FILM REVIEW — “Guardians 3” goes dark for its finale

Published 12:04 am Friday, May 5, 2023

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“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”

Marvel Studios

Directed by James Gunn

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff

Rated PG-13

3 Stars

“The Guardians of the Galaxy” movies have always been among my favorites of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. It’s not because of the stories or special effects, but rather, it’s the strange collection of oddball characters that give these films their charm.

Those goofy-but-sweet characters are enough to keep me going even when the stories get too outlandish to be credible. So, I’m happy to report that the characters are back in full form for the third and final movie, and their appeal is as strong as ever.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” lets us get to know Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) as the rest of the gang sets off a quest to save him after he’s injured in a fight. I love that we get to see Rocket’s backstory, but I wasn’t prepared for how bleak that story turned out to be. We learn that he was born out of the perverse designs of a mad scientist with a penchant for grafting robotic elements onto animals. Think of an extraterrestrial Dr. Moreau and you’ll get the general idea.

These scenes give the film some very dramatic moments and are quite difficult to watch. I know that the images are computer generated, but there are shots of animal cruelty here that suck the fun right out of the film.

Not to worry, the story quickly careens over to light-hearted moments where our heroes do something silly. These lighter scenes are a lot of fun, and gonzo enough to get you back into the overall spirit of the movie. The problem is that while you’re bopping you head along with some quirky piece of action, you may also be hearing Sarah McLachlan singing in the back of your mind, asking if you can spare a few dollars to protect space animals from intergalactic mad scientists.

The whiplash between the dramatic and the fun elements prove to be a bit too taxing, making it difficult to fully enjoy “Guardians 3” on the same level as the previous films.

It’s taxing, but not so much that it dooms the entire endeavor. I do think that the film tips toward fun-n-quirky in the end, so audiences that liked the previous movies should enjoy this third film. And I appreciate that each of the characters gets a nice moment to shine, either dramatically or comically, before the gang heads off for a big, explosion-filled finale.

If you believe producers, this is the last “Guardians” movie. Director James Gunn has taken the job of head of DC Comic movies, so he won’t be making any more Marvel Studios films. I will certainly miss him. I appreciate his unique vision and his willingness to shine a light on eccentric characters that might otherwise be ignored in a big summer blockbuster flick.

I just wish that his darker visions hadn’t been so bleak in what has generally been one of the sillier (in a good way) Marvel franchises. The film is still fun, but perhaps not the sendoff that fans were hoping to see.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at