Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3
"This is filmmaking that paints by numbers and with Key Performance Indicators in mind."

So convoluted has the Marvel Cinematic Universe become that Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 3 is near simultaneously prequel, sequel, and reboot. That's without any time-travel of its own, instead relying on the repercussions and precursors of large chunks of the Infinity Saga.

If you've already laboured through the 31 other films then one might as well power through to make it a power of two. Though we're ostensibly into The Multiverse Saga the best one can say about this one is that it acknowledges that timelines are different and doesn't do anything to fix them. It's got a villain who dresses in purple who isn't the one from the other movie or the TV show or the one from both, and it's got enough references to other things that you can probably spend as long as its two and a half hours on a video sharing site having someone explain each and every one of them.

Copy picture

Copy picture James Gunn writes and directs, and as he becomes ever more associated with ensemble comicbook bombast (these and The Suicide Squad and (HBO) Max spinoff Peacemaker) it gets harder to remember he did both for d├ębut Slither. Maybe art flourishes within constraints, but this is filmmaking that paints by numbers and with Key Performance Indicators in mind.

If there's one place that the MCU really replicates the comic book industry it's in the profusion of titles and stories that are at once prodded and padded into different places in search of profit. If there's two, it's in the exploitation of intellectual property at the expense of artists. I counted roughly 20 CG and visualisation and CG firms who had sections in the credits, including one block of names that came close to featuring 200 individuals.

Add to that what appeared to be seven firms in a single line with no more granularity and it's possible that scores of folk put years of effort into the film with no recognition other than a frozen frame on YouTube and someone complaining that the way a cybernetically enhanced space assassin turned vigilante for hire is on magical fire looks unrealistic.

There are nods of sorts to even less official creations, as two ships collide we hear "Kragula", that's Sean Gunn's Kraglin and Karen Gillan's Nebula. They are two of maybe 20 more returning characters who each probably have fans folding them into fictions. Any portmanteau in a storm, and all that.

Deep questions are asked about responsibility, glibly elided by questions as to whether things look cool. What responsibility have creators to their creations? What does it mean to lose? Is it important that this has got the f-word in it? Where did the phrase "higher life forms" come from? Who's been updating Peter Quill's cultural references, especially when Ready Player One suggested you could wring even more out of a single decade? Did anyone really need a scene after the credits that features the sound of Chris Pratt eating cereal as a constant misophonic undercurrent? How samey can a skull fortress be?

The folk who are in it are in it. The score continues to be diegetic in places, a nod to realism completely undone by a virtual camera in a corridor fight that makes Michael Bay's drone and ramp nonsense in Ambulance look naturalistic. We're well into overtime on bullet-time, and given how effects firms are paid that crunch probably fell on their shoulders.

This is more of the same. An Oscar winner delivers exposition. In the same way earlier outings gave us the prison rules for escape, here we get bank rules for a heist. There's conspicuous colour-coding that's got a comic tinge and we can add another example to the old animal cruelty to genocide continuum. Those produce some scenes that many may find distressing. With much of the plot(s) being bound up in emotional damage the film often seems careless with audience feelings. It's that all too constant refrain of comic book movies, that silliness doesn't need to be accepted, acknowledged, can be ground out with grit. That fun is a zero-sum game, that if you spend enough folk will come and see it anyway. Eventually they'll realise again that some days you can't get rid of a bomb.

Chukwudi Iwuji joins a long list of stage actors brought in to shout at green screens that will have things on them later on, and does a more than credible job as The High Evolutionary. Lear would envy his ability to unmake his inheritors and start afresh, whatever the consequences. That the villain tries again and again with shoulders set with powerful purple pauldrons could be parallel to Kang's conquerings. Instead we get Krang's conquerings, with several among the 'hellspawn' resembling villains from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

They too were colour coded for convenience. We can do the same for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. Not red for danger, nor the orange of a 12A. Not green for 'go', or amber for 'trapped lifelessly for eternity before being exploited in a cautionary tale'. Not teal either, there's enough of that. It's cynical but its humour isn't black. Magnolia's bland enough, but in a film context there's added pretention there. Maybe the grey of paperstock, four-colour printing damp from backpack seeping through recycled newsprint. Cheapness in search of profit.

Reviewed on: 07 Jun 2023
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Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3 packshot
Still reeling from the loss of Gamora, Peter Quill rallies his team to defend the universe and one of their own - a mission which, if unsuccessful, could mean the end of the Guardians.

Director: James Gunn

Writer: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Chukwudi Iwuji, Bradley Cooper, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Austin Freeman, Stephen Blackehart, Terence Rosemore

Year: 2023

Runtime: 150 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, New Zealand, France, Canada


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