Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) ☆☆☆(3/4): Save the Racoon

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is more or less than the extension of what we saw from the two previous films. This is another familiar product from Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but it has some colorful style, personality, and sensitivity to distinguish itself to some degree, and the result is one of the more enjoyable MCU products during last several years.

Because I did not watch that Holiday special TV movie, it took some time for me to get used to how things have been changed for Peter Quill / Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his fellow members of Guardians of the Galaxy. They come to settle in a place called Nowhere for building their little headquarters, and we also get to know a bit about two new members Kraglin / On-Set Rocket (Sean Gun) and a telekinetic dog named Cosmo (voiced by Maria Bakalova).

This time, the main focus of the movie is Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a smart and sardonic racoon who has been rather depressed as reflecting more on his identity and past. As “Creep” performed Radiohead is played on the soundtrack, we come to feel more for his melancholic status, and that makes Quill’s current emotional issues with Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) look rather trivial in comparison. As many of you remember, Gamora was killed by her father many movies ago, but her alternative universe version came some time later, and, to Quill’s frustration, this Gamora is not particularly interested in being around Quill or any other member of Guardians of the Galaxy, because, well, she was not involved with them in her universe from the beginning.

Anyway, the situation soon becomes quite serious when it turns out that there is someone looking for Rocket. There is a powerful and ruthless villain who is revealed to be responsible for Rocket’s longtime miserable existence, and now this figure is quite determined to get Rocket back by any means necessary. When Rocket happens to be seriously injured due to a sudden attack, his colleagues are certainly ready to save him, even though that means they will take a considerable risk in one way or another.

While Quill and his several colleagues bounce from one adventure to another as expected, director/writer James Gunn, whose status has been more prominent since he made the two previous films, serves us a number of odd and colorful moments which often shine with quirky humor and personality. I like the action sequence unfolded inside a huge database center which virtually looks like one big giant organism, and Gunn tries some naughty fun when Quill and his several colleagues attempt to infiltrate inside this weird place. In addition, he deftly utilizes a bunch of recognizable pop songs during many of key moments in the film as usual, and you will certainly enjoy how these songs are delightfully used throughout the movie.

Meanwhile, the story occasionally goes back to Rocket’s past as his condition becomes all the more serious along the story. Via a series of flashback scenes, we come to learn more about his traumatic early years when he was incarcerated along with other animals not so different from him, and there is a poignant moment where they come to find some comfort from each other despite their gloomy circumstance. Thanks to the solid voice performance from Bradley Cooper, Rocket eventually comes to show more depth and personality along the story, and that is why one of the main reasons why the movie works even during its action-packed finale where lots of things get exploded across the screen as you can expect from your average MCU product.

The main weakness comes from its main villain character, and that is not entirely the fault of Chukwudi Iwuji, who really tries hard to chew every moment of his in the film in contrast to Jonathan Majors’ lackadaisical acting in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (2023). His megalomaniac villain character, who may look a bit like Peter Weller’s cyborg hero in “Robocop” (1987) but reminds me instead of F. Murray Abraham’s alien villain character in “Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998) for a good reason, is another bland stock MCU villain from the beginning, and Iwuji’s deliberate overacting feels rather jarring instead of being mixed well along with many colorful aspects of the movie.

Despite that and several other weak elements including its overlong running time (150 minutes), the movie remains effective thanks to Gunn’s competent direction as well as the fluid ensemble performance from his main cast members, who easily slip into their respective roles as before. While Chris Pratt shows more spirit and energy compared to his joyless voice performance in “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (2023), Zoe Saldaña, Karen Gillen, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, and Vin Diesel are fun to watch as their characters struggle to work together despite many personality clashes among them, and Sean Gun, Will Poulter, Elizabeth Debicki, Maria Bakalova, and Sylvester Stallone manage to leave some impression although their supporting characters are not fully utilized on the whole as the movie is too busy with juggling its main characters.

Overall, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” does not surpass its predecessors much, but it is still fairly entertaining enough for recommendation. As I said before many times, I have gotten quite tired about that seemingly endless supply of MCU movies these days, but “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” comes to enliven me a little as trying to do something different for a while, and that is a nice relief for now.

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