By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by James Gunn
- Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper
Comics don’t have endings.
One of the unfournate truths about getting into superhero stories is that many of them are static on purpose. This is for practical purposes, mainly – maintaining a sort of status quo keeps the character from straying too far from the public consciousness while also allowing the multitude of writers and artists to know what to do with said character. But it also means a lot of comic book characters are sometimes stuck in a continuous loop of development, undevelopment, redevelopment, progression, and regression that can be frustrating at best and downright abysmal at worst.
In film, you don’t have that luxury. And there is a reason why Avengers: Endgame resonated so deeply with people – it promised a genuine conclusion to several stories that audiences had been following for 11 years at that point. So after that… where do you go? Do you just trek on? Reset? Reboot? New story? New characters? Same characters, same story?
This answer has eluded the MCU, who has decided to just try and move on past Endgame best it can but continuing it’s forward momentum in the wake of it’s first saga finale. And then comes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, a film long delayed due to losing it’s director, regaining it’s director, and then having to wait for said director to begin his dominance at their rival studio, which has the balls to say “you know what, let’s actually end for once.”
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 feels like you are watching the end of a long gestating run of a writer. It’s both a swan song and a new beginning, a beautiful coda and a triumphant celebration; a brutal, bittersweet finale that subverts the audience time and time again that also manages to actually accomplished what so many superhero stories fail to do – end.
Our story, which picks up some many years after the events of Endgame, is laser focused on Rocket, his origins, and his journey over the course of 4 movies. Instead of upping the stakes to galactic portions, Vol. 3 wisely goes small and intimate while upping the scope in terms of visuals and environments. It feels like the biggest even if it isn’t once you get down it, and that’s a testament to how James Gunn views this trilogy ender more then anything. It’s a shockingly personal film from a major studio – an increasingly rare find – and it’s something of a miracle especially considering how Gunn was treated prior to the film coming out. Beyond simply continuing his exploration of broken characters finding purpose in a world (or galaxy), it also feels like Gunn expressing his frustrations on being punted around from studio to studio by uncaring overlords who only care about furthering their own interests. It’s no coincidence the main villain of the film, the High Evolutionary (played immaculately by Chukwudi Iwuji in what is sure to be a star-making turn for the performer), is overly concerned with his “property” and “IP”. Very subtle.
But you don’t need to be subtle when you strive for maximalism in it’s purest form like this. Everything is so grandiose, from not just it’s set design and VFX but also it’s emotions and dialogue, and it’s ambitions feel more like something out of a space opera then anything else. Gunn’s direction is also visibly different from his prior two films – those opted for a psychedelic visuals and more colorful characters, meanwhile this is more like his work on The Suicide Squad. Yeah, there are colourful visuals, but it’s also more stylized, the camera zips and zooms, and the violence is more brutal and even gory. PG-13 is stretched to it’s limit at points and I fully expect the complaints to rush in (which they have), but this is a great example of how to present darker themes in a story like this without sacrificing it’s appeal to younger audiences.
But most of all, Vol. 3 will leave you with a sense of satisfaction and closure that most movie series just won’t. It’s really phenomenal to see Gunn close out his story in the way that HE wants to close it, and while I hate to see this team of idiots go, it’s for the best as it leaves their stories complete. And yeah, we’ll probably see many of them again down the road – thus is the life of a comic book character – but as for this particular closed trilogy, I can treat it as a nice little package. It’s everything I could have wanted, nothing like I expected, and even more then I hoped for, and will likely end up as one of the best of the year.