Film Journal 2023: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Directed by James Gunn
Where to watch: now playing in theaters
When the first Guardians film came out it was a bit of a novelty. It represented a slight break from the Marvel formula, allowing Gunn to put his personal touch on a relatively unknown story about a cast of misfits thrust together and bound to protecting the universe against otherworldly threats.
With Volume 3, Gunns sensibilities take even more of a center stage, making this the most personal and most invested of the three.
It’s also the darkest, especially considering the humor that dominates volume 2. It’s not that the humor is absent here, but it takes a backseat to the films dramatic and creative concern. In truth, this reflects some awkward tonal shifts that might unsettle or distance some viewers, and Gunns taking some definite swings here on his way out of the franchise and the MCU that don’t always work completely. But the films creative voice overshadows that, proving that there is still plenty of room to explore when it comes to reimagining these stories in unique ways and finding different ways to tell Marvel stories. Truth be told, when the swings do land it’s quite exceptional; visually, structurally, aesthetically, technically.
What allows this film to soar though is how Gunn locates the trilogies thematic force in the story of Rocket. The film is a beautiful send off to these beloved characters, and by giving the trilogy a singular and unifying focus it allows the narrative to reflect back on the journey as a whole with perspective and awareness of its growth. There are some genuinely powerful and emotionally gripping moments, and some stunning ones,that make the emotional investment deeply worthwhile.
A franchise about unlikely friendship grows into a story about found family, taking the time to really explore the weight of their individual stories and struggles and how they fit together. This is a genuine feeler that stands as a reminder of why the MCU has had such a lasting presence in the cinematic landscape.
A great article to dig deeper: https://www.indiewire.com/features/craft/guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-3-james-gunn-mcu-bowie-design-1234860842/