If you’ve been following this channel for a while, you may have caught on to the fact that I have been stricken with a terrible disease commonly known as…superhero movie fatigue. Particularly with Marvel, the movie-making juggernaut that has been struggling to capture my devoted attention in a post Endgame world. There has been some bright spots in the past few years; Spider-Man: No Way Home, Wakanda Forever, and even Multiverse of Madness gave me a bit of enjoyment, but even still I find it hard to have the same energy for this franchise like I used to. However, the one MCU film I anticipated the most was the third and final installment in the Guardians of the Galaxy series, due in part to a solid track record from director James Gunn.
What a road Gunn has been down. He turned relatively obscure Marvel characters into household names through two solid films, got fired from Marvel over some old tweets, was embraced by DC where he produced a fun reboot of the Suicide Squad and a great spin-off TV series, got rehired by Marvel to finish off his Guardians trilogy, and now he’s spearheading the future of DC films. Quite a rollercoaster. So with such a bright future ahead of him, how does Gunn’s goodbye to the MCU fare?
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 aims to have some of the biggest emotional swings in the franchise, and for the most part, it really hits. Gunn’s ability to balance heart and humor shines through while also managing to sneak in some darker moments familiar to his work outside of the MCU. The camaraderie between the oddball cast of characters has perhaps never been stronger, each bringing their own quirks and relationships to a story that, while a bit disjointed, left me with the undeniable feeling that the best trilogy in the MCU just ended.
In Volume 3, a tragic incident occurs that forces the Guardians on a quest to find the key to saving the life of one of their own. This puts them in the sights of the High Evolutionary, a fanatical scientist hellbound on building the perfect society while showing little empathy for his own creations. The journey is filled with fights, flashbacks, quips, questions, and a surprising amount of violence and death for an MCU film, but a little less than the average Gunn film.
The Guardians are some of the best characters in the MCU in my opinion, rivaled only by the original Avengers in charisma and connection. Each character has such a distinct voice and personal dilemma to their being that gives them tons of opportunity to bounce off one another while mostly achieving believable character progression. The performances are as charming as ever, with each lead cast member given enough room to make an impact at one point or another, varying in size of course. Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is still the ever-entertaining glue holding the band of misfits together, though his story doesn’t really hit the emotional highs seen in the Guardian’s previous film. His mission to regain the love of Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, which is actually a different Gamora ripped from a different timeline, at least comes to an amicable conclusion that may surprise you. The other Guardians get some decent progression as well, with Nebula perhaps being one of the more underrated developments across several films. Watching her cold, icey heart slowly melt as she begins to form a family with her team has been a pleasure to watch, due in part to a stoic but still humorous performance from Karen Gillan. But the real centerpiece of the film is Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, whose tragic backstory is fleshed out in great detail through numerous flashbacks of his early years. These scenes admittedly deliver some of the heaviest emotional moments of the film, and while I do think they mostly work, I can’t help but feel how disconnected they can sometimes be to the main plot and Rocket’s journey. Rocket himself is at the center of the film’s conflict, but not in a way that really allows the character to grow and change towards a triumph that feels all that compelling. Like I said, the emotional weight behind these flashbacks work, I just wish they tied a bit more directly into the story. I do feel it’s worth mentioning the new characters in the High Evolutionary and Adam Warlock. The Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, who you may recognize from Gunn’s Peacemaker series, lacks the depth and emotional intricacies of past powerhouse villains, but he more than makes up for it with genuine gravitas and sadistic tendencies. He’s a Shakespearean psychopath who is easy to understand despite not really having something to relate to. Then there is Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock, who for the most part is kind of just there. The character is decent enough, but his overall impact in the plot feels kind of shoehorned and doesn’t really lead to anything worthwhile.
The galactic side of the MCU has always been one of my favorites, as it allows for a great amount of creativity in the landscapes, creature designs, and other set dressings. And I’ve got to say, this is certainly one of the better looking films to come out of a post Endgame MCU. There’s some rough spots here and there, but they honestly get overshadowed by the use of practical costumes, prosthetics and sets. It gives the film a much more tangible appearance despite being fantastical. There’s a good chunk of the film spent on a planet inhabited by human/animal hybrids, which is all realized by makeup and prosthetics. I really do appreciate the extra care going into something like this, and more instances of creative care can be found throughout the film. There’s plenty of instances of being playful with color and shapes as well in the set design and costumes that I’ve honestly just come to expect from a director like Gunn, who makes these decisions feel purposeful.
A few more Gunn-isms to expect with these films is his choice of music and his writing style. While I don’t know if this soundtrack of classic pop and rock hits is as memorable as those from previous films, there’s still some pretty solid moments here. Beasty Boy’s No Sleep till Brooklyn may not be the most original inclusion, but it does lead to a pretty solid “one take” action sequence whose melding of CGI and physical performances is admittedly impressive. And Florence and the Machine’s Dog Days Are Over is used in an admittedly super cheesy but incredibly fitting moment that I couldn’t help but smile at. Gunn’s writing is known for his offbeat humor and underlying darkness, and man is the latter not as underlying this time around. And look, this isn’t exactly Martyrs or Ichi the Killer, but for an MCU film I think this does tread the line on whether or not kids should be watching this. There is a surprising amount of death and violence here, some that’s kind of telegraphed and some that genuinely took me by surprise. It really felt like Gunn was looking to close this chapter of his career with a bang, and I gotta say it’s fairly effective. Even without the violence, Gunn aims to really hit you hard with the film’s emotional moments, mostly involving Rocket. They’re sad and heartbreaking and because they involve animals, they’re sure to hit home with a lot of people. But I’d be lying if it didn’t feel a tad bit manipulative at times. Not to a point where its gross but, without getting into spoilers, there’s a character that constantly repeats a line that might as well have just been “Gee, I sure hope nothing bad happens to us”, because its honestly would have been just as predictable. Luckily Gunn’s humor continues to be a strong point of these movies, and while not every joke lands, I still felt like I left satisfied with what made the Guardians stand out the most for me.
Now we’re at the end of the road. Gunn’s admirable journey of turning nobodies into full-fledged icons has more than solidified himself as a competent director as well as a believable admirer of the medium of comics. I think he’s shown a great understanding in what works from these histories and what doesn’t, embracing the goofiness of it all while still finding ways to humanize the modern myths in ways that will stick with us forever. I’m admittedly sad to see these characters’ stories end, but I’m glad Gunn got to deliver the ending he wanted, while the future of DC comics looks brighter than ever with him at the helm. While not my favorite of the trilogy, I’m happy with this conclusion, even if Marvel may become desperate in the near future and pull out these characters once again for a cheap pop. But until that day comes, see you space cowboys.
Galaxy themed cocktails are always incredibly interesting for me, as there’s several ways one can approach them. When I think about the Guardians of the Galaxy, I think of swirling stars and multi-colored horizons, so I wanted this cocktail, aptly named the Forever Sky, to reflect that. The drink utilizes vanilla vodka and lime juice to create a comforting, almost dessert-like experience. The elderflower adds a bit of a welcome herbal note, while the Electridust brings a tingling kick to the back-half of the the taste. To make this drink light and multicolored, I opted to shake an egg white dyed with raspberry liqueur in a separate shaker, to create a unique, multi-colored look. Let’s all fly away together with a Forever Sky!
- 2oz vanilla vodka
- 3/4oz elderflower liqueur
- 3/4oz lime juice
- 1/2oz blue curacao
- 1/2 barspoon of Electridust
- 1 egg white
- 3/4oz raspberry liqueur
- Add the vodka, elderflower, lime juice, blue curacao and Electridust to a shaker and shake with ice.
- Strain into a chilled coup glass.
- Grab a clean shaker (or clean out the one you just used), add the egg white and raspberry liqueur, and dry shake for 15-20 seconds.
- Pour the foam from the shaker on top of the cocktail. Sprinkle additional Electricdust if desired.