Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is the latest Marvel film from director James Gunn, author of the entire film trilogy (plus the recent Guardians of the Galaxy: A Christmas Special for Disney+) dedicated to the lamest galactic superheroes from Marvel Comics made iconic, however, by the big-screen franchise (to the point that Marvel Studios even gave them a place of honor in the blockbuster diptych Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame).
Passed meanwhile in the house DC Studios first as the director of The Suicide Squad and the sequel spin-off TV show Peacemaker and then as the leader of new DCU film project, Gunn returns here to bring closure to the story of Star-Lord, Gamora, Nebula, Drax, Groot and Rocket Raccoon and all the others that began way back in 2014, before he moved shack and puppet to the Warner Bros. lots on a permanent basis (his next film, Superman: Legacy, a reboot of the DC franchise and the first installment of the DCU, is expected in July 2025).
But we are at the beginning of the second act of the epic Saga of the Multiverse, and the term ‘closure’ on the side of Marvel Studios is tantamount to blasphemy: the question is:, is the film able to represent a meeting point between the needs of the broader narrative arc of the saga and the dutiful farewell slash victory lap of one of its greatest exponents?
The answer is: yes and no.
Guardians of the Galaxy, farewell (?)
At about two hours and forty minutes in length, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is one of the longest MCU movies ever (Shall we open a parenthesis on the frequency with which Hollywood has begun to indulge in minute-length films of sizable proportions, after nearly a century of ’90-minute films and several decades of ‘120-minute films? We’d better not or we’ll run out of space) but it doesn’t exactly work in his favor.
Cluttered with characters and tremendously cumbersome in the unfolding of the narrative but conscious of having to carve out for each of the protagonists the space necessary for goodbyes (not counting the many secondary characters, and even those who are introduced here in anticipation of the next chapters…), the film of James Gunn ‘plays dirty’ and essentially edits together two stories, one connected to the other (or, rather, one a consequence of the other), while sacrificing the smoothness of the pacing of both: and until the two macro-sequences, destined to collide, finally meet (about two and a quarter hours from the opening credits), the movie just goes on and on with pauses and restarts, continuously, a press stop here and mash play there to stop that story and restart the other, and vice versa. Nothing like the seamless fluidity of the masterpiece Avengers: Infinity War, which had almost the same length but dozens more characters.
Speaking without spoilers is extremely difficult, but it’s sufficient to say that at one point a character will say to one of the main characters, “This has always been your story, you just never knew it before.” And that is essentially true, only the film goes out of its way to bury that story inside the other to which it keeps coming back and back. A somewhat lazy screenplay choice, which goes hand in hand with that of the soundtrack’s selection of songs, of a didacticism to leave one bewildered.
Of course then, however, one’s heart goes out to one’s heart, as they say: and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 not only has one of the most exciting and memorable scenes in the entire MCU (which has to do with raccoons and cages, let’s put it that way), but also lots of strokes of genius (one among them: also allowing the audience to finally understand Groot’s speech, because after ten years we all became Guardians of the Galaxy), a Dave Bautista masterful in comic timing and a very obnoxious and totally monotonous villain that you just want to hate and see defeated by the good guys (which for once is maybe a good thing).
Ultimately, the ending (?) (yeah sure as hell) a bit listless and less inspired than expected, but still passionate and above all sincere in wanting to spend as much time as possible with its protagonists. Even at the expense of sacrificing the overall success of the film.