What They Say:
Still reeling from the loss of Gamora, Peter Quill must rally his team to defend the universe and protect one of their own. If the mission is not completely successful, it could possibly lead to the end of the Guardians as we know them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coming from a place where I loved the 90s Guardians of the Galaxy comics, and enjoyed the original worked as well, getting into this modern version took a little work at the time. The first film was definitely a lot of fun and still holds up well overall with what it does. The second film lost me a bit with some of its choices but I enjoyed the larger things it introduced into the MCU. Then came the time in the Infinity War and Endgame and, well, problematic characters that I liked now became characters that were much harder to like. For me, Peter Quill became a Very Bad character and that has been hard to get past because of his actions – while in character for him – played out in that event. What little we’ve had of him since hasn’t helped much either, from the brief time in Thor to the Guardians Holiday Special.
With the third and final film of this trilogy, Quill’s not the main focus per se but he has an outsized role as expected and it doesn’t do him, or the film, any favors. First, however, is what the general basis is here. We knew ahead of the release of the film that Rocket was the primary deal and the film goes into his origin and why he’s being so sought after by the High Evolutionary – something that we haven’t seen hide or hair of for the past ten years. It’s all ramping up now, however, as he’s trying to get things going on his Counter-Earth plan and he needs the thing that makes Rocket so special in comparison to his thousands and thousands of failures. It’s not a bad setup and even though Rocket is nearly dead for most of the running time of the film and unconscious, it works well because we get the flashback sequences spread throughout that show his origin story.
And it’s an origin story that has kept me from showing the film to a few other people because it leans into the animal cruelty side that I know they can’t handle. It’s not an unexpected tale to see how Rocket was essentially “raised” to this level of sentience along with countless others as the High Evolutionary is looking to create a perfect peaceful society that can procreate throughout the galaxy. The problem is that they all lack that extra spark of creativity and are basically little more than drones and workers. Rocket, however, had that gift and he needs to carve open his head to figure out what it is. Of course, he could have just worked with Rocket when he had him years ago and figured it out because Rocket was keen on it as it would keep him with the friends and found-family in the cages he had made, but the High Evolutionary can’t envision that. Everyone and everything is a tool and an asset. So he’s engineering his own destruction in the end, as is the case in most of these things.
There’s plenty of heart in this storyline and seeing young and innocent Rocket discover friends, discover his aptitude for putting things together, and even his own name is a lot of fun. And it plays out in the end in a good way to help put a feather on his relationship with Lyla. And I will say that it’s still fairly clean overall in its presentation of the animal cruelty, but it’s something that a lot of people can’t handle so I’ll applaud that they did go the distance they did because it will keep a chunk of fans from watching it because of it. Gunn sticks true to the story he wanted to tell of Rocket and you can see how this is the character that he cares about the most and the one he gives the most attention to, the richest of stories overall that humanizes him in the best way and sets him up for the most success by the very end.
The film does some nice stuff for Mantis along the way as she does her thing, but her whole issue continues to be the way she wipes memories and everything. It’s something that can be played for laughs and easy to gloss over but her manipulations of Drax are the worst. Especially when, as the film goes on, we’re reminded that Drax at his core is one of the best characters. Though he’s focused on as the dumb brick of the group, he’s the one that cares the most and it shines through in ways that they don’t often recognize until it’s just so blatant, such as in the third act here. It’s often forgotten about his own loss of his wife and family and him being the father figure of sorts for those on Knowhere is definitely for the best. We’ll likely never see the character again after this but I’m glad that Bautista gets to bring him to a close by finding peace after what the cause of his course in life set him out for revenge. The idea of him helping these kids and others on Knowhere for years to come is ideal.
All of this takes me to the Peter and Gamora issue. Honestly, the whole bringing back this version of Gamora shouldn’t have happened in the previous in Endgame and it would have made this film better for it. Quill is just in such a harsh and angry place for much of it when it comes to this Gamora that he comes across as a spurned lover that’s angrily trying to get his girl back. But it’s impossible to do because this Gamora is not the one he knew by a long stretch and could never be. And his trying to force that is a hugely bad look. And Gamora tries to get that through to him repeatedly but we’re supposed to cheer him on with it, it seems like? Pratt handles the role well and when he’s able to focus on other things it works far better, but everything about this dynamic is just terrible. It’d have been better to see Quill go through a period of morning and finding a new focus in life going forward – something that Gamora does as this version of her has a far different but just as important found family to connect with. I do think both are better served by things at the end here with how we leave them, but there were far better ways of doing it and not having this Gamora exist at all would have made that possible instead of trying to make this kludge work.
With this trilogy and team coming to a close, I am actually hopeful to see the new team introduced at the end to get their chance in the spotlight as they look like they’d be a hell of a lot of fun. It’s unlikely to happen for a few reasons but I’m glad we got a good sense of hope and optimism from the final acts here and that it wasn’t a series of grim endings. The film is one that has a lot of things going on and it just keeps going and going with set piece to set piece so that the action feels like it never stops and that gets exhausting. It’s balanced by the quiet moments with Rocket’s past but there’s so much thrown at the viewer that it just becomes too much, especially clocking in at 150 minutes. It reminds of Shazam! Fury of the Gods in that there’s just so much special effects bloat in it that you lose the storytelling side to it, and that’s what lessened my enjoyment. I’m not surprised that Gunn basically got everything he wanted in making the film and largely earned it off the first two and all that happened in getting this made. It had a strong theatrical release and tidies things up well. But it also definitely has me ready to move on from this group and I’m glad that it did largely put a bow on it.
Streamed By: Disney+