John Murphy’s score for the third entry in the Guardians Of The Galaxy saga sadly just.. isn’t a whole lot. There are some nice thematic and stylistic ideas dotted here and there, but mostly the music just plays the role of simply filling in the gaps between the songs used in the film, to few and far between standout moments as a result. Tyler Bates’ Guardians theme also doesn’t appear anywhere near as much as it should.
So intriguingly, Tyler Bates (composer for volumes one and two of the Guardians Of The Galaxy film trilogy) has not returned for this third outing. John Murphy has instead replaced him – who incidentally also composed the score for James Gunn’s 2021 superhero film The Suicide Squad too – and so as with any composer replacement in an established film franchise, especially a superhero one, the biggest question on the table as Murphy’s score for this new film approached was of course theme-related, specifically; will Bates’ Guardians theme from the previous films return? The long-awaited answer is sadly a bit of a Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness-y situation in that yes it does appear, but nowhere near as much as you want it to. Other, newer themes instead replace it for much of this sixty minute soundtrack and it’s there right at the beginning of the aforementioned album that we’ll begin; the score opens with ‘Kits’, an echoingly ethereal starting piece with solemn, eerie strings occupying centre stage. As the ninety second track continues however the tone then starts to lean much more towards the ominous, with strings then building to a loudly horror-like crescendo to close out the track.
‘Warlock vs. Guardians’ kicks the music up a considerable volumetric notch, with a dramatic electric guitar playing in the opening seconds of the cue likely to introduce the character of Adam Warlock. With fast-paced action swiftly following, frenetic strings and loudly imposing vocals then join the guitar for several increasingly tense orchestral minutes until a deafeningly malevolent-sounding crescendo closes out the track. The short ‘That Hurts’ then treats us to a short and rather subdued rendition of Bates’ Guardians theme on solemn piano notes, with ‘Batch 89’ introducing a brand new and similarly sorrowful five note theme (hereby dubbed the ‘Sacrifice’ theme) in its final few seconds. In keeping with this newly downtrodden tone ‘Mo Ergaste Forn’ then introduces another new motif, a rather ethereal, primarily vocal and indeed very morose piece – complete with solemn lyrics – that is in fairness pretty damned impressive as a piece of thematic music. I was actually pretty blown away hearing this piece in the cinema when I saw the film – as well as what it represented narratively – and it doesn’t disappoint here on album either. ‘Naming’ then reprises this new motif on quiet strings to start, before getting louder and more hopeful as the two and a half minute track continues until closing out on a quietly warm, optimistic note.
The new Sacrifice theme returns in ‘Hooray Time Forever!’ with rapid strings and increasingly dramatic vocals holding the motif emphatically high for much of the track’s two minute runtime. The theme then continues into the subsequent and much more subdued to start ‘It Really Is Good To Have Friends’ on quietly ethereal vocals, though this gentleness doesn’t last for long as the theme then bursts in on additional, much more imposing vocals and loudly anguished brass as the track then crescendos out a few seconds later. Action setpiece ‘Face Off’ then reprises the dramatic electric guitar motif for Adam Warlock in its opening minute, with said theme then only getting louder and more intense as the cue continues with a particularly dramatic crescendo occurring just before the two minute mark. ‘Guardians vs. Hell Spawn’ is then one of the select few other tracks on the album that reprises Bates’ Guardians theme, this time for an enjoyably loud and heroic rendition (though sadly not a particularly long one) in amongst three and a half minutes of frenetic orchestral action.
Ethereal vocals are once again centre stage in the minute-long ‘Mantis and the Abelisk’, playing the Sacrifice theme in as loud and dramatically thunderous a playthrough as possible really. ‘The High Evolutionary’ then reprises the funeral-esque theme from ‘Mo Ergaste Forn’ on similarly solemn vocals in the track’s first half, before then building to a particularly grandiose emotional crescendo in the back half of the cue. Heroic percussive beats open ‘Domo! Domo!’, then building with increasing volume and intensity until the music quietens in the final two minutes of the piece, with Bates’ Guardians theme quietly reprising on noble brass. It’s once again a sadly short appearance for the motif, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. The loudly epic ‘Who We Are’ then brings the orchestra fully into centre stage with elements of the ‘Mo Ergaste Forn’ motif in tow for several unapologetically thunderous minutes, before standout cue ‘Did That Look Cool?’ then reprises the Sacrifice theme in an unapologetically loud and orchestrally dramatic rendition, complete with grandiose vocals and crashes of enthusiastic percussion. With the score starting to draw to a close, ‘I Love You Guys’ brings back the Guardians theme one last time on quietly gentle piano notes, with ‘Mo Ergaste Forn (Full Version)’ closing the book on said titular motif for a three minute playthrough and final cue ‘All Life Has Meaning’ ending things on a surprisingly solemn note with vocals.
Overall, John Murphy’s score for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 is… interesting, for sure. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some good motivic ideas here – such as the Sacrifice theme, with its best rendition by far occurring in standout cue ‘Did That Look Cool?’, and it’s got to be said, ‘Mo Ergaste Forn’ is a pretty lovely piece all on its own – but if I’m being honest, they just aren’t really all that memorable for me, nor do they feel particularly Guardians-y either. Like the loud, dramatic vocals featured pretty extensively throughout the album are good in terms of they sound nice to listen to, but I can’t say I remembered much about them other than that. The general lack of Tyler Bates’ original theme for the Guardians is also a bit of a shame; while the motif does reprise here and there, most of the renditions are very short and sporadic, with the only one really of note being a loudly epic appearance in action setpiece ‘Guardians vs. Hell Spawn’. As a result, all-in this score kind of feels similar to Murphy’s 2021 The Suicide Squad score in that it just doesn’t really leave much of an impression. Kind of feels like orchestral filler just to play between the various song needle drops, which – having seen the film – it kind of is, to be honest.
Some nice moments but mostly just a big musical bag of nothing, I’m afraid.
Standout Cue: 22. Did That Look Cool
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3 thoughts on “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 – Soundtrack Review”
Indeed, such a shame. I wished Bates got to finish the trilogy. I still wish to know why Bates & Gunn split.
The best moments in this score is when Bates’ themes appear.
I watched it and more then often the selected music for epic-action scenes totally destroyed my immersion, it was like nails on a chalkboard. A shame, volume 1 & 2 really had it going and i think quite contributed to pushed the popularity of the movies, it had a good plot and storyline but the music selection pulled it really down.
Nothing better as a palate cleanser after this mediocre score than to listen to an actually excellent Guardians score, like the one from the video game!