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Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3

It’s difficult to find many MCU fans who didn’t absolutely adore the original GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. On the surface, it didn’t have the same allure as the mighty AVENGERS, but James Gunn’s rockin’ band of misfit heroes delivered an adventure that easily ranks amongst the best of what the studio has ever had to offer. Hilarious, action-packed, witty, and fueled by a perfect soundtrack, it was completely different than most of what had come before it. As such, it was impossible for the second film to hit in the same way. Expectations were sky-high, and the element of surprise had been obliterated. For me, GUARDIANS VOLUME 2 was a letdown, though subsequent reflection has softened my stance a little. I will still say that the film felt as if it were trying to be cool in a way that was effortless in the initial chapter.  

That brings us to the release of the (allegedly) final chapter in this iteration of the franchise, with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 3. It comes at a weird time for the MCU. Not too long ago, releases such as these were an event. Now, it feels like a lot more like a “meh.” DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS, THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA all crossed the $100 million mark but failed to move the needle in the realm of public consciousness. Three weeks into its release, however, GUARDIANS seems to have given the MCU a little of its mojo back. 

The packed house I was in for VOLUME 3 was engaged from start to finish. There were plenty of laughs, gasps, and tears, as the rollicking adventure allowed Rocket’s backstory to take center stage. Much has been made about this blast into the past, and rightfully so. There have been plenty of tragic tales woven throughout the MCU (Guardians member Nebula being an obvious case-in-point) but you’d be hard-pressed to find one more gut-wrenching than Rocket’s (Bradley Cooper). We learn that he was bred in captivity and selected from his litter to bear the brunt of some intense experimentation by the High Evolutionary (a manically over-the-top Chukwudi Iwuji).  In his quest to create the perfect being, he infused test subject 89p13 (Rocket) with intelligence and cunning, among other desirable attributes. He wasn’t the only animal subjected to this treatment, however. Remember Sid’s bedroom in the first TOY STORY? Think of that, only with a bunny, a walrus, and an otter. The four quickly develop an inseparable bond, and long for the day when the High Evolutionary takes them away to live together in the idyllic world of Counter-Earth.

This is all revealed in a set of flashbacks as the modern Rocket lays motionless on a table. As it turns out, the High Evolutionary has discovered his whereabouts and has sent the mighty Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) to retrieve him. The Guardians have something to say about this, and a brutal battle ensues. Rocket is left clinging to life, and Quill and crew will stop at nothing to save their friend, who has a kill-switch embedded in his chest. This will take them on another galactical adventure that is enlivened by a sick soundtrack and hilarious hijinks.

As has been the key to the Guardians films, and really, all of the upper echelon entries in the MCU, the camaraderie of the cast and their ability to play off one another is what helps to elevate the entire production. There is a natural comfort that permeates throughout each interaction between Cooper, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff and Vin Diesel, carefully crafting the family feel that has been so essential to the series’ success. The natural give-and-take brightens every scene; it’s obvious that the cast is having a blast working together.  

It is not as if the MCU was teetering on the brink of collapse. Every movie still makes a bajillion dollars, regardless of style or execution, and there are so many projects in development that there is quite literally no end in sight. For moviegoers, however, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 3 serves as an encouraging return to form. Gunn seemed to remember the most essential part of any Marvel movie is that it is supposed to be fun to watch. The blending of action and humor is of the utmost importance, and forging a genuine connection between the characters and the audience will always be the key to success.


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Brian Miller