Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter
Released: May 4, 2023
Grade: B

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

There’s much chatter right now about rising interest rates, significant cost of living pressures, and a slowing economy.  Are we heading into a recession, how bad will it be, and is there any way it can be avoided?  The Hollywood equivalent of these issues/questions is currently playing out within the world of superhero movies.

Marvel’s Ant Man and the Wasp, released back in February 2023, has grossed just $475m USD at the global box-office.  This it the worst take for any sequel within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  One month later, Shazam! Fury of the Gods became the worst performer within the DC Extended Universe by pulling it just $133m USD globally.  Have audiences grown tired of the increasingly formulaic genre and are ready to move on to something else?  The Super Mario Bros. Movie is making gazillions right now!  Or is this just a quick blip from which the genre will soon recover?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be seen by many as a litmus test.   The first two flicks, released in 2014 and 2017, were successful at the box-office and this fresh instalment is being billed as a culmination of the trilogy and, possibly, the end of the road for some heroes.  In addition to the big-name cast, James Gunn also returns as writer-director to help close subplots and character arcs he first conceived a decade ago.

The narrative is ho-hum.  Rocket the raccoon (Cooper) is injured in a surprise attack and will die in roughly 48 hours if his friends, headlined by professional thief Peter Quill (Pratt), are not able to locate the deactivation code for a “kill switch” located inside his body.  This sends them on a series of dangerous missions across the universe where everyone wants to capture or kill them.  Headlining the list of enemies is the High Evolutionary (Iwuji), a man trying to create an alternative Earth where everyone is happy, and violence is non-existent.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the 32nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (wowzers!) and the creative well has seemingly run dry in creating interesting, complex villains.  The High Evolutionary likes to shout and boss people around but he’s a bland baddie with seen-it-all-before plans for world domination.  I’d argue the best Marvel flicks are those with the best antagonists – see Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War or Killmonger in Black Panther

The action is a bit all over place at times (I had no idea what the Guardians were strategizing during the hectic finale) but this is still entertaining because of its comedy and the chemistry between its leads.  They’re a humorous, depreciating group with distinctive personalities.  The tone is light, the zingers and plentiful, and there’s a splash of genuine emotion at just the right moments.  The visual effects and production values are also strong.  One of the best scenes takes place on a colourful, gooey, “living” spaceship.

150 minutes is a touch long for an action-comedy (the opening is slow) but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a (just) good enough entry to close out the story of these music-loving superheroes.