The gang reunites to save the universe from certain destruction, once again, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
This third, and possibly final, installment of the franchise finds the heroes battling The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a mad scientist bent on the creation of a “Counter-Earth.” His twisted vision is to replace the original planet with one populated by carefully cultivated anthropomorphic animals that he believes will be far superior to the humans that dominate the current planet. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) has a tormented history with this foe, having once been his captive long ago. It’s that history that provides Rocket’s tortured and often touching origin story.
Writer/director James Gunn returns for what he claims to be the last time, raising questions as to the future of this storied group of galactic misfits. The first two installments (both also written and directed by Gunn) were highly engaging, tongue-in-cheek comedies with an ever-present rocking soundtrack driving audiences willingly through the stars. This time around, Gunn and his Guardians have let their guard down.
Vol. 3 is overly dark, overly busy and often overly dull. The jokes are few and far between. The previously bankable Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is portrayed as a disconnected, disinterested teen taking the rest of the film with him. The soundtrack teases you with major hits, but quickly spoils the fun by fading them quickly into the background. The few songs left untouched rarely rise to the level of what once kept audiences humming into the hallways long after the credits ended. Gunn tries to fill the obvious void with an overload of insanely busy visuals. It doesn’t work.
The only plotline that does resonate is Rocket’s backstory. It is filled with moments that rival the Internet’s most watched kitten videos and even brought a tear or two to my eyes. The rest of the story feels like chaotic, unwanted noise by comparison. Everyone’s back, and no one cares.
Perhaps the timing’s right for Gunn to call it quits. I’m not sure if he’s done with the material or if the material is done with him, but it hardly matters. I just wish that he could have left this galaxy on the same high that he gave everyone the first two times around.