Movie of the Week: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) / Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 (2023)

James Gunn directs Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper and Pom Klementieff in these Marvel comic book adaptations following a ragtag group of space rejects who band together to save the universe.

Regular readers will know that I don’t hate too hard on the MCU machine, but equally I rarely give it a five star pass just for being mindlessly popular. Kevin Feige has Stockholm Syndrome’d a mass market entire swathe of the ticket buying audience. My enthusiasm for the franchise gently wanes and occasionally spikes with each never-ending open-ended release. First time I grew disillusioned with the quippy conveyor belt was after a series of average yet spectacular introduction stories by 2014, I only bought my ticket on opening day to GOTG1 on some last minute whim. And I was overwhelmed by how much more entertaining and personality fuelled it was (and still is). Largely down to Gunn’s VHS nasty instincts being repurposed for a PG-13 romp. I left the cinema beaming. Yet because one can’t really get away from Marvel at any point in the year these days, I have only made time to revisit the studio’s highpoint once over the last decade in its entirety. If Vol.1 popped up on TV, I’d settle down and watch a half-hour chunk, but those days of a random channel surfing are now a true thing of the past. Yet the film holds up really well. A silly comic book space adventure, whose tone is random and slightly gross, that presses all the buttons I want from a summer blockbuster. Gloopy production design, a palette of slime and nebula, plus perfect ensemble casting. The finale should be tighter but this overarching formula seems to prefer stretching out the temporary conclusions to give some semblance of good value.

2 showed signs of rot and fatigue setting in. Every flaw you could overlook in the origin story felt more obvious and amplified on repeat. And now the long awaited third and ‘final’ entry feels terminal for much of the running time. And don’t get this ‘ole spoilsport curmudgeon wrong… I might pick and choose my superhero cinema trips a tad more judiciously these days… But I was excited to see Drax, Rocket and Gunn’s weird intergalactic new worlds return on the big screen, opening weekend. Disappointment soon hacked my pleasure. How many shots of “the team” walking towards the camera in slo-mo were we going to indulge? Why isn’t the whole thing getting a clip on? Where was the originality? Why isn’t Dave Bautista getting more killer lines? Do we really care about this love triangle? The organic space station, and the wonderful pop art space walk to it, aside, where was the fun?

Rocket’s sad backstory is told at length. A dozen flashbacks to extreme animal cruelty interrupting the more light hearted flow. I found the vivisection and the psycho-Pixar interludes really sapped me, made me too sad, too uncomfortable. Once they wrap up at the two hour mark all we had left in the tank was one of those elongated, uninvolving finales, a few too many teased deaths and then endless epilogues. And now, the one shining star of the Marvel galaxy has been snuffed out on an awkward whimper… Blade?

9/4

My wife and I do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

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