Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.  3: a spectacular and moving conclusion (review)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: a spectacular and moving conclusion (review)

Continuation and end of the adventures of the space pirates. Emotion, music and intergalactic fights. The best recent Marvel?

Updated January 5, 2024: 2023 has been a very difficult year for Marvel and superhero films in general. A slump where Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was able to do well, establishing itself as a critical and public success, with 845 million dollars in revenue worldwide. James Gunn, now head of DC Studios, made his exit a success.

The conclusion of the trilogy is broadcast this Friday at 9:10 p.m. on Canal Plus (and already available on MyCanal). And it won over the editorial staff when it was released in cinemas last May.

Article published on May 3, 2023: Who in 2014 would have bet on LGuardians of the Galaxy ? And yet: 9 years ago, the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), show-off adventurer and marlou thief, hunted by half the galaxy, had established itself as the most inventive, the most seductive film and a bastion of effrontery within a staid MCU which was beginning
gradually losing his compass and his mojo. Rocket Raccoon, the milk-soup raccoon, Groot, the monosyllabic tree, Drax, the lethal weapon with the size of a wrestler and the subtlety of a mailbox, Gamora’s lethal talents which were a pleasant change from the usual sexism of Hollywood blockbusters… all this B team from which we didn’t expect much was illustrated in a film which succeeded in blowing a breeze of insolence and freshness over the superhero industry.

The irresistible charm of the saga (with its ups and downs – volume 2 still being a big digital meringue) is due less to the mechanics of the twists and turns than to the riot of imagination which forms the fabric of these Guardians. And to its five heroes (seven, if we add Mantis and Nebula) asserting over time their individuality in two steps three movements (or punches) but above all forming a united and joyfully free collective.

After a surprising first part, a second too fat and lazy, and a fun Christmas special, here is the third and final episode. And it’s an understatement to say that we’ve come a long way. James Gunn especially. After volume 2, the filmmaker from the Z series had in fact been let go from Marvel for old tweets vulgar and
outrageous exhumed probably by thealt right. Passed to the competition (DC Comics for the very fun and very free The Suicide Squad), Gunn had finally been reinstated with Uncle Walt to finish his trilogy.

When this volume 3 begins, the Guardians are washed out. Especially Peter Quill devastated by Gamora’s death (a reference to Avengers: Infinity Wars) replaced here by an alternative version having no memory of the past. After a few minutes, Warlock, a visibly indestructible superhero, arrives without warning on their planet and tries in vain to kidnap Rocket. He leaves him almost dead and his friends will do everything to save him. Above all, they will discover that their furry companion has been genetically modified by the Master of Evolution (Chukwudi Iwuji) who had used him to develop a race of superhumans intended to populate Counter-Earth…

As James Gunn warned us, this volume 3 is therefore focused on the character of Rocket Raccoon. The threat is no longer galactic, it is vital and personal. The countdown has begun. We must save Rocket. And all the flashbacks that allow us to understand its origin are fantastic, often poignant. We often think of the Pixar quality of emotion in these passages – and not only because the sequences evoke the torture that Syd puts the toys through in Toy Story or the traumas of the character of Lotso in Toy Story 3.

But beyond this essential subplot, the great quality of the film lies in the links and motivations of each member of the group. The Guardians remain a team of flawed, broken, derivatives by their pain and their inner scars. They stand out here more than usual, especially since they are confronted with a villain who, in a great eugenic delirium, wants to create a race of beings without defects. Gamora’s rage, literally split in two, trying to reunite her exploded personalities; the dismay of Star-Lord devoured by solitude; Nebula’s anger disarmed in the face of the group’s loss of cohesion… everyone is lost and their odyssey to save Rocket will allow them to make peace with themselves and above all to reconnect with their band of outcasts. Surprisingly, the real scene-stealer turns out to be Drax, who has no superego. Hilarious, with relentless comic timing, Dave Bautista is the other lethal weapon of the film. Violent and unsentimental, he will even end up becoming the children’s favorite, in an obvious reference to Toshiro Mifune of the Seven samurai.

So all of this is very successful. But in front of this volume 3, the real question we ask ourselves is: what is the reason for James Gunn’s power? How exactly does this guy succeed where his classmates are all failing these days? Because deep down, on paper, Guardians 3 is not very different from Ant-Man 3 of
Peyton Reed. The infinitely small multiverse of the ant-man has given way to the infinite space of the space rufians. But in both cases, the heroes advance in a half-organic, half-techno universe, a no-man’s land crossed by fuschia lights and ugly, bizarre or both creatures. If in Ant-Man the cloud of pixels and the visual orgy ended up betraying something deadly, Gunn always makes his trip joyful and creative. Space stations that look like intestines; panicked bats; a newt from the Ravager clan who communicates with emojis? All of this is there and perfectly delightful.

Coming from the Z series and punk, Gunn explodes his improbable graphic horizon on the smooth wall of Marvel blockbusters. And his delirium is contagious. Certainly, there are some blank passages, the whole thing is too long and certain sloppy action scenes are illegible, but Gunn’s love for his characters, his visual discoveries, show that, by slipping into the interstices of the notebook MCU loads and programmatic fight scenes of humor, trash, emotion and vintage pop, it is possible to bring a pirate breath to the superhero film.

We leave the room with two regrets: abandoning the Guardians for good (but are we so sure?) and letting Gunn leave for the DCU.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, in cinemas since May 3.

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