Wednesday, June 19, 2024

It’s not hard to tell “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is James Gunn’s endgame for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s been with the Guardians since 2014; this threequel brings the mishmash crew of subscript heroes together after an especially long break – “Vol. 2” was in 2017 – caused in part by Gunn’s firing after a right-wing panic over long disavowed tweets. Cast members demanded his return, and Disney smartly relented, but DC in the meantime snatched Gunn up to lead its own entire superhero universe. Knowing this is the end, Gunn goes back to the beginning: the origins of Rocket (the voice of Bradley Cooper), as a scarred, genius gun nut raccoon who has no idea what a raccoon is. This means Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista) and the gang going to messy, loud war with the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji, sufficiently maniacal) and an army of mutated and mutilated animals – PETA members may take exception. It’s an intensely emotional ride that feels as unmistakably, satisfyingly final as anything in the MCU short of Tony Stark’s death. There’s goodbyes, callbacks and dancing, and an estranged version of original team member Gamora (Zoe Saldana) returns long enough to relearn that the Guardians are a family, but no longer hers, and the message is unmistakable: Gunn – er, Gamora – has found a home elsewhere. The Guardians as we knew ’em are over.