Quick Reviews: 'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3', 'Fast X' | MCU, 'Fast & Furious', Action Sequels
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3
Galaxies need their guardians so we might as well join the crew of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 for another trip around the stars. James Gunn is back to provide both writing and directorial duties (and voice a character named Lamb-Shank) in this sci-fi adventure sequel set in the 'Marvel Cinematic Universe' and based on the Marvel characters who form the titular superhero team. Featuring your familiar crew of Peter/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), they must become animal activists and save their last team member Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn and Noa Raskin) from the tight grip of evil scientist High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) as we also learn about Rocket's backstory and how he got to where he is now.
Whether you enjoyed the more formulaic part two in the Guardians saga or were less enthusiastic about it and can't even remember it anymore like yours truly, Gunn manages to find much more gravitas with ''Vol. 3'' which is terrific. While the filmmaker's script does find time for both witty and gross humour as usual, the movie's greatest strength is its surprising emotional core that drives the storytelling. Gunn handles that tonal balance with ease despite that some side gags and characters slow things down, namely when actors such as Will Poulter (as Adam Warlock), Gillan, Sean Gunn and few voice performers who have lesser arcs to work with struggle to match the intensity in the middle of all the CGI fury.
Whenever we get back to Rocket's journey to the stars that touches on animal rights, sacrifice and, yes, even his found family (Diesel's favourite word), Vol. 3 is worthy of one's time and emotional investment in this deranged superhero group, no matter how deranged a description of a talking raccoon's survival sounds. Sometimes you just want to watch a group of friends go flying together.
Smileys: Story, tone
Speaking of families, let's check out what's going on with the ever-expanding Toretto clan nowadays. Louis Leterrier grabs the wheel for Fast X, appropriately the tenth movie in the main series, 11th for action franchise 'Fast & Furious' in general and based on Gary Scott Thompson's characters. Vin Diesel's Dominic/''Dom'' and Michelle Rodriguez's Letty must return for globetrotting missions, car pursuits and team banter as Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), a son of a killed drug lord from 'Fast Five', appears to enchant and daunt them in his search for revenge.
Dom and Letty bring along their usual crew; Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris ''Ludacris'' Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Han (Sung Kang), whilst Jakob (John Cena) takes Dom and Letty's son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) under his protection as Dante seeks to kidnap him for his own benefit. Meanwhile, Mr. Nobody's agency operatives Aimes (Alan Ritchson) and Tess (Brie Larson) also seek to capture Dom and his crew.
You can wish to describe the trajectory of the franchise with sentiments about running out of gas or looking like a car crash—whatever pleases you the most—but it is nevertheless baffling. Fast X's screenplay credited to Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin, latter who resigned as a director initially since he deemed to not be worth his sanity, is nonsensical at its best and atrocious at worst but lacking even the fun you'd expect from ridiculousness that ensues.
It's a parody at this point and not an entertaining one, though Momoa wondrously manages to break out of that box, delivering one of the year's best (if not the best) comedic performances. His efforts aren't matched by anyone else in the cast really, some mostly collecting paychecks here (Larson, Ritchson), some having no purpose (Gibson, Bridges) and Diesel in the centre of it all projecting leading man charm equivalent to watching paint dry as he somehow continues to be paid for that black hole charade (while also perhaps rewriting some of the awful dialogue, it seems).
Even the craft of these movies has been going downhill fast, from the purposeless, choppy editing (Dylan Highsmith, Kelly Matsumoto) to poorly utilised visual effects (supervised by Peter Chiang), or from strange song choices to Leterrier's direction where the blocking seems to be controlled by actors' schedules, contracts and digital doubles rather than creativity.
If any of those aforementioned elements aside from Momoa's menace worked even slightly, you could forgive some of the story and scripting's weaknesses but there's sadly no saving when it comes to that. Maybe the ''X'' in the title should've been on this franchise's tombstone.
Smileys: Jason Momoa
Frowneys: Screenplay, editing, acting, VFX