Sometimes I think on the nature of memories and this recent MCU addition, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, conjured up an interesting thought. When I think about what a Big Mac from McDonalds tastes like, do I remember what the last what tasted like or do I recall some particularly average or even above average taste from years and year ago? This may sound altogether stupid and unrelated, but the MCU has more in common with McDonalds than you may think. While McDonald’s menu features burgers and fries, the MCU’s menu is similar limited to origin story, hero’s development/coming of age, and end of an era/transition films. The thing is we’ve had the entire menu and it’s starting to get boring.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid movie. On one hand, it was the best Marvel product I’ve seen since No Way Home, and at the same time, I felt nothing after seeing it. The problem is that it’s the same good movie that Marvel has already made and that you’ve already seen. McDonald’s will always serve you the same burger and the MCU will continue it’s consistent stream of painlessly fine action movies.
At the end of the day, it’s a Gunn directed Guardians movie filled with the quippy comedy and touching moments this series and the overall MCU has embodied over the years. And those quippy jokes are very funny and those touching moments are about as empathetic as a touching moment can be. So despite being a fine movie, I had a hard time liking it and I guarantee I’ll have a hard time remembering it in the years to come.
Despite that, this film did have issues, starting with the visuals. For a film that reportedly cost $250 million dollars, it looks like it worked with a budget of half of that. Marvel seemingly has a lot riding on the success of this movie with recent MCU additions being panned by critics in their reviews and moviegoers by their avoidance of these movies. I would expect with that added pressure, more time and money would’ve been spent cobbling together a film that looked better. I don’t need the movie to look like Blade Runner 2049, but when compared to Marvel films from a few years ago, this looks like the work was outsourced to some up-and-coming studio getting their feet wet in special effects.
Credit where credit’s due, however. James Gunn knew what he was working with and purposefully shot scenes that featured the camera panning rapidly, quick edits, and only closed in on physical faces and sets. The reason why is that any amount of time spent looking at the digital sets greater than three seconds would’ve broken the viewer’s suspension of disbelief and make you realize that this is just some cheap amusement ride.
The other sin this film commits is in the action of the movie. It is the most bland and boring exercise in checking the time whenever a gun fight or space battle breaks out. Nothing about a gun fight or space battle should be boring, mind you, but here it seems like something you have to sit through to go from point A to B. There’s an action scene towards the end of the film where the Guardians battle a small army of enemies in a tunnel and it’s framed and set up like it’ll be a really cool action scene, but it just feels like any other action scene from any other Marvel movie. Compare that to any John Wick, where each film keeps you on the edge of your seat and the action and the story are one, not some disconnected mess which frames scenes of dialogue.
Additionally, outside of Rocket Racoon and his journey through this story, the other characters were flat. I will place no blame at the feet of the actors because I thought the entire cast did phenomenal job. However, the editing and thin nature of the story combined for a watery plot. Still, despite that, the plot structure was more or less sound. The only issue with plot structure was with Adam Warlock’s character. He was simply inserted to get his origin story in because his plot line could’ve been cut and the film would’ve suffered the most minor of damage in the process. This is just the sort of problems you’re bound to incur when each film is just setting the frame for the next one.
At the end of the day, seeing a Marvel movie is akin to getting a burger from McDonalds or a coffee from Starbucks. It’s fine and comfortable, but it’s nothing life changing or even at the very least, memorable. I do still think it’s a movie worth seeing and I’d recommend taking the time to watch it because it is one of those movies you have to see in the theater. Laughing and cheering with a crowd certainly changes the experience. To end on a more somber note, if the quality of these films don’t improve, I fear the MCU will be relegated to a streaming only series, which is a fate I would never wish upon a once dominated franchise.