Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the romp through the Multiverse you expected it to be
Warning: spoilers ahead!
If your movie is set in space – anywhere in space – let’s just say the Multiverse is your oyster.
Marvel Studios had abundant opportunities for creativity when it produced Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and it seized them successfully for the most part. In a visual capacity, at least.
A talking, Russian space dog? Sure. A race of uppity, shiny gold people? Why not! A planet composed entirely of biomatter? Naturally.
Parts of the film verge on Uncanny Valley Territory with disturbing images such as Groot (Vin Diesel)’s head scurrying along on spider legs, humanoid pig hybrids, and a walrus on wheels.
(Also humanoid lemur hybrids...right? Is this a lemur?)
Oh, also, I’ll call out a bonus moment of discomfort for all you Gilmore Girls fans. Picture Kraglin, a.k.a Sean Gunn, a.k.a. Kirk, armed with an arrow that zips around at his whim to strike down his enemies. Oh boy.
(Yeah. This guy.)
All visual diversions aside, the film does build upon a more substantive underlying message: the inherent evil of eugenics, particularly when it is disguised as a noble quest for perfection.
However, I’d say ninety percent of Guardians of the Galaxy’s viewing audience is there for the colorful pageantry and the humorous tropes, rather than to ponder something deeper. And, you know what? That’s just fine.
Speaking as someone who was bored out of their skull by John Wick, I appreciate that Marvel supplements its fight scene choreography with the inventive world-building and character development I crave. However, the result is still a flick meant to entertain, rather than educate. In other words, if you go into a Marvel movie anticipating an easy-to-digest joyride, rather than a boundary-pushing head-scratcher, you will leave satisfied.
Guardians of the Galaxy delivers well in that sense. Its rockin’ soundtrack – composed mostly of 70s, 80s and 90s crowd pleasers – is perfectly curated to induce euphoria in the audience. Plus, the likable characters and big-budget effects are diverting enough to keep that audience engaged for two and a half hours.
Is its plot reinventing the wheel? Ehh, not so much. The spectacle of intergalactic space travel masks a tale as old as time: a desperate rescue mission fueled by the imminent loss of a family member (because the Guardians are really more of a family than a group of friends).
The conflict is propelled by a villain – The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) – whose mission of crafting the ‘perfect’ planet, or a ‘Counter-Earth,’ reminds me of another arrogant quest for universal control under the guise of serving the common good (Thanos, anyone?).
The dialogue is equally comfortable and familiar, with the exception of one ‘my sweet racoon’ endearment which will never not make me cringe. Jokes about how stupid Drax (Dave Bautista) is, though? Or platitudes about the value of family, and letting go? I’ll be honest, I knew a lot of those lines were coming before they left the actors’ lips.
That being said, I think Guardians of the Galaxy is a film that succeeds precisely because it is what the audience expects it to be, down to its soundtrack of well-worn hits, its predictable placement of its one allotted F-bomb, and its inevitable ending: the bittersweet disbanding of the Guardians now that their journey has run its course.
Should a Guardian have died to add a little more bitter to the sweet? In another movie, perhaps. In Game of Thrones, absolutely. But this is Guardians of the Galaxy, and the audience is there to have their hearts warmed, gosh darn it.
I’ll leave off with one last observation. In lieu of the twentieth-century banger I expected in the closing scene, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 concluded with a dance party to Florence + The Machine’s ‘Dog Days are Over.’ What better way to signal a new era, in Guardian-speak, than with a musical nod to the twenty-first century?
Leave all your love and your longing behind – in space, that is.
Oh, also, you’ll probably want to leave behind the ASMR-worthy sound of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) crunching his cereal in the end credits. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.