James Gunn’s third Guardians of the Galaxy movie is a happy, soppy, and knowingly anarchic heap of sensations. Gunn, working from his own script, packs into Vol. 3 the racoon Rocket’s back story, cuddly animals (including a talking dog with a Russian accent), weird creatures, an ode to friendship and throwbacks to the previous productions.
Just to be absolutely sure, well-chosen songs enliven every other scene. There is a bunch of cute kids, a cameo by Sylvester Stallone that lasts as long as it takes to say “Rocky Balboa”, plenty of heart-tugging scenes for anyone who felt that this franchise lacked an emotional quotient and an equal number of wacky moments for the rest who didn’t expect to be bawling in their seats. There are even high-minded references to genocide, animal testing and body positivity.
It’s a lot to take in, so it helps that the 150-minute movie zips along at lightspeed. Laughs mingle with tears in an overstuffed film that leaves nothing to chance. Sometimes changing emotional gears mid-sequence against spectacular visual effects and slow-motion action sequences, Gunn ensures that you are never bored, even if you are not always able to keep track of events.
Vol. 3 is Gunn’s final contribution to the franchise, although mid-credits and post-credits sequences confirm the Hollywood axiom “Never say never.”
Like an attention-deficit kid who has far too many toys at his disposal, Gunn throws everything he has at the screen, knowing that at least something will stick. The film pivots on Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the brutal manner in which he is transformed by an unhinged scientist (Chukwudi Iwuji) from furry kit to genetically enhanced super-racoon.
The race to save Rocket from near-death propels Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillian), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) to a space station that resembles the gooey innards of a massive space creature. Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who has lost her memory but not her bad temper, hops along for the ride.
Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff and Karen Gillian make the most of what is possibly their final appearance as the Guardians. The entertaining new characters include the dim-witted Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) and his pet named Blurp.
The star is Rocket, as well as the friends he had before the Guardians. Rocket’s journey from tragedy to heroism is the most consistent and involving strand in a film that is hell-bent on being unruly and doesn’t care if you know it.