Film and drama Opinion

Third Guardians film gives animals a voice against cruelty

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A group of friends embark on a dangerous mission to save the life of one of their own, encountering a madman bent on creating a new Earth. Digital editor Dan Jensen takes one last ride with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

WHILE THE THIRD chapter of the Guardians of the Galaxy series might be another Marvel film and a space adventure filled with strange-looking characters and places, it’s also a movie that packs a very important message.

Writer/director James Gunn has often been vocal about his love of animals and the work he does towards causes against animal cruelty. So while the first Guardians film was about human connection and how it’s okay to be different, and the second film about fatherhood and legacy, this new film is one for the critters.

The plot for this one is simple. After an attack by a powerful foe, Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) has 48 hours to live, so it’s up to the rest of the Guardians to track down the people responsible for his creation in order to save his life. Meanwhile, Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is trying to rekindle his romance with Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), knowing it’s not the same version of her that he fell in love with. (If you’ve been following the story, you know why.)

The villain of this new chapter is a megalomaniac called the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a man bent on creating a master race by conducting horrible experiments on animals and forming a new Earth with his creatures. And be warned: this is a villain who you’re going to absolutely despise.

While comatose, Rocket has flashbacks of his childhood and the dark history that led to him becoming the half-biological/half-mechanical hybrid we’ve grown to love over the course of several films. Most of his backstory is tough to watch, especially knowing we live in a world where experimentation on animals still continues. It may be science fiction, but it hits a little close to home.

Young Rocket is befriended by three other animals – Lylla the otter, Teefs the walrus and Floor the rabbit – who have all undergone horrific experimentation, leaving them with robotic limbs and appendages that look painful. The characters have been designed to tug the heartstrings and in that respect, they work brilliantly. But aside from the emotional wallop they deliver, they help convey the core message of the film quite well.

If you’re already an animal rights activist, Guardians Volume 3 is going to be an important film for you. But it may just push some people into doing a little more for our non-human friends or at least starting important discussions about ending animal cruelty. At the very least, the film is going to make you hug your pets when you get home and be even more grateful for their company.

All that aside, Gunn has crafted a perfect send-off for the characters as this third chapter is the last of his trilogy. Fans are going to feel a bittersweet sense of satisfaction at the end. The Guardians films have always stood out from the rest of the Marvel movie machine, embraced by many for their humanity and depth. And this is a love letter to those fans, made even more personal after Gunn had been fired by Marvel over a Twitter controversy instigated by a Right-wing nut job. Thankfully, he was given the director’s chair again as no one else could have finished this trilogy the way he has done.

Guardians 3 is a visually stunning film, too. None of the alien worlds or characters look like anything we’ve seen before and a high level of imagination has gone into the design of everything. It’s all fresh and unique. The soundtrack is a cracker – as per usual with Gunn’s films – featuring a range of tunes mostly from the ‘70s and ‘80s. It also boasts a stunning fight scene in a corridor designed to look like a single long shot that is great fun to watch.

The performances in the film are top-notch, the standout easily being Saldaña as the alternate version of Gamora. This is no longer the same character we were first introduced to and absent is the tenderness and vulnerability that sometimes dared to show itself. It’s an interesting take on how different circumstances in life and alternative paths can shape someone’s personality. Dave Bautista once again steals each scene he’s in as Drax, the knuckle-headed warrior whose stupidity is pure comic relief.

Unfortunately, the film does suffer a little from an excessive run time that can be felt by around the two-hour mark, with another half hour left to go. Not to say the film isn’t entertaining, but there are scenes that could have been trimmed without hurting the plot, including an entire subplot involving captured children.

Aside from that, while the pro-animal message is a necessary one, having so much focus on it does hinder the development of the main characters. But that’s a minor gripe since not enough movies coming out of Hollywood give our furry, feathered and scaly friends a voice. Even the climax of Guardians 3 revolves around a telekinetic Russian dog saving the day (voiced wonderfully by Maria Bakalova).

If you’re a fan of the previous films, you’re going to absolutely love this one. If you’re an animal rights activist, it’s going to resonate with you profoundly. And if you’re after a couple of hours of action and laughter, you really can’t go wrong. Just make sure your seat is a comfortable one and you bring plenty of tissues.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is now showing in cinemas across the country.

You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @DanJensenIA. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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