I didn't realize until I was leaving the movie theater after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 that it's been a while since I've fully enjoyed a superhero movie without having to ignore some sort of big flaw. It seems like, especially over the past five years or so, for every interesting take or stellar performance, there's been lackluster storytelling or lukewarm visuals to dim the light. Here's where my experience with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 stands apart from these other superhero movies: Guardians is the first superhero movie since maybe Thor Ragnarok that I've really enjoyed as a whole.
Considering how rare it's gotten, it's worth saying that Guardians Vol 3 is a pleasure to watch, and it feels, more than a lot of other recent superhero movies, like a real movie - one that stands apart from the generic mush we've been fed lately in superhero cinema.
Sure, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a busy movie with a lot of plot, fighting, and laughs, but it works, weaving together the Guardians tone and humor with a dark and surprisingly horrifying dive into Rocket's backstory. This movie does not rely on the Guardians formula of the past, and it takes a lot of big swings that you might not expect to pan out. In fact, while I was watching the movie, there were moments where I thought it was going off the rails, but I was consistently proven wrong.
Uniting the movie is a clear vision led by intentionality and thought, from the performances to the fight choreography to the designs of the each world we see. Everyone working on the film seems to be not only on point but also working towards the same goals of making a big, splashy (but also emotionally grounded) Guardians goodbye.
... Guardians Vol 3 is a pleasure to watch, and it feels, more than a lot of other recent superhero movies, like a real movie - one that stands apart from the generic mush we've been fed lately in superhero cinema.
As for the type of story the movie tells, while the Guardians movies are team movies, in a lot of ways, Vol. 3 is actually about individual journeys, some of which are main aspects of the plot, and some of which simmer in the background (perhaps the only Guardian that really feels left out of this movie is Groot). Gunn has always had a way of getting the audience to connect with characters, even with only a few minutes of screen time, and that skill shines here. And because we see these characters face themselves and their challenges separately, it also functions as a fitting ending for the team, as they grow, not necessarily apart, but into themselves.
In a farewell chapter, it can be easy to rely on cheap tricks and overdo callbacks to earlier days, but the movie deftly avoids this, instead focusing on where these characters are now instead of what they were earlier in the franchise. Nor does the movie get caught up in the trap of the larger plot machinations of the MCU (though I'd be surprised if we didn't see a character or two break out of the Guardians-verse an into another franchise). Instead, the focus is on the Guardians, as it should be in its final chapter.
Not only did Guardians Vol. 3 avoid many of the pitfalls that recent superhero movies have fallen into (bad pacing, weird tonal shifts, unbelievable stakes), but it also serves as a worthy conclusion to one of the best projects in the Marvel oeuvre. It goes to show that it isn't superheroes that the audience may or may not be starting to get tired of, but the kinds of movies that these superhero machines have been producing. Luckily, Guardians Vol. 3 has broken this pattern, just as the first Guardians did all the way back in 2014.
Haven't watched the movie yet and want to catch up on everything you need to know? Check out this handy guide to everything you need to know about Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3.
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