Some thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

James Gunn’s cinematic universe is a brutally harsh reflection of our own world. In his movies, child abuse is common, violent death is rampant, genocide is a routine fact of life. Scenes of horrific slaughter and unimaginable torture sit right next to jokes about social peccadillos. He pushes high-stakes/low-stakes humor to its extreme: a planet might go up in flames, its inhabitants dying by the billions, but there will always be one character in the inferno who can’t move on from a personal slight or breach of etiquette. His movies are filled with the darkest possible humor juxtaposed with startling moments of joy and beauty, little flowers bursting through the jagged rubble of a hellscape.
The characters in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 all bear the scars of their pasts. The question the movie asks is, do those pasts necessarily define who we are, or do we have the ability to shape our own destinies?
At a crucial narrative juncture, a character has a line: “There are the hands that make us, but there are also the hands that guide the hands.” One interpretation of that line might be: Yes, our parents might screw us up (and the various parents of the Guardians movies have certainly screwed up their children), but there is a higher power that has chosen a true purpose for us, and it’s our choice to heed THAT voice to find out who we really are.
But I find a more down-to-earth interpretation, one that resonates more strongly with the narrative laid before us: our parents might screw us up, but our parents are shaped by a world that was beyond their control, and even their understanding. The Guardians universe, and the Marvel universe in general, is chock-full of bad parents and bad gods, mad titans and power-hungry despots and spiteful autocrats, just as our own world is full of leaders who slaughter their own people, corporations who decide the fates of nations based on a line on a profit graph and idiotic billionaires who destroy lives and livelihoods because they feel like it that day. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is our own world writ large and drawn with day-glo highlighter pens.
Gunn’s Guardians world is more screwed-up than most MCU worlds, and is more emblematic of his vision. His protagonists’ domain is a trash heap, the hollowed-out skull of a dead god, abandoned by the corporate interests that mined it and populated by fellow orphans and freaks. That, to Gunn, is a model society, a place where everyone is damaged, filled with people who don’t belong anywhere else, where they argue and gripe about each others’ shortcomings, but they still love each other and take care of each other. I’m sure most of the population has never thought twice about the long-ago events that shaped the world they live in, the barbaric and violent past that created their very environment, the greed and avarice that left their world a scarred ruin. They’re there now, that’s what they know, and they’re surrounded by people who need them and love them, and they make the decision, despite their own horrific pasts, to be kind.


2 Responses to “Some thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3”
  1. Aaron Burman says:

    I haven’t seen GotG3 yet, but your review is to the point and well written. I’ve heard it’s great, but I just haven’t been out to the movies for a while. Thanks for making it sound a lot better than I was expecting!

    I actually fell through a rabbit hole to get here, starting with Doctor Who, then Sylvester McCoy, then Thrill Kill Movie Club, which I can’t find anywhere online or as physical media, so I branched out to just check out everyone that was in the movie, and here I am. I’m not asking for more info, because if my search for the unreleased musical version of the movie “Car 54, Where Are You?”, I’ll probably either have to contact the movie corp online and ask to raid their vaults (which they’ll never let me do, and besides, they probably threw out all that stuff anyhow), or hope that it turns up online someday.

    Basically, I guess I’m just here to say Hi.

    Unrelated, but I found The Occupants on Amazon, and I’m going to watch it sometime this weekend at work. I loved Cristin Milioti in A to Z and Palm Springs, and I haven’t watched a horror flick in a while, so it sounds like a good fit!

    Have a good weekend!