Shropshire Star

Film Talk: Latest Movie Releases – Does third outing for Guardians hit galactic heights?

It was the enfant terrible of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I loved it from minute one.

Come and get your love - Zoe Saldana as Gamora and Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord in James Gunn's Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3

Back in 2014, the MCU was at the height of its powers, having broken the global box office clean in two with its first phase and having recently made hay with Iron Man’s third solo outing and Thor’s second.

There was no doubt about it, ‘True Believer Fever’ was in the air, and, particularly following the success of 2012’s Avengers Assemble, the world was waiting to see the direction the MCU would head in next.

It was time to shake things up a bit. Enter director James Gunn. Enter leading man Chris Pratt. Enter the mixtape of the millennium, and a healthy dose of blue banter...

When 2014’s Guardians Of The Galaxy landed, laughter was made the cornerstone of a Marvel flick for the first time, and a masterpiece was the result.

The studio had obviously incorporated humour into various outings before (magnificently so in Thor), yet this was the first time it had essentially built a film around it, and it worked a treat.

The chemistry between cast leads Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista was as such that every moment of riffing hit the bullseye, and Guardians quickly catapulted to fan-favouritedom. A 2017 sequel again tickled the funny bones, and the legend of the Guardians was reinforced further with appearances across Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, a brief cameo in Thor 4, and a rather rockin’ Christmas special last year.

What the people wanted however was the much-anticipated third solo feature flick, and the wait is finally over. But does Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 meet the mark of its predecessors, or has the great Marvel mixtape finally been worn out? Time to press play...


Released: May 3 (UK & Ireland)

If unadulterated pleasure is measured in minutes and seconds, the third chapter of writer-director James Gunn’s big-budget blast through the pages of Marvel Comics packs the lightest payload of gasps and giggles into the longest instalment of the otherworldly trilogy.

Running a few seconds shy of two-and-a-half hours, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 opens with a soaring acoustic rendition of Radiohead’s Creep – a perfect, melancholic prelude to the film’s daredevil mission to protect Rocket the raccoon from spectres of his harrowing past.

Gunn’s script gets hung up on the song’s lyric “I wish I was special”, engineering a series of increasingly outlandish set pieces that meld physical creature effects and prosthetics with eye-popping digital trickery.

Something doesn’t quite jive about the Guardians’ wistful third tour of duty despite emotional outbursts from Chris Pratt’s lovesick leader, genuinely upsetting scenes of animal cruelty and a surprisingly low-key introduction for Will Poulter as childlike entity Adam Warlock.

More of Gunn’s bombastic tomfoolery for your interstellar buck is somehow less at the third attempt, including two additional scenes snuggled into the end credits, one of which comes with an on-screen promise.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 is made with familiar ingredients including a generous dollop of dysfunctional interpersonal relationships but serving the same hearty meal a third time doesn’t exactly leave tastebuds tingling with excitement.

Copious supplies of intergalactic booze help Peter Quill aka Starlord (Pratt) to numb the pain of losing his beloved Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

The incarnation of the green-skinned assassin who now controls the merry band of pirates known as the Ravagers has no memory of their whirlwind romance or her gung-ho adventures with the Guardians including Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), vengeance-seeking warrior Drax (Dave Bautista), cute tree-like sidekick Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora’s adopted sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) and empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

During one of Peter’s alcohol-soaked stupors, Adam Warlock (Poulter) attempts to kidnap Rocket at the behest of the raccoon’s sadistic creator, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who conducts unethical genetic experiments under the auspices of correcting nature’s imperfections.

The explosive abduction by the “super-douche with ray gun hands” fails and Rocket is badly wounded in the melee.

The Guardians deduce their wise-cracking mammal pal will perish within 48 hours unless they can disable the kill switch connected to his heart.

A re-energised Peter spearheads the hare-brained heist of kill switch codes from the High Evolutionary’s headquarters while the team outruns Warlock and his ‘mother’, golden high priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki).

Meanwhile, a comatose Rocket lingers in limbo, haunted by nightmarish memories of his formative years as a twisted science experiment alongside Lylla the otter (Linda Cardellini), Floor the rabbit (Mikaela Hoover) and Teefs the walrus (Asim Chaudhry).

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 is a moderately satisfying swansong for the current line-up of the superhero dream team but earlier outings had bigger laughs and groovier mixtapes in the soundtrack boombox.

Gunn warmly embraces the escalating lunacy and Pratt, Saldana, Bautista and co fall in delirious step, screaming swathes of dialogue above the din unleashed by Iwuji’s deranged despot.

The writer-director introduced Starlord almost a decade ago with an exuberant chorus of Redbone hit Come And Get Your Love.

By the conclusion of the third film, that love is running on empty.

THE BLUE CAFTAN (12A, 122 mins)

Released: May 5 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

The Blue Caftan: Ayoub Missioui as Youssef and Saleh Bakri as Halim

A happy marriage of convenience in present-day Morocco is jeopardised by the arrival of a handsome apprentice in director Maryam Touzani’s multi-award-winning drama.

Middle-aged tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) have lived contentedly with an unspoken secret, his homosexuality, for many years as they work together to run a caftan store in a traditional medina.

Halim extinguishes his desires to maintain the public facade of a happy couple but new apprentice Youssef (Ayoub Missioui) immediately alters the delicate and fragile equilibrium.

As Mina contends with her faltering health, her husband is inextricably drawn to Youssef, who wants to learn the dying art of hand-stitched craftsmanship.

IP MAN: THE AWAKENING (15, 80 mins)

Released: May 5 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Miao Xie stars in Ip Man: The Awakening

The series of films about martial arts master Ip Man, who perfected the close-range combat techniques of Wing Chun and would later become a mentor to Bruce Lee, began in 2008 with director Wilson Yip’s self-titled historical drama.

Made in Hong Kong under the aegis of actor and producer Donnie Yen, the franchise comprises five chapters to date.

Directed by Li Xijie, Ip Man: The Awakening is a Mandarin-language action drama made in China in isolation from the franchise, which orchestrates breathless fight sequences against the backdrop of 1930s Hong Kong.

Young master Ip (Maio Xie) visits the bustling city and intervenes in a kidnapping attempt.

His courageous efforts unintentionally ignite a turf war with a human trafficking ring that doesn’t allow anyone to threaten its dominance.

The gang retaliates by kidnapping one of Ip Man’s close friends, forcing the brave hero to fight to the death against the ring’s fearsome boxing champion.

THE LAUREATE (15, 103 mins)

Released: May 5 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

The Laureate

Two’s company, three’s a crowd in writer-director William Nunez’s drama of sexual awakening and obsession based on real events after the First World War.

Celebrated war poet and essayist Robert Graves (Tom Hughes) returns from the front line with physical and psychological wounds.

He is traumatised by first-hand experiences of the conflict and struggles to reconnect with his wife Nancy (Laura Haddock).

Young poet Laura Riding (Dianna Agron) gate-crashes this solemnity and reignites his passion for verse and the written word.

With Nancy’s blessing, Robert takes Laura as his muse and lover.

A complicated power dynamic behind closed doors at their cottage, World’s End, threatens to scandalise post-war Oxfordshire when Laura’s desire transfers to Nancy and then to impassioned rival poet Geoffrey Phibbs (Fra Fee).

HARKA (15, 88 mins)

Released: May 5 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Writer-director Lofty Nathan’s slow-burning drama received its world premiere in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2022 Cannes Film Festival where lead actor Adam Bessa collected the Best Performance prize.

Twentysomething street vendor Ali (Bessa) works on the fringes of the law in Tunisia to earn enough money for a ticket to Europe, where he hopes to forge a brighter future.

His plans are derailed when his father dies of cancer and his older brother Skander (Khaled Brahem) flies the nest to work in Hammamet.

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