fri 01/03/2024

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 review - raw and repetitive supergroup swansong | reviews, news & interviews

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 review - raw and repetitive supergroup swansong

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 review - raw and repetitive supergroup swansong

The pop-art avengers' last mixtape is an indulgent, dark double-album

Cronenbergian capers: the gang assault a fleshy space-station(c) Marvel, photo of Will Poulter and Elizabeth Debicki by Jessica Miglio

James Gunn is running the whole DC show now, but his Guardians films have stayed free from Cinematic Universe snares, even the group’s Avengers cameos beaming in from their own pop-art corner. This swansong is their indulgent, sometimes meandering double-album and darkest chapter, making a visceral anti-vivisection and anti-eugenics case.

Volume 3 resembles Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in the shadows cast over a dayglo series by a particularly vicious villain. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s High Evolutionary was a relatively benign, species-splicing Dr Moreau, turned by later writers into a God figure undermined by a lupine Lucifer, with Adam Warlock his Christ-like creation. Gunn favours a more recent, malign High Evolutionary (Chukwudu Iwuji), an egomaniac intent on making life-forms “not as you are, but as you should be”, resulting in grotesque “humanimal” experiments, and hothoused civilisations wiped clean when they fail his ideals. Iwuji’s silken English accent quivers on the brink of full-blown madness.

Will Poulter and Elizabeth Debicki in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3The Guardians’ sardonic, bushy-tailed gunsel Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) was his greatest, escaped experiment, capable of thought beyond his creator. When Warlock (Will Poulter), here an immature, gold-skinned guided missile with a decadently sexy mum (Elizabeth Debicki, pictured above with Poulter), leaves Rocket near death, the Guardians hunt the High Evolutionary to save their comatose friend.

Bouncing onto a Cronenbergian, flesh-grown space station, the Guardians’ primary-coloured spacesuits match Gunn’s latest mixtape soundtrack, going beyond previous Seventies tunes to The The and Florence + The Machine, but maintaining a mood of soft-rock comfort.

Gunn’s gags and cast are as funny as ever. Drax (Dave Bautista) runs the gamut of good-hearted idiocy, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) of giddy optimism. Brave buffoon Peter Quinn (Chris Pratt, pictured below centre) pines for both an alternate-universe version of late flame Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), who stays stubbornly immune to his charms, and his old, stolen life on Earth.

Chris Pratt, centre, in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3The backstory of exile and abandonment which gave poignancy to those bittersweet Seventies tunes and the Guardians’ saga is here largely transferred from Quinn’s orphaned, kidnapped childhood to Rocket’s caged cubhood. Flashbacks to his bleak prison recall Richard Adams and Blade Runner, as his fellow hybrids pine for the sky, their creator’s favour and a future he cruelly denies. Like Avatar: The Way of Water’s barely disguised, brutal whale hunt, Gunn’s identification with “lower” animals and their abuse gives raw feeling to his genre juggernaut.

Other stirring peaks are repetitive and half-earned, the wedding of emotion and wild fantasy skin-deep. There is still the familiar pleasure of the Guardians’ company, free of the Avengers’ government-sponsored gravitas. Gunn is too fond of them for a cruel last go-round, kindly completing their story.

There is the familiar pleasure of the Guardians’ company, free of the Avengers’ government-sponsored gravitas

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters