GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 3
(***Ĺ)-VITO CARLI

"It's like a rollicking, fun filled roller coaster ride-shared with good friends"

Series Closure and Out of This World Alien Designs

(051123) I have been critical of superhero films in general lately, and what I perceive to be the decline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But the new Guardians of the Galaxy reverses (at least temporarily) the trend. If the future MCU or DC films are half as creative, colorful or exciting as this one, then there is still a bright future ahead for the superhero film genre.

This film is almost delightful enough to make viewers forget about Morbius, She Hulk, and the Eternals. A few weeks ago, I raved about Dungeons and Dragons because it captures some of the spirit of the original Guardians film, but as enjoyable as it was it pales in comparison to this film in terms of quality. Great film maker Martin Scorsese suggested that superhero films are more like carnival rides than cinema. That is probably true, but Guardians 3 is a carnival ride only in the best sense. It's like a rollicking, fun filled roller coaster ride full of ups and downs, thrills, chills and spills shared with good friends.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is by far the best film in the trilogy, and it does everything it was supposed to, and it succeeds completely in masterfully providing closure to most of the characters. Because of the witty banter/repartee, the first-rate character development, the often humorous action scenes, and the effective portrayals of the villains, the film seemed nearly as fresh, lively and exciting as one of the films in the original Star Wars trilogy and it has a similar feel to it as those films.

Part of the reason it succeeds so well is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe heads let the experienced and talented James Gunn (who has since left the MCU for the greener pastures of working for DC) play in his own sand box, and the film is in its own world with little connection to the MCU. This is unlike the last Ant-Man film which could not stand on its own and just seemed little more than a mere promotional tool for future Marvel films.

Guardians 3 tells the origin story of Rocket (who actually accepts the original comicís name Rocky Racoon towards the end) and the film serves to flesh out the personality of the usually humorous character and makes him far more tragic. In flashbacks we see that Rocket (who creator, Bill Mantlo named after the Beatles song Rocky Racoon) was an ordinary forest mammal until a geneticist with a god complex, the High Evolutionary surgically altered him. Rocketís life before joining the Guardians was filled with pain and tragedy. He has much in common with Nebula (Karen Gillan) whose father mechanized her to make her better but even she admits she didnít have it as bad as Rocket.

While he is imprisoned by the main villainís hench-men, Rocket forms a temporary family with mutated talking version of a spider, a walrus, a rabbit, and a female otter with mechanical arms who is the closest thing he has to a love interest. We later see a whole planet of these creatures, and unlike the aliens in Quantumania who looked like concepts rejected as too bad for Star Wars, these creatures look convincing and they seem and act more human than Brie Larsonís Carol Danvers. I especially liked the benevolent Walrus/Octopus creatures which were almost as impressive as the Owl/Bear in Dungeons and Dragons.

Also, the film does an excellent job of introducing the Adam Warlock character who is nearly as naÔve and angelic as he is in the comics, and the depiction is mostly true to Stan Lee and Jack Kirbyís original conception (in his early Fantastic Four comic appearance he was just called "Him"). Although the look of the character is modernized, he still looks great. This is in stark contrast to the recent abominable adaptation of Namor or the film version of Mantis which is still the worst screen depiction of a Guardian character-although she was less annoying here than usual. In the comics Mantis was one of the strongest, most self-confident Avengers and an Asian woman. In the Guardian films she is a weak, subservient insect woman, a pushover with emotion influencing powers more similar to Starfox than the comics version. Original creator Steve Englehart was justifiably horrified when he saw what the film people did with one of his best creations.

Chris Pratt (who was also in
Zero Dark Thirty and Jenniferís Body) is better than ever playing the big-hearted everyman hero, Peter Quill (aka: Starlord) and once again the cinematic depiction of the character is about ten times as interesting as the comic version-with apologies to Steve Englehart. His interest in classic rock is a perfect excuse to unearth more old music gems including material by Heart, Rainbow and Redbone. But this time the soundtrack contains more material by Indie groups including the Flaming Lips, Faith No More, X, and The Replacements. The film portrays Quill initially despondent drinking his blues away because the version of his girlfriend who loved him is dead while Radioheadís Creep plays in the background (Loser by Beck would have been an even better choice.) Although he is clearly on a downward slope the film resists the urge to totally degrade and humiliate him like the MCU has done with Thor and the Hulk.

Zoe Saldana (who is also in the Avatar films) portrays a pre-heroic Gamora the "deadliest woman in the universe" according to the comics who looks just like Quillís ex but now she does not love him. The version who loved him was sacrificed by Thanos in Avengers Infinity War but this villainous version from the past (or perhaps an alternate timeline) still exists. Here the alternate Gamora reunites with the Guardians because they pay her to help them get a code to turn off a kill switch in the critically wounded Rocketís head which could save his life. Also, although she is tough and unsentimental and views the other Guardians with contempt for being over sentimental there still might be a part of her left that might allow her to give Peter a chance to win her heart.

The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwujfresh from James Gunnís Peacemaker HBO series) makes a worthy above it all villain who is a perfect foe for the Guardians. In the comics he created a whole other world called Counter Earth. When it does not turn out perfect, he is quite willing to destroy it and start over from scratch, much like God flooding the earth in the Noahís Ark story. High Evolutionary is like a combination of Dr. Moreau, transforming animals into human hybrids and Dr. Frankenstein because of his pride and wanting to take Godís place as creator. At one point, he even matter-of-factly tells an assistant: ďthere is no God which is why I stepped inĒ which parallels Dr. Frankensteinís line in the original 1931 James Whale film: ďNow I know what it feels like to be God.Ē One of the filmís main messages is that no one else except God should play at creation which could serve to caution people that are currently engage such morally questionable activities such as cloning and genetic engineering.

There are also a pair of newer Guardians like Younduís former assistant, Kraglin (played by the directors brother-Sean Gunn) who telekinetically moves his arrows and Astro a psychic dog with human intelligence. Although they have smaller parts in the film, they look appealing and are frequently amusing.

As if that isnít enough to please comic buffs, like the other Guardians films this features a too brief cameo by Marvelís greatest avian character Howard the Duck (glad they did not fowl that up.) The character (voiced here by Seth Green) who was supposed to get his own Kevin Smith produced animated series which got cancelled in a Marvel regime change. Steve Gerber fans like me will be overjoyed to see him here again.

Guardians is a perfect spring/summer spectacular, and it should brighten the moods of most viewers with its gloriously uplifting ending which is as invigorating as the conclusion of the first Star Wars trilogy (hint dancing is involved). It also shows that there still might be more life left in the wounded superhero genre than some detractors are willing to admit although this could also just be a last gasp. It feels like more than just another superhero flick. After it was over, I felt like I had gathered with a close group of friends that I loved for the last time; it felt like the end of college.
 

Written & Directed by:    James Gunn Based on the Marvel Comics
 characters created by Arnold Drake, Gene Colan,
 Steve Englehart, and James Starlin
Starring:    Chris Pratt. Zoe Saldana, Davis Bautista
Released:    04/22/23 (USA-wide)
Length:    150 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for some swearing and a zoo of
 horrors
Available On:    At press time the film was playing at local theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 3 © 2023 Walt Disney Studios
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.

 

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