Synopsis – Still reeling from the loss of Gamora, Peter Quill rallies his team to defend the universe and one of their own – a mission that could mean the end of the Guardians if not successful.
My Take – While it seemed like the reputation of outer space’s weirdest superhero team took quite a hit following their humdrum adventure in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) and Peter Quill aka Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) final act outburst in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), which resulted in the end of the population of half of Marvel‘s universe, that is of course until they were brought back in Avengers: Endgame (2019), returning writer-director James Gunn‘s trilogy capper (and a holiday special) was always going to special.
Mainly because this was confirmed to be the end of a journey for characters (at least some of them) who surpassed every expectation when they arrived on the big screen back in 2014.
And by retaining the same humor and heart of its predecessors, and adding an unexpected darkness in the form of Rocket’s genuinely disturbing origin story, writer-director James Gunn has served us with not only a fitting farewell to one of the most beloved and distinctive franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also one of the best superhero films ever produced. A very emotional, fun and exciting space adventure that’s elevated by the great heart and comedy of its ever likable characters.
Yes, some plot elements are riding on borderline animal cruelty, and the much hyped Adam Warlock appearance was woefully underused, but the film also reaffirms the fact that director Gunn’s soulful style remains undeniably like anything else in the superhero landscape.
Sure, the franchise will probably continue on in some fashion, but it’s a testament to director Gunn‘s vision and talent, as well as to the chemistry and charisma of the cast, that these particular iteration will always be remembered as it send out our heroes on a tearful and action-packed high note.
Taking place after the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022), the story once again follows the rag tag team of heroes who have set up shop on Knowhere, the city inside the skull of a dead Celestial.
Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) seems kind of depressed, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is heartbroken and drinking himself to escape the reality of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) being alive with no memory of ever being in love with him. Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) continues to be mostly angry, despite turning to the good side. Leaving Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) to hold down the fort. But, no one really takes them seriously.
However, their mundane set up is quickly disturbed when they are attacked by Adam (Will Poulter), a super-powered being created by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the golden High Priestess and the leader of the Sovereign people.
Wanting revenge on Rocket for previously stealing from her people, Adam has been ordered to bring back Rocket to the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a mad scientist from Counter-Earth and Rocket’s creator, who on his quest to make the world a ‘perfect place’, has crossed all the limits of animal & human experimentation.
But when Adam winds up mortally injuring Rocket, the Guardians launch an emergency mission to save their friend, only to realize how little they know about him.
Though a lot has happened with the Guardians in the last decade, here, director Gunn deftly turns that tangled ball of MCU lore threads into a devilishly fun yarn. At its heart, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 is a story about family, loss and technology all of which are prominent in today’s zeitgeist. The film is colorful, the dialogue is funny, and the Guardians remain at their best when nothing goes according to their plan.
Without a doubt, Rocket’s origin story is the most affecting part of the film. An Island of Dr. Moreau-esque fable that slowly supersedes director Gunn’s irreverent sci-fi. Though the central idea of an evil father figure retooling his offering as a freak was done more resonantly in the second volume. And while Nebula and Gamora’s relationship to their adoptive father, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is filled with horror, none of them managed to emotionally devastate the way director Gunn uses the cute talking animals to sell.
Filled with hard scenes to watch, like baby raccoon squealing for help and Rocket’s breakdown, sure leave one mentally scarred hours after the film ended.
Thankfully, most of such scenes are balanced out well with humor and action scenes that are well-choreographed and thrilling. One battle scene in particular is arguably the most well-crafted, well-executed space skirmish of the triad, committed as one long camera shot that bounces through the spacecraft shuttle and demonstrates the precise staging, planning and execution by all parties to get it done.
The incredible soundtrack paired to epic fighting sequences has become a favorite characteristic of the series among fans, and it is alive and well in this final installment.
Ultimately, the film finishes the story that began in 2014 and delivers well-earned answers and closure for this family of misfits. There’s a sophistication to director Gunn’s storytelling that’s completely singular to the Guardians films, where humor, heart, and song intertwine.
Performance wise, Bradley Cooper’s vocal performance as will remain an under looked MCU triumph, an irritable mix of impatience and deep sorrow. Chris Pratt delivers a heartfelt portrayal struggling with his identity and purpose. Zoe Saldaña and Karen Gillan continue to shine, while Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff carry most of the humor and charm of the film.
Vin Diesel and Maria Bakalova steal every scene they are in. Will Poulter is impressive, but needed more screen time. Chukwudi Iwuji makes for a formidable villain with his perverted philosophy on perfection and ice-cold brutality. He’s easy to hate because he’s essentially animal cruelty personified.
In supporting roles, Sean Gunn, Elizabeth Debicki, and Nico Santos manage to stand out, while Sylvester Stallone, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rosenbaum and Daniela Melchior make impressionable cameos. Linda Cardellini, Asim Chaudhry and Mikaela Hoover deserve special mentions. On the whole, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ is a perfectly thrilling, hilarious, and emotional conclusion to an incredible trilogy.
Directed – James Gunn
Starring – Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 150 minutes