When will Hollywood learn an old saw that grows more accurate with time.
More is less.
Or, in the case of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” much less.
Storyteller James Gunn’s third, and final, adventure with the rag-tag group shows what happens when you pile plot upon plot, gag upon gag, and then throw every CGI pixel at the screen.
We reunite with our heroes as a new threat emerges. Will Pounce plays Adam Warlock, a bronze-skinned superhero targeting Rocket (Bradley Cooper) for his master, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji, who screams every line he utters).
The evil Evolutionary loves to tinker with living organisms, and his experimentations created Rocket years ago (along with a crush of other creatures both cuddly and bizarre). His goal? To create a perfect species.
That’s interesting, but it’s never given the depth that Thanos’ eco-mania received in previous MCU films.
Plus, the High Evolutionary wants Rocket back. Why? It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but that’s par for the “Vol. 3” course.
The Guardians rally to save the gravely injured Rocket, setting a colorful, but bleak series of set pieces in motion.
Along the way, we get the usual buffoonery from Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). They’re all great, and even greater together. Their comic rhythms are perfectly in sync, and writer/director Gunn knows how to deploy their silliest bits.
“Vol. 3” is often very funny, except when it’s flashing back to genetic manipulations and even darker themes.
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We’re meant to ooh and ahh at Rocket’s old, adorable friends, including an otter named Lylla (Linda Cardellini) and Floor the rabbit (Mikaela Hoover), seen in copious flashbacks.
It’s all CGI, of course, but the story’s many tentacles mean we don’t buy into their fates.
There’s more, too, including a talking dog (voiced by “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’s” Maria Bakalova), Sylvester Stallone as the head of the Ravagers and a tortured hero (Sean Gunn) whose superpower involves making an arrow-like weapon soar through the air.
The last “Avengers” films miraculously jugged dozens of characters, giving each wonderful moments to shine. Gunn and co. have a much harder time with a similar task.
Gunn is plucking our heartstrings repeatedly over the 2.5 hour running time, and it’s as exhausting as everything else on screen. Remember when superhero films were fun? Can we miss these characters at a later date?
Gamora is back, too, but this time it’s her character from another timeline since Thanos killed her in a previous “Avengers” romp. This version, again played by Zoe Saldana, has little time or patience for Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), a subplot with untapped potential.
Neither Pouter nor “Vol. 2” returnee Elizabeth Debicki register with their limited screen time, and we don’t get a satisfying action sequence until late in the film.
The novelty of Viesel’s Groot-isms has worn out, and keeping Cooper’s Rocket sidelined for much of the film is another unforced error. The Oscar-nominee’s wisecrackery is part of the GOTG fun.
Even the musical cues, so integral to the original film, feel tapped out here. Oh, I recognize that song … cool, I guess.
“Vol. 3” has the volume on full blast, but it’s not enough to make the 5th phase MCU entry worth our adulation.
HiT or Miss: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is big, noisy, occasionally hilarious but too often exhausting.