Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 movie review: the perfect way to say goodbye to this super-franchise

 (Courtesy of Marvel Studios)
(Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

I loved it. It made me cry. And I’ll never forget Lylla, Teefs and Floor. That last sentence will sound like a foreign language to almost everyone reading this. But that’s OK, because the last instalment of James Gunn’s ribald and outrageously tender MCU series is all about the difficulty of being understood. To put it another way: Gunn, by introducing us to three tragic new characters, has found the perfect way to say goodbye.

How much do you know about The Guardians? A friend told me he was struggling to stay interested in the MCU; that he “blinked and lost the plot after Avengers: Endgame”. Luckily, very little has happened to this gaggle of misfits – led by one-time earth-dweller Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) – since Endgame. Also, Gunn’s script finds jokey ways to fill you in on anything you might have missed (the alt-timeline backstory of Zoe Saldana’s green-faced warrior, Gamora? It’s explained in under two minutes).

The one fact you need to keep in your head, if you’re coming to this whole thing totally fresh: in outer space, a group of bickering goofballs are upset because Rocket (a talking raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper) is dying. And the past he’s never wanted to discuss (which involves an ambitious scientist called the High Evolutionary and some horrifically impaired animal hybrids) is about to change all of their lives.

Despite its running time of two-and-a-half hours, this farewell doesn’t feel overlong. That’s because the repartee of Peter and the gang covers so much philosophical ground. In the first Guardians movie, Rocket mocks the afflicted. Here, we get to see why Rocket views himself as a Frankenstein’s monster and it’s dark, if surreal (think Watership Down for stoners).

Will Poulter in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 (Jessica Miglio)
Will Poulter in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 (Jessica Miglio)

If the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuki, who is at his best in a scene where this ‘God’ gets drunk) isn’t an especially scary villain, what he brings out in Rocket is truly terrifying and an intimate fight scene between them is so brilliantly edited you’ll feel nauseous by the time it ends. The use of a bright red body part is worthy of Scorsese; which is ironic because, as we all know, he hates superhero movies. Without indulging in gratituous violence, Gunn makes every body blow count.

Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan show off their comic timing as Peter, Gamora and her adopted sister, Nebula, push each other’s buttons. Daniela Melchior, such a vibrant presence in The Suicide Squad, also has a small but crucial role.

Meanwhile, Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are clearly a trio with issues: Mantis is gullible; Drax is literal and seemingly lacking in empathy; Groot, to the untrained ear, is repetitive and crap at banter. The film’s point is that we need to retrain our ears. Some blockbusters pay lipservice to the joys of diversity. Not this one. From first to last, Drax, Mantis and Groot are epic. If I was a kid, they’d be my favourites.

Though mention must also be made of Will Poulter’s Adam. This new character (literally, a golden boy, ostensibly out to help the High Evolutionary) charges around like Erling Haaland and is a great addition to the fold.

The MCU isn’t about closure. Disney chief executive, Kevin Feige (the real ruler of this galaxy) doesn’t like full stops. Naturally, the second movie in Phase Five lays the ground for further adventures, but I didn’t feel cheated. Like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, this is a meditation on loss that works as a stand-alone story. We’ll see some of these characters again, but this feels like their finest hour.

In cinemas from May 3rd

150 mins cert 12A