccoons and other animals, asks why not the “other children.” How many children in today’s world are written off as less than human because of adult hostilities?
The acting is very good. Pratt has learned how to be a star without pushing to the front. He is clearly the leader of the pack but is more a first among equals. In this case, less is more. Saldaña gets a chance to create a whole new character for Gamora and does it nicely. She is far less tolerant than the previous version. I have always liked Drax-Mantis combination. They play off each other like veteran comics. In this film, both Bautista and Klementieff show off their comedy chops, while bringing a lot of heart into the roles. And Gillen gets a chance to shine. She has been pushed off to the side in most of the MCU films, but here she gets to become a real person with quite human feelings despite all the alterations. Cooper, gets to do a really good job as a voice actor. Combined with great computer graphics, he is a moving, brilliant star.
Is this a top-of-the-line Marvel film? No, it’s not in the class of the last two brilliant Avengers films. But it is the best of the universe since those two. There are a few absolutely brilliant scenes, and not only the action ones.
This is a film where there might well be a tear shed. It ends in a way that probably will not be what you expected but will find easy to accept.
If you like Marvel films, do not miss this one.