It was about the time that Star-Lord and the other guardians arrived on Counter-Earth—a 1970s-esque suburbia populated by anthropomorphic animals—that I realized Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would be the weakest movie in the trilogy. It was also when I realized there was no longer any reason to give money or attention to Disney.
As those who have seen Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Vol. 3 know, early on in the movie, a compelling reason is given for Peter Quill and the gang to go to Earth proper—a veritable Chekov’s gun, placed with every anticipation on the proverbial mantelpiece. At least, that is what I, or any fair-minded viewer, might have expected. Instead, director James Gunn decided that an extended side quest would be in order. Thus: Counter-Earth.
“Why?” I wondered to myself as I watched Drax hurl a ball at an adolescent lemur, “Why are they going to a facsimile of Earth instead of to the actual Earth?” My answer, it so happened, was sitting in the cinema seat next to me. My 16-year-old cousin—who I doubt is even aware that a book such as The Island of Doctor Moreau exists—was thrilled to be accompanying his favorite band of space rogues to whichever zoologically diverse planet they might happen upon. He didn’t seem to care why anything was happening, only that it was happening.
“Any comparison between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the earlier volumes reveals a stark decline in narrative quality.”
Any comparison between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the earlier volumes reveals a stark decline in narrative quality. Consider, for example, the Kyln prison sequence in the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Every scene—from the ensemble’s incarceration to their escape—is superbly edited: the pace is propulsive, the dialogue is snappy, and the action is thrilling. Moreover, the entire sequence serves to establish the wry personality of the characters and the movie as a whole. When Quill delays the prison break to retrieve the Walkman his mother gave him, the audience gets an immediate read on his personality—he may be the infamous Star-Lord, but he’s still human.
By contrast, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is not particularly interested in tonal consistency. The movie is inordinately bloated with characters and ideas, oscillating between the sort of zany antics aimed at teenagers and the type of maudlin dramatics presumably aimed at more mature audiences. Even worse, the guardians themselves are hardly rogues but are more like presumed heroes—the entire soirée on Counter-Earth is largely ritualistic, if not just boring. Likewise, Volume 3 is thematically disconnected from its predecessors—Star-Lord’s signature mask isn’t even in the movie.