There is an air of finality in Hollywood this year, with the culminations of John Wick, Mission: Impossible, the Fast and the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Read: somewhat culminations.

At once better and on par with Marvel’s present trajectory in spinning half-standalone, half-connected narratives, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 (GG3) is a somber send-off to one of the studio’s better entries.

Putting the spotlight on Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper, he was just called Rocket in the movies till now, we’re told), the story intercuts on Rocket’s flashback after he is critically injured by Adam Warlock’s (Will Poulter) rampaging attack on Nowhere, the GG’s base that’s literally a giant skull (it is one of the heads of an immortal being from the beginning of time).

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 reads like a hard statement against animal testing while the rest of the story and the characters are relegated to the background

Rocket’s only distant hope of survival, after a botched break-in on a corporate-run organic planet that cures people, is to go into a trap laid by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji, quite brilliant in the role).

The High Evolutionary is a madman who loves to tinker with science in his search to create the preeminent version of a species that somewhat mimics mankind, but stems from mutated animals.

GG3 reads like a hard-statement against animal testing — the sequences with Rocket being the best emotional bits in the story; the rest of the story, and the characters, are somewhat relegated to the background.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the leader of GG, is hurt by Gamora (Zoe Saldana) not accepting his romantic advances (she is angry and wants nothing to do with him); Drax (Dave Bautista) wants to venture off on his own so that he can be his former ‘destroyer’ self (his moniker was ‘Destroyer’ once), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) wants a journey of self-discovery and Groot (the voice of Vin Diesel)…well, he is Groot!

Nebula (Karen Gillan) gets good visibility in scenes as the supportive backbone of the group, though her character goes nowhere in the story. Sean Gunn as Kraglin, a member of the Guardians and the intergalactic smugglers the Ravagers — who are now led by Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar Ogord — has some good moments in a film that should have much, much more of these.

GG3 has always been a straggler when it came to having good villains, and while the High Evolutionary does get a facelift (he was mostly bound to Earth in the comics), the way the story by writer-director James Gunn functions, one doesn’t feel his threat, no matter how untouchably evil the cast of characters make him out to be.

One knows that despite the meek send-off (it should have been grand!) the GG, or an iteration of their new line-up, will make its way into the Marvel movies. So, it’s not sweet farewell just yet…and that stops the tears from flowing.

Released by Disney and HKC (in Pakistan), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is rated PG-13 (suitable for ages of 13 and over) and features big visual effects, good humour and a lack of finality

Published in Dawn, ICON, May 21st, 2023

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