By Lynn Venhaus
Equal parts salty, sweet, silly, sentimental, scary, and strange, this third chapter spotlighting freaky misfits saving the universe is a very busy mixed bag in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”
Legendary Star-Lord Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) leads his rag-tag team through life-and-death situations, all in superhero service of protecting good galactic folks under siege. This time, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) wants to rule the universe by controlling all living things. Sure, it’s a lofty goal, but many obstacles are in the way, and inevitably, there will be an epic battle between good and evil. (We’re not allowed to divulge much)
The best part of these grandiose Marvel Cinematic Universe series is the chemistry of the superheroes, and having this motley crew back together one more time has deepened their ties, softened their tough exteriors, and created playful exchanges that enhance what is a dense and convoluted story.
Earth-born Peter Quill leads a rascally turbo-charged group that includes a hulking Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista, who is endearing as a gentle giant), intuitive Mantis (Pom Klementieff, lively as a smart and sweet says-it-like-it-is sentinel), intimidating Nebula (Karen Gillan, whose bark is worse than her bite), the versatile tree monster Groot (voice of Vin Diesel, who is able to morph into a number of effective sizes and shapes), and a sarcastic racoon named Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper as a big-brained, no-nonsense warrior). Zoe Saldana returns as an alternate Gamora, which is better left unexplained (No spoilers from me).
Does anyone remember the plots other than bickering and banter between the Guardians, gnarly ginormous figures wreaking havoc, chaotic flights and fights through space, and clever needle drops that make characters shut up and dance?
This third outing is quite complicated: Rocket’s origin story, Ravagers show up with some key characters, and then a power-hungry maniacal villain called The High Evolutionary messes with species and is focused on wiping out civilization.
The action, while often well-staged with choreographed slow-motion and quicksilver derring-do, has the usual repetitive litany of explosions, flying chunks of concrete, interstellar mayhem, and grotesque creatures to become mind-numbing. The film feels every bit of its 2 hours and 30 minutes run-time.
Director James Gunn, who co-wrote the script with his writing partners on the other two, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, has again stamped his devil-may-care attitude on this quirky comic book series, but also built up the found family theme
The elaborately designed spacecrafts and hub of activity known as the Knowhere outpost seem to layer on excessive visual effects.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 was a breath of fresh air in the superhero realm, and the second one in 2017 capitalized on the original’s charm, laying on the kitchy pop culture. While Gunn retains his puckish sense of adventure, he has added more emotional beats this time around.
Newcomers include Will Poulter as Adam Warlock and Elizabeth Debicki as his mother Ayesha, characters introduced in the comics but not explained well here, and Maria Bakalova is the voice of the funny Cosmo the space dog. And Chukwudi Iwuji makes an impression as the flamboyant mad scientist who goes increasingly over the top.
For this final time, Pom Klementieff as Mantis and Dave Bautista as Drax are the standouts, creating a delightful comical dynamic.
But one of the bigger missteps is that this film is rated PG-13, for there are many elements that will frighten youngsters, especially about animals in cages.
The movie starts rather raggedy but ends with genuine emotional beats, and staying through the credits is a must. Also, it helps to be familiar with the other two.
When this overstuffed finale is hitting the right notes, it’s an earnest tug on the heartstrings, but because the story so often shifts tones and is stretched so thin – too many people! – overall, it’s frustrating.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is a 2023: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Action, Adventure film directed by James Gun and starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter, Sean Gunn and Maria Bakalova
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, strong language, suggestive/drug references, and thematic elements and run time is 2 hours, 30 minutes. Opens in theaters May 5. Lynn’s Grade: C+
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.