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The Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Part 3

This movie isn't the best in the trilogy, but it should be doing better than it is at the box office

Previously, we talked about how Rocket Raccoon was injured during a fight with Adam Warlock, and this event sent the Guardians on a quest to save their friend. They manage to fix Rocket, and along the way, the viewer learns about the raccoon’s past. However, now that Rocket has healed from his injuries, Peter, Gamora, and Groot must save Nebula, Mantis, and Drax from the High Evolutionary, since they snuck onto his ship.

The High Evolutionary demands that Peter trade Rocket for the three stowaways and sends Peter his coordinates. Peter hatches a plan with the remaining Guardians and some of his fellow Ravagers from the previous films. Meanwhile, Mantis, Nebula, and Drax discover there are children in cages inside the ship. They are a new race the High Evolutionary has created. He means to build another Counter-Earth, but considering he just destroyed the previous Counter-Earth, the chances these children survive the High Evolutionary’s next attempt are not good. They resolve to save the children, assuming Peter and the others can save them.

Let the Battle Begin

Peter and his allies arrive to confront the High Evolutionary, and the battle begins. Adam Warlock tries to cause trouble for Peter as he boards the High Evolutionary’s ship but is quickly defeated again, and Peter resumes his mission. Unlike other Marvel movies, where the good guys’ odds are stacked against them in the climax of the film, this time, it is the High Evolutionary who is caught off-guard, and surprisingly, his own hubris ensures his defeat. When one of the High Evolutionary’s underlings begins arguing with him, the High Evolutionary shouts, “There is no God. That’s why I stepped in.” This is enough for the underling to cause a mutiny, but the High Evolutionary kills the entire bridge crew, ending the mutiny but dooming his ship to destruction. The man is already beaten. He just doesn’t know it yet.

The movie ceases to focus on defeating the High Evolutionary and turns its attention to getting everyone off the ship before it explodes. Even Adam Warlock is rescued by Groot. At first, everything is going fine, but then, Rocket discovers a room filled with animals that, presumably, were meant to experience the same sorts of experiments he endured. It’s at this moment, that the High Evolutionary appears, but he is quickly defeated by Rocket and the other Guardians, who gang up on him and completely overwhelm the villain. Rocket then insists on rescuing the animals, and the other Guardians agree.

It’s another close call, Peter is the last to try and escape from the ship but finds himself caught in the void of space. However, Adam Warlock receives his redemption moment, and flies out to rescue Peter, since Groot spared his life and told him that everyone deserves a second chance.

After this, Gamora and Peter have a final fleeting moment. The new Gamora says that she believes Peter and the old Gamora were “fun.” Peter agrees, and she leaves. This scene isn’t quite as tear-jerking as a raccoon and an otter rubbing noses during a Near-Death Experience, but it’s the closest thing to closure James Gunn is going to give Peter during this movie.

So far, the third act has been tolerable. Then it delves into the cliché and irritating. Peter decides he’s going to visit his grandfather, who might still be alive despite being in his nineties. Then, for reasons unknown, he decides he will no longer be a Guardian. Then Mantis decides she needs to “find herself” or “find what she wants” or something and decides she’s leaving too. Personally, I hate the leaving to “find yourself” cliché. I never know what anyone is talking about when they say that, and I feel tempted to tell them to look in a mirror.

Rocket is dubbed captain of the Guardians, and he assembles a new team, which also features Adam Warlock. I found that to be the most interesting part of the ending because, despite Marvel’s best efforts to weaken the character, he is still one of the most powerful beings in Marvel Comics.

Peter meets his grandfather, who is actually still alive, and Mantis goes off with three monsters to do . . .  something. The film ends with a lot of cheery music, and people shouting in ecstasy for some reason.

The Pros and Cons

I’ve spent most of my time complaining about the movie, but it really isn’t too bad. As with most films, the quality of the production depends on how you measure it. If you’re looking at continuity, stakes, and writing, which are the main subjects of these reviews, then I’d say Guardians Three is the weakest of the trilogy by far. If you’re looking at pacing and entertainment, then it’s better than Guardians Two, but not as good as the first film. In terms of the emotional payoffs, the film is all over the place. The flashbacks are moving, but almost everything happening in real-time is disturbingly shallow; however, on the whole, I’d say the film deserves better sales in theaters than it’s currently receiving. At the time of this review, the movie is said to have experienced a 49% drop in turnout from opening weekend, which isn’t as bad as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania but is still a bit disappointing because, while it may be poorly written in places, the movie isn’t offensively bad.

There is some debate about the cause of this drop in theater turnout, with everything from Covid to superhero fatigue being blamed, but in my opinion, Disney’s handling of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the culprit. One example of this poor handling is the fact that Mantis is referred to as Peter’s sister throughout the film, but in order to see the moment when Peter discovers that Mantis is his sister, you’d have to have a subscription to Disney Plus and watch The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. First of all, Disney bought Star Wars. They should know Christmas Specials are a bad idea. Second of all, seems to me that Peter discovering a new family member could’ve served as a way for him to move past the loss of Gamora, a way of saying that while he may have lost someone close to him, he has also gained a family member, a consolation that could be used to close a chapter of his life. Instead, such an emotional revelation is treated as an aside and is bound to confuse anyone who doesn’t have a Disney Plus subscription. A similar event occurred during Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness where, in order to understand anything that was happening in the movie, the viewer needed to watch WandaVision. Another example is with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania where Kang the Conqueror is the main villain. Kang was first introduced in the Disney Plus series, Loki. I believe this need to watch material behind a paywall in order to understand what’s happening in a theatrical release is what’s killing the Marvel Cinematic Universe because people go to the theaters and pay for a streaming service for different reasons.

Moviegoing and Movie-streaming: Not the Same

Going to the movies is something a family or a group of friends does together. It’s usually either accompanied by a dinner where the family and friends take the time to talk to one another. Not everyone going to the theater has the time to spend hours watching a television series so they can understand what’s happening in a movie, and even if they did have the time, not everyone would consider the effort worth it. And many people pay for streaming services so they don’t have to go to the theaters. They don’t consider getting dressed and finding a place to eat before seeing a movie worth the effort. In short, the theater and the streaming service are two business models that are at cross purposes with one another. So, thanks to Disney’s attempt to create a powerhouse by trying to force people to participate in both business models, they are now losing people on both fronts, and they will continue to do so as long they persist in this nonsense. People who go to the theaters are not going to pay for a streaming service just to understand what’s happening. They’ll watch another movie. People who pay for streaming services are usually going to wait until the movie comes out on the service, and if the movie is spoiled for them on the internet because the movie takes so long to be released, they might just unsubscribe and watch it on another website or disengage from the franchise and watch something else.

Disney is trying to twist people’s arms into paying for more than they need to, but capitalism, like life, finds a way. With any luck, this way will involve the death of that miserable company. I should also add that Disney’s involvement in politics probably isn’t helping matters.

The superhero genre has been around for almost a hundred years. I doubt fatigue is the issue even if the medium for superhero stories has changed. I think Disney’s business model is a better explanation for the drop in sales. As for Guardians Three, I would consider it worth your time just don’t think about it too hard.            

Gary Varner

Gary Varner is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture in Seattle, Washington. He is a Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiast with a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts, and he spends his time working with his fellows at Discovery Institute and raising his daughter who he suspects will one day be president of the United States. For more reviews as well as serial novels, go to www.garypaulvarner.com to read more.

The Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Part 3