We review James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, an exciting third act for Marvel’s iconic a-holes Marvel fans are likley to love.
PLOT: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the rest of the Guardians unite to save Rocket after parts of his past resurface. They embark on a dangerous mission that threatens to tear the group apart once and for all.
REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is a movie that, for a while there, looked like it would never get made. While the first two films were super-sized hits and made a star out of Chris Pratt, writer-director James Gunn’s career went into a tailspin following the second film’s release. After some Tweets from his past resurfaced, Disney fired him, and had the cast not banded together to reinstate him; we might have never gotten a fitting end to this trilogy. Oh, how times have changed, with Gunn not only reinstated by Disney but also on his way to DC, where he just might become a Kevin Feige-esque figure in his own right.
Yet, before becoming a mogul, Gunn clearly had unfinished business with the Guardians of the Galaxy, with him opting to close out his trilogy with an epic-length and surprisingly dark entry. It’s unique in the MCU canon in that it’s wholly independent of anything else in the Marvel Universe. Don’t expect any references to Kang or the Avengers here. The only references are to the other two Guardians movies and, of course, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, which essentially killed off Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, only to resurrect an alternate version of her.
When the movie starts, Quill is a self-pitying wreck following the death of “his” Gamora, with the new one a Ravager (being mentored by Sylvester Stallone‘s Stacker). They eventually have to team up with her when Rocket is badly injured by Adam Warlock, played by Will Poulter, who works for Chukwudi Iwuji’s High Evolutionary, who created Rocket and wants him back. Luckily, this threat shakes Quill out of his stupor, meaning Pratt is once again a driven swashbuckling Star-Lord before long.
If the movie belongs to anyone, Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon gets a heartbreaking backstory that Gunn wisely cuts up into chunks, as it would be too much of a bummer to take in all at once. The movie delivers a strong message against animal testing, with Rocket and his furry friends going through brutal surgeries that push the boundaries of making this family entertainment. Kids are going to have a tough time with some of this, and I could hear plenty of adults in the screening I saw this in weeping.
However, all this serves a purpose as it gives the movie an urgency the others haven’t had and makes The High Evolutionary one of the most evil villains in Marvel history. Also different from other movies is that all Guardians share equal screen time, with no defacto lead. Everyone had a strong arc, from Dave Bautista’s hulking but gentle Drax, Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, Vin Diesel’s Groot, and Karen Gillan’s Nebula, who’s now officially part of the team.
Like the other films, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is filled with perfect needle-drop tracks, although now that Peter has a Zune with music from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s, the soundtrack opens up a bit. Expect to hear everything from Radiohead to The Flaming Lips, Springsteen, The The, Florence and the Machine, and more.
If I have any quibbles, it’s that at 150 minutes, Guardians 3 is a lot of movie, and a lengthy section on an alternative version of Earth feels too episodic and drawn out. Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock also has a relatively small part, mainly serving as a comedic foil outside of the opening act, although there are no doubt plans for him?
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is the best Marvel movie since Endgame. Now, some of you will point at other (positive) reviews we’ve given recent Marvel movies and raise your eyebrows. I gave Thor: Love and Thunder a positive review, but if you watch it again, it kind of falls apart. I hated Quantumania.
However, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, while not perfect, is still a very entertaining addition to the genre, working as a space opera independent of the MCU. It’s impressive they gave Gunn the leeway to do this, as even Wakanda Forever was saddled with a degree of Marvel world-building that felt tacked on to what was otherwise a solid stand-alone movie.
So is this the end of the Guardians of the Galaxy? I doubt it. While James Gunn is finished with it for a while, there’s nothing definitive about where the movie leaves off, so someone could make a go of it. That said, I doubt anyone will do it with the vigor and passion that Gunn pumped into it. Outside of Ryan Coogler, it feels like directors no longer can put a personal stamp on these movies, which is a shame, as Gunn’s passion for the characters makes this really good.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-3-review/