PG-13 for being pretty terrifying. Okay, before I forget, this movie has the same swearing as the other Guardians movies, only this time there's an f-bomb. I have to thank Marvel for releasing that scene early so I could prep my kid to not hear that word. But back to the body horror that is Guardians 3. It's a movie about animal cruelty, so the torture elements are out in force with this film. It's a lot and my son really didn't care for how in-your-face a lot of the visuals were. Couple that with some pretty intense violence and I would consider this one to be intense. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: James Gunn
Man, I'm upsetting people with this take. This might be my least favorite Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but that doesn't mean it did a thing wrong. It is a great movie that did exactly what it needed to do. It's just that...man, it was bleak as could be, right? The movie is an exercise in Chekhov's gun. For multiple films, Rocket says that he can't talk about his past because it is so traumatizing. In the final act, he has to talk about it. I mean, James Gunn couldn't leave this franchise and close up his story without full-on addressing the horrors that Rocket went through.
And to his credit, he didn't play it down. This trauma was as bad as Rocket has been teasing. I don't know if it outdoes Nebula's. It's the one line that kind of threw me. Nebula viewed the data in Rocket and saw that the High Evolutionary was a monster and immediately sort of forgives Thanos for being lesser than the High Evolutionary. I mean, low-key disagree. Thanos took Nebula apart and put her back together for fun. Also, humans. The High Evolutionary is the Victor Frankenstein of the MCU. (Except for the fact that Frankenstein exists in the Marvel comics, I think. I know Franken-Castle exists, but that's a different beast altogether. Pun intended.) The High Evolutionary is completely callous. He's a great villain. But he also has this idea that he can make the universe better. He knows that there's something inside potentiality that could be unlocked by someone smart enough to play God, so he plays God. It's awful, but from his perpsective, he's doing what needs to be done. I'm in no way defending animal testing here, but it's not like the High Evolutionary is the only guy to make this choice. People have tested on animals for far less altruistic moments. I still think that Thanos is more evil. That doesn't change the fact that the High Evolutionary might be a near top-tier villain.
Okay, back to the point. It's odd how this movie is fundamentally a Rocket Raccoon movie, but actually feels like it has the least amount of Rocket in it. Part of the movie is a desperate attempt to hold onto something that we used to have. Between the loss of Gamora to retcon and Rocket unconscious, Gunn intentionally paints the film as "something is off" about this team. For as close as they are and have learned the lessons of embracing a found family, people change and move on. Nostalgia is the happy sadness of a memory that will never return. Gunn putting Rocket on a gurney the entire time removes such a powerful dynamic to a team that really needs his cynicism. It's not that the Guardians of the Galaxy aren't all cynical in some way or another. It's just that Rocket's specific brand of cynicism is heavily missing in this film. I need someone to poo-poo everything really hard. I need someone to be that agent of chaos who marches to the beat of his own drum, despite the fact that so much of the plan rests on his shoulders. But that is removed. We get Rocket, but we get a sweet, martyred Rocket for the majority of the film. There are moments where we felt honest sympathy for Rocket in the previous movie. But this movie is the gut-punch. Rocket kind of balances his misery with his caustic behavior in the previous films. This Rocket is just beating up on a kid.
Now, as progressive as I come across (to the point of annoyance, I'd say), I'm not really an animal guy. I'm not pro-hurting animals. It's just that my attentions are focused elsewhere. But Gunn must be someone who takes this message seriously because he does this gorgeous thing about making each animal a real, fleshed out character that crushes in every scene involved. I'll be honest, maybe I had a harder time with Floor than the othe rmembers of the HIgh Evolutionary's prison. But Lylla is someone that is for the books. When I think back on this movie, as much as I'll think of this being a movie about Rocket, it's really because of Lylla that I'll be thinking about it. Lylla is a balance of mother and sibling in this story. If Peter Quill has Mommy issues all through the franchise, we have to remember that this movie is about the loss of parents, whether welcome or no. Lylla needs to be the story of Rocket's biological mother. Now, all the flags are going up. They should. But the High Evolutionary's entire gig is to take animals and give them sentience. It's heavily implied that Rocket has no memories of life as a raccoon. When he meets Lylla, he bonds with her on a maternal level. She, too, views Rocket from that maternal perspective. She's the one who comes up with the idea of naming selves. It's not one-for-one, but she borderline gives Rocket his name.
This is also a great break-up movie. Yeah, I was rooting for Peter Quill and Gamora too. But considering that the movie ends with a healthy breakup of the team --no one hating each other, but just going separate ways --it's appropriate that Gamora and Peter Quill stick a fork in it. Part of me wondered how they were going to get Gamora and Quill together again. I mean, Gamora had changed so much. And there was always this little tease that somehow, he was going to get her back. But realistically, that Gamora was not the same person that Peter had fallen in love with. Sure, sure, it would have been kind of hilarious to have Peter Quill and Nebula together. I think it works better as a joke and that's what ultimately happens. But this is a story about moving on. That's what makes Drax's conclusion to this story so poignant. Yeah, Gunn really calls a spade a spade in this one. It's the first time that people have addressed Drax's stupidity as a liability and it is a hard moment to watch. Drax is my guy. I know that Dave Bautista doesn't want to be Drax ever again, but I love Drax. When Nebula full on scars him and Mantis has to do some morally dubious mind-erasing, it's a moment.
But still, we understand that Drax isn't an idiot. He lives a life that gets him through trauma. When he speaks the kids' language, it's simply assumed that he would be the least qualified to communicate an idea. Sure, I don't know why he does the monkey-robot thing if he can just talk to them, but that's also kind of being a dad. He knows that the kids are scared of them and he knows what makes kids laugh. Giving him this moment when he can bond with these children who have lost everything is such a good turn of character for him. Drax is an odd character. He is incredibly rude, but part of the bit is that he doesn't think that he's incredibly rude. The films haven't forgotten that he has lost everything up to this point and that his biggest wound is his loss of actual family. But he's called the Destroyer because he's so violent. But Drax seems to thrive in community more than anything else. Giving him a massive family is the key to giving Drax a good ending and I adore that.
When a movie franchise says goodbye, it almost feels like it has to telegraph that sentiment by having long-running speeches and held camera shots. It beats us over the head. I mean, saying goodbye to Jodie Whittaker's Doctor, especially when it came to Yaz, almost bored me despite the fact that I liked her character (not the story, but her character). But Gunn subtlely lets us say goodbye. He makes the story about healing and moving on and I absolutely adored how he pulled it off. It's a solid conclusion to a trilogy. The weird part is that it will be the one I watch the least. But that's okay. A lot of good things are hard to watch sometimes.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.