Guardians of the Galaxy, vol.3 ★★★★
Starring Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff
In 2014, most us received an introduction to the Guardians of the Galaxy; it was a big gamble by Marvel to try and make us fall in love with a band of misfits consisting of a talking raccoon, giant tree and a 70's music-loving Chris Pratt in a universe so far no weirder than self-aware AI and a few sets of spandex. But the gamble paid off, and now nearly ten years later and five more MCU outings for the loveable rogues, we finish their story with a centric focus on Rocket (Bradley Cooper).
It's no secret that this is the last film featuring this group of Guardians together, and the film sets that tone from the start. As always, James Gunn provides a soundtrack to prove his love for music is as strong as that for film, and here he opens with the acoustic version of Radiohead's 'Creep'. With a broader reach of soundtrack options now at his expense (because Zune), Gunn still remains strict on his choices and chooses tonally perfect fits throughout.
Gunn is heading off to DC, a historically darker superhero universe, and in Guardians 3, he proves that he can quite easily swim in those darker waters. There is a central plot involving animal testing in this otherwise hilarious threequel, that is both harrowing and heartbreaking, and it's all lead by villain The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). Although you're distracted momentarily by an adorable baby Rocket, it soon becomes difficult to watch; this is definitely the darkest MCU movie to date.
But it does balance those (honestly very disturbing) sequences out by including that silly comedy that we've come to expect from Quill and the gang. James Gunn has a way of making you forget that you laughed at a joke, and then using that same joke again later in the film, creating another fresh, successful laugh from an engaged audience. There's the first Marvel F-bomb, a frequent gag about looking cool and an inclusion of frankly bizarre creatures that feel so much more fitting than they did in Quantumania or the last Thor outing. And that is all down to James Gunn, a writer/director so passionate about his project that the weird just becomes wonderful...and I can't stress this enough, also harrowing.
The group are on top form as ever, each given a moment to show off their fighting abilities and personal attributes, and a level of threat runs from start to finish that you feel within each of them. This is definitely Rocket's story, but every Guardian is given time to grow and shine.
There are a few moments where pacing feels off, but this is a fantastic conclusion to a beloved trilogy. These characters have become so likeable and such a part of the pop culture furniture that I'm sure they'll show up again, but for this arc, James Gunn nails it in a laugh-out-loud, cry-out-loud, rock in a corner-out-loud third and final instalment.
Guardians of the Galaxy, vol.3 available in UK cinemas now