After the fizzle of the later Marvel movies, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol.3 brings in a shiny new villain played by Will Poulter, who manages the novel trick of appearing both menacing and comic, in a film that does little to exhibit his artistry in any discernible way. The movie, touted as James Gunn’s return to family-friendly fodder after the shock-rock theatrics of the genuinely awful The Suicide Squad (Gunn, 2019), is a fairly pedestrian Marvel adventure, and Poulter looks visibly embarrassed by the gold suit he has to wear.
Poulter plays Adam Warlock, a space being tasked with wiping out the titular Guardians, a merry band of miscreants that includes a Harrison Ford lookalike (Chris Pratt), a baby tree, and a raccoon who parrots each and every opinion off as if he’s coming up with them for the first time (Bradley Cooper, in case you’re interested). The plot nugget, the Guardians decision to continue fighting following the annihilation of the universe, stems from the similarly ho-hum Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2018), presenting Pratt’s Star-Lord in a moment of emotional distress as he mourns the alien he had hoped to spend a life with.
Breaking with galactic overlords and star demons, the film delves into real world problems, with no less an organisation than Peta commending the film for depicting the horrors of animal testing. The franchise’s first British master villain (Chukwudi Iwuji’s High Evolutionary) is as garrulous but powerful warlord who evokes terror on everything he sets his hands on, although the meat of the film is dedicated to a physical match that sadly never comes to fruition.
With the former Scooby-Doo writer James Gunn still in charge, there’s more than enough comedic setpieces to keep the children satisfied: many of the zingers are performed by Karen Gillan, who lets her natural Scottish accent out on some of the film’s funnier one-liners. Parents will enjoy the soundtrack, which boasts a mixture of 1970s anthems and bouncier, more modern work. But the rest relies on the tired tropes Marvel has spent the last 15 years boring audiences to death with, and it’s no coincidence that my favourite character in the film was Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), an android as disenfranchised with her reality as I was with the movie. It’s high time Marvel switched up the formula (tellingly written off as “rollercoaster” adrenaline by Martin Scorsese), for something more human and heartfelt. And yes, I would rather watch a raccoon discuss his life’s failings, than view him tackling a six-foot robot amidst a flurry of unconvincing effects!
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is in cinemas Wednesday, May 3rd.