From its downbeat opening with no sudden reset following the Infinity War, there is a sense of finality to Guardians Vol. 3, a rarity in comic book movies that serves to heighten threats as characters are stripped of impenetrable plot armour. Where Vol. 2 explored Quill’s origins, Vol. 3 focuses on Rocket with flashbacks to the cruel animal experimentation that created him (featuring the sweetest otter committed to film). Unfortunately the conceit that makes this relevant leaves Rocket separated from the team for much of the film, negatively affecting their dynamic particularly during action sequences — the smashy action is a far cry from the creativity Gunn unleashed in The Suicide Squad, and it is only in a corridor fight near the end of the film that we finally see the musically choreographed teamwork that elevated previous Guardians volumes. The Guardians are in their element during rollicking galaxy-traversing adventure and there is plenty here, which allows them to avoid the malaise of mediocrity that has characterised Marvel’s recent output. There are visually inventive new locations like a bio-engineered space lab, but also disappointing choices like the mundane (and nonsensical) Counter-Earth. Uneven pacing arises from a combination of the long running time, the repetitive flashback structure and the introduction of two antagonists — the egomaniacal High Evolutionary is driven by a single obsession whilst Adam Warlock, whose introduction was teased at the end of the previous film, is relegated to a background presence repeatedly crashing through walls. Gunn’s greatest skill is allowing emotional beats to resonate even within a comedic framework and, as he leaves Marvel to become DC’s Kevin Feige, this is a fitting send-off to a team that is unlikely to be seen in the same form again (I could have done without the perfunctory post-credit sequences). The Guardians trilogy has always been about family and loss, Vol. 3 capitalising on long-running arcs that allow characters to grow and find acceptance through letting go of their respective pasts.
MCU Phase 5: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 | The Marvels | Captain America: New World Order | Thunderbolts | Blade
“It’s a dangerous thing to mistake speaking without thought for speaking the truth.”
Knives Out was a delightful surprise that absolutely did not require a sequel, so I approached Netflix’s acquistion of the rights to multiple further movies with some trepidation. The prepostrously accented detective Benoit Blanc is the only returning character, Daniel Craig clearly continuing to enjoy himself in a less physically demanding role. No time is wasted in establishing the conceit, a group of influencers and disruptors receiving elaborate invitations from a tech billionaire to an island party, providing ample fodder for further satire of the wealthy and feckless. If Knives Out was Rian Johnson remixing the traditional elements of a whodunit, with Glass Onion he instead subverts the structure entirely, resolving one mystery midway through the proceedings and then rewinding so that we see events unfold with more information and an entirely new perspective. Johnson once again assembles an excellent ensemble cast, though Janelle Monáe is the standout. Events may unfold on a sun-drenched island rather than in an ominous mansion, but returning cinematographer Steve Yedlin provides visual continuity along with the similarly meticulous mise-en-scène, some of which is sadly lost on the small screen (Glass Onion recieved only a one week limited theatrical release in order to qualify for awards). Establishing the form’s return, this is the third high profile whodunit of 2022, following Death on the Nile and See How They Run — of the three Glass Onion is by far the most ambitious and the most successful.
“You all keep talking about the city like it’s their prison. It’s not. It’s their kingdom.”
Lilly (The Coyote)
In the saturated zombie genre, the proposition of a heist movie set in an infested Las Vegas sounds like a refreshingly fun time. Unfortunately Army of the Dead‘s neon-filled advertising is misleading; the set-up is enjoyable but by the time the crew is ready to enter the city, the atmosphere has already turned dour, heist elements swiftly falling by the wayside amidst familiar zombie action. Whilst it often feels derivative, the film owes more to Aliens than to other zombie films. I routinely forget that Zack Snyder’s debut feature (and one of his best) was the strong 2004 remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Zombies as a representation of mindless consumerism has been a genre staple for 40 years, and scaling up from a shopping mall to the Las Vegas Strip is a logical conclusion. This being a Snyder flick, the allegory is either very on the nose (money raining down during a casino firefight) or rather confused (it is the humans who are motivated predominantly by greed, whilst the “intelligent” zombies have other motivations). It all makes for a competent action film with plenty of gore and a few shocks, but there is little that we haven’t seen done better before.