Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

I’m predisposed toward liking this movie.

Let me tell you why.

  1. James Gunn did things the video store way, starting his career at Troma, where he made Tromeo and Juliet. He moved on to writing the Scooby Doo movies and the Dawn of the Dead remake before making Slither. But he’s always had comic book aspirations from early films like The Specials and Super. The adaptions he’s made so far have been smaller affairs, starting with Guardians of the Galaxy.
  2. The Guardians are the kind of characters that not that many people were aware of before the movies. The characters come from the kind of books you once found in quarter bins. Starlord was first in Marvel Preview #4 in January 1976 with Rocket Racoon appearing three issues later before not being used again until May 1982’s The Incredible Hulk #271In the first thirty years of their existence, Starlord rarely appeared and Rocket only was in ten comic books.The Guardians were the same way, first showing up all the way back in the January 1969 Marvel Super-Heroes #16. Roy Thomas said, “Guardians of the Galaxy started out as an idea of mine: about super-guerrillas fighting against Russians and Red Chinese who had taken over and divided the USA. I got a sort of general approval from Stan Lee and gave the idea to Arnold Drake, since I had not time to write and research it. Arnold went in for a conference with Stan, and Stan (maybe Arnold, too) decided to change it to an interplanetary situation. All the characters and situations in Guardians were created by Arnold and/or Stan.”

    They appeared every once every few years but didn’t really take hold until June 1990. That’s when Jim Valentino created the Guardians that I’ve always loved. Few of them are in these movies — Martinex shows up in a cameo, Yondu is a lot different — but that series was one of the true joys of the grim and gritty early 1990s.

    Then, in 2008, following the Annihilation: Conquest series, we got the Guardians team that led to the film series, which wow, was a gamble.

  3. The Guardian movies changed the idea of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe was all about. Instead of do gooders, the Guardians were space pirates, the children of world killing final bosses and scarred survivors of worlds destroyed, the last of their kind. And yet, the films had a comedic tone that inspired the Thor movies and gave the Avengers films some comedic lift.

So here we are with Gunn’s last movie before leaving to lead another attempt at DC movies. And throughout the ads for this movie, the hype and even the film itself, it has the feel of Lando in Return of the Jedi, constantly feeling like someone is going to die and you’re going to lose that character forever.

The fact that this movie has those stakes and you have those feelings points to its strength.

I’ve also been thinking about how no one wants to be challenged by art any longer. Now, go with me on this, even if you don’t believe that comic book movies are cinema. I believe they are and that comics are no different than mythology or any heroic myth.

Tonight during The Last Drive-In, the Twitter audience was complaining that one of the two selections, Tigers Are Not Afraid, was too dark and they couldn’t make jokes and fun of the movie. Playing Mystery Science Theater 3000 is not why I watch movies. Nor is needing a support group and being there for one another during troubling movies. Movies should push your emotions.

A lot of criticism directed against Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 lies in its tone. There are children enslaved by the High Evolutionary, who also figures into the origin of Rocket, tearing him apart and rebuilding him into the cybernetic cynical creature that he has become.

And let me tell you, there are moments in that origin that are harrowing and in no way for kids. But the fact that they can push our emotions and make us notice those narratives shifts, well…isn’t that what great movies should do?

This is the kind of movie that can have a spaceship that has been made out of the severed head of a dead space god; a talking Russian cosmodog with mental powers; that has a world called Counter-Earth filled with animal people and all the problems of our world; and also one that finds each of the Guardians with very real issues: Starlord (Chris Pratt) has fallen into a drunken stupor after the double loss — once in death, another as she was reborn as a being that does not remember him — of Gamora (Zoe Saldana ); Nebula (Karen Gillan) making the grand journey from unstoppable amoral killing machine into the person responsible for the lives of the misfits that live inside Knowhere; Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista, as always, growing as an actor) also making growth from killer to father, the role he was always meant for; Mantis (Pom Klementieff) dreaming of a better life; Groot (Vin Diesel) communicating with just three words; even Kraglin (Sean Gunn) trying to assume the mantle of leadership that Yondu left to him.

The movie gets going when Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), the creation of first movie villain Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), blasts into Knowhere and nearly kills Rocket, whose body is made of machine code that doesn’t allow him to be healed. To save their friend, the Guardians make a deal with the devil — Gamora — and track down who created Rocket, even if it means they have to fly into what looks for all intents and purposes to be a space butthole.

Despite being fired — that social story about Gunn was always wrong — Gunn would come back for this last story, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “”In the end, my love for Rocket, Groot, Gamora, Star-Lord, Yondu, Mantis, Drax, and Nebula — and some of the other forthcoming heroes — goes deeper than you guys can possibly imagine, and I feel they have more adventures to go on and things to learn about themselves and the wonderful and sometimes terrifying universe we all inhabit.”

And that’s why I loved this movie.

Yes, it’s dark. Yes, the tone shifts a lot. Yes, it’s overstuffed with ideas.

But why is that a bad thing?

Maybe we need to be challenged.

A few other random things I enjoyed:

The music: I usually make fun of needledrop moments in movies, but that’s often because they’re so obvious. Instead, this movie features some songs I genuinely love in moments that they truly fit: Faith No More’s “We Care a Lot,” Spacehog’s “In the Meantime,” The Replacements’ “I Will Dare,” Alice Cooper’s cover of the vaudeville song “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” are all absolutely the right songs at the right time, topped by the Adrian Belew mention in the credits scenes.

The end: I don’t want to give anything away, but after an entire movie of those Lando moments, the feeling as “Dogs Days Are Over” plays are so uplifting that it makes the entire film cathartic. You go through the darkness to find the light.

The deep Marvel characters: Beyond Sylvester Stallone returning as Starhawk, there’s also Martinex (Michael Rosenbaum), Mainframe (Tara Strong instead of Miley Cyrus), Howard the Duck (Seth Green), The Broker (Christopher Fairbank) from the first movie, Bzermikitokolok (Rhett Miller from The Old 97s), Phylla (the daughter of Captain Mar-Vell in the Marvel comics; she’s the young girl fighting alongside the new Guardians in the end credits) and Lem sorcerer Krugarr.

Finally, a bad guy you can hate: Gunn and Chukwudi Iwuji worked to make the High Evolutionary a character with nothing redeeming or sad about him. Instead, he’s near pure evil, a scientist who sees every creation as expendable, but shocked that Rocket, a throwaway creation, was somehow smarter than him.

Also: this has the first f-bomb in MCU history, a “The Legendary Star-Lord will return” credit that reminded me of when they did that at the end of every James Bond movie and a gunfight sequence with Groot and Starlord that felt like John Woo within the MCU.

And finally: When Rocket realizes what the High Evolutionary has done, as he screams in utter despair, only to finally see the sky moments later, wow. Just wow. That’s why I go to the movies.

One thought on “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

  1. Pingback: What’s Up in the Neighborhood, May 6 2023 – Chuck The Writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.