“If you never heal from what hurt you, then you’ll bleed on people who did not cut you.” - Anonymous
I’ve spoken about a director’s “voice” before in previous articles. Some are so distinct you could likely determine if a movie was made by them without knowing anything about that movie. Someone like Christopher Nolan or Steven Spielberg for example. Some styles are so synonymous with the filmmaker that created them it becomes quite simple to see the connections. As much as I thoroughly enjoy the MCU, something missing from almost all of them is that distinct voice. Almost, all.
Eternals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and arguably the Black Panther movies all have the distinction of voice ingrained throughout their runtimes. With Eternals it's a uniquely visual story relating gorgeous cinematography to an almost meditative kind of approach. Doctor Strange 2 takes the style of a famous horror creator, Sam Raimi, and lets him loose in the MCU. Some, many really, have condemned this movie but it happens to be one of my favorites for the very reason that Raimi’s influence is clearly felt throughout the movie. His horror sensibilities took Doctor Strange 2 in a unique and amazing new direction. And with the Black Panther films, it is Ryan Coogler’s adherence to an experience that is uniquely that of a black person that gives those films their ability to truly stand out. From the heritage shown through ceremonial rituals and garbs he has clearly allowed himself the ability to properly convey the authenticity of such rituals despite the fictional state of Wakanda. Its inspirations are very much rooted in the real world.
I would add the Guardians trilogy to this list although I acknowledge they’re more of a stretch but I’d argue that James Gunn’s “voice” is his brazenness. It is his willingness to “go for the gusto”, to seek out the most creative and stylistic choices possible not just for the stories he tells but the characters he creates that inhabit his wild stories. It’s pretty much guaranteed that whatever film he is helming will be boisterous and vibrant in its visuals as well as its dialogue. He has a knack for creating hilarious small moments with his characters; the moments that don’t necessarily move the plot forward but simply fill out the runtime. They are as I said small but no less important. They bring a kind of authenticity to the everyday small talk we all unfortunately encounter but with a bit of a humorous twist. These are movies afterall, they still need to be entertaining.
One of the best things the MCU as a whole has ever done is create turmoil amongst its heroes, particularly the Avengers. They may be the universe’s greatest heroes but that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to get along with one another. The same can be said about the Guardians and their relationships with each other. Even in the third movie they’re still navigating one another’s personalities. They are still discovering the nuances that come with sincerely knowing a person inside and out. They push each other’s buttons as real families tend to do. Brothers annoy their sisters and vice versa and though as dysfunctional as they come, the Guardians are, for better or worse, a family.
Although all of the Guardians have had their moments to shine, the only backstory we’ve really heard anything about is Peter Quill’s aka Star Lord. We know some about Gamora and Nebula but that was mostly through the viewpoint of Thanos and what he did to them. Well in Vol. 3 we get to hear quite possibly the most tragic story of them all. The story of Rocket.
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 finds our heroes fully accepting the title of Guardians of the Galaxy, a group of space warriors tasked with protecting the galaxy. They have created an HQ within the remains of the severed head of an ancient celestial being called Knowhere. They have seemingly found peace. That is until Adam Warlock storms into their home focused on the capture of Rocket. After a brutal battle and arguable win, the Guardians are left with a severely wounded and dying Rocket. With time ticking for their brother and fellow Guardian, the remaining members must look to Rocket’s past for the answer to saving his life.
It is there they will discover a harrowing and horrifically tragic beginning replete with brutal experimentation and isolation. When they learn of Rocket’s beginnings they suddenly understand why he is always guarded, always seemingly eager to insult and keep everyone at a distance. The culprit of Rocket’s horrendous physical alterations is a being known only as The High Evolutionary. While villains like Thanos and Ronan simply wanted power and to destroy the galaxy, The High Evolutionary is far more sinister and heinous. By his logic he doesn’t want to destroy the galaxy but rather perfect it. His path to such a lofty goal entails the utter torture of beings both small and large, intelligent and less so for the delusional goal of perfection. He is remorseless and genuinely evil. The Guardians must face this wicked foe all while racing against the clock to save their brother in arms. (But it’s funny too I swear.)
If I had to find the faults in this latest installment it is in the treatment of the Adam Warlock character. His involvement is entirely too reminiscent of another mistreated villain in the MCU, Iron Man 3's The Mandarin. We all remember what happened there. While it's not as egregious as that offense, a lot of promise was made about the Warlock character and in that regard it vol. 3 definitely falls short. But I'll leave that for you to experience on your own.
Known for the humor, larger than life action sequences, the epic soundtracks and the guardians themselves, volume three ends their tale in grand fashion. Every bit of this installment feels final and contains particular elements that feel like it’s all really coming to an end. While so often we can rely on the safety net of a potential sequel, this time around it doesn’t appear to have that in place to make us feel better. Rocket might actually die. One of his fellow guardians could die trying to save him. It all feels possible now and because of this Gunn and company have created the perfect culmination to a wonderfully contained trilogy with the whole of the MCU. If this is really the end of the Guardians as we know them, they will be missed. If it is the end, this is a fantastic sendoff for our galaxy guardians.
Rated PG-13 For: intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, strong language, suggestive/drug references and thematic elements
Runtime: 150 minutes
After Credits Scene: Two. Mid and End credits.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff
Directed By: James Gunn
Out of 10
Story: 10/ Acting: 9/ Directing: 9.5/ Visuals: 10
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below: