To describe the Marvel Comics Universe in film as a behemoth would be an understatement. So understated that it has its own name, which they’ve borrowed but it is an apt description – the Multiverse.
If you haven’t seen a Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Deadpool, Hulk, X-Men or Captain America movie in the past 20 years, whether for fun or because you’ve been dragged along by a petulant and needy child or grandchild, then I tip my hat to you in sheer defiance of the earth’s gravitational pull.
This week we are looking at Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (GG3), which belongs to The Avengers section of the Marvel world. At the last count, that totalled around 31 films, with more already in the pipeline.
Like its predecessors, the third instalment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise involves a group of ne’er-do-wells who centre around their leader, Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt), who started out as little more than an intergalactic thief calling himself Star Lord.
Through the first and second films his layered and complex backstory unfolds, and we learn his considerable place in the galactic scheme of things – as well as his love of period rock and roll music, and the cassettes given to him by his mother before he was whisked from earth at the age of eight.
In GG3, the focus is squarely on Peter Quill’s sidekick Rocket the Raccoon (a CGI-created character voiced by Bradley Cooper).
The group’s home base, Knowhere, is attacked by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a powerful but essentially dim character who seriously injures Rocket.
On attempting to revive the raccoon, Peter and the other Guardians discover there is a kill switch in his chest and decide to find the people responsible for putting it there.
Rocket has been the subject of “modifications” along with thousands of other animals before and after him. These have been carried out by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) in an attempt to create the perfect species for the perfect world.
The group sets out for the Orgosphere, where they believe the trigger to this kill switch is located. There they encounter Quill’s great love, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) – although because of events in previous films and timeline changes, she has not yet met him from her point of view.
However, she becomes a de facto member of the group as they go about extracting the relevant information, which involves chasing down and confronting the High Evolutionary on a mirror image of the world called Counter-Earth.
Of course, this sets up a major confrontation between the Guardians and the High Evolutionary and the results are not wholly unpredictable.
What separates this third film in the trilogy is that it confronts a few rather difficult issues, including animal cruelty, genetic manipulation, and by extrapolation, the whole notion of eugenics.
As a result, there’s definitely a darker and more serious tone to this movie. The first was all flash-in-the-pan, love story, getting away with it material, the second was more of the same but bigger and the jokes weren’t as good.
In the third, written and directed by James Gunn, who helmed the previous two, the humour is there and it’s very funny, but more as comic relief than laugh-out-loud material.
And there’s an urgency about this instalment that gives it incredible momentum and purpose.
Chris Pratt, who got his breakthrough with TV’s Parks and Recreation, holds this together brilliantly and the supporting cast of Saldana, Karen Gillan, David Bautista, Pom Klementieff and the incredibly charismatic Chukwudi Iwuji, round it out beautifully.
Guardians of the Galaxy 3, to my way of thinking, should really have been the final Avengers film, because in one sense, it sums up so much of what has gone before it, without ostentation, a great deal of grit and considerable imagination.
Not all heroes wear capes – including Peter Quill – and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 gets 3.5 stars out of 5.
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is screening at major cinema chains.
Marcus Kelson is a Canberra writer and film critic.