Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 proves to be a fantastic closer to an already fantastic comic book saga.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on May 11, 2023
Rating 4 /5
Having helmed all three films, James Gunn has created a masterpiece of a Marvel trilogy with Guardians of the Galaxy. This giddy and jukebox-infused tone for the intergalactic misfit ensemble has been the most festive treat of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So it shouldn’t be as surprising that the third and final film in this saga ends up being just as entertaining. It may, however, surprise that this entry is far darker and somber, making audiences cry more at the plight of an abducted human, parallel-universe alien pirate, goofy warrior, contorting cyborg, talking raccoon, and talking tree that can only say one sentence.
This film differs greatly from the last few entries because it takes time to explore the lesser-explored corners of the Guardians group. Rocket (Bradley Cooper), the aggressive raccoon bounty hunter who always had the wisest cracks but with a hint of love behind the cynicism, is most prominent in this film. Rocket takes center stage here as his foggy past is revealed in great detail. Through chaotic events, Rocket must confront the mad scientist who created him, The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). What starts as a mission to save Rocket’s life soon transforms into an adventure to save the galaxy from another tyrant.
While the film has a handful of characters with reduced arcs in this entry, it better portrays the theme of trying to let go and come to terms with the past. This gives the characters more of an ideal placement in the overall message and not just resort to busy work for the other Guardians. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) needs to realize that he can’t hook up with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) again and that he might need to get used to life on Earth again. Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) make a cute couple, but they also have desires they need to be upfront about in what they want out of life, considering that Mantis has newfound freedom and Drax’s fatherly experience can do more good in the galaxy than his blades. Groot (Vin Diesel) remains mostly the same, although he does seem to have matured dramatically since the last film and even expanded his vocabulary.
Despite being loaded with sci-fi settings, ridiculous dialogue, and intense action scenes, Volume 3 never loses its focus. It always has a firm grasp on its overall story of how genocidal monsters aiming to make a perfect world ultimately create anything but. The inevitable showdown between Rocket and The High Evolutionary is explosive and goes beyond what can hold its own in a fight. Their battle is more interesting thematically but also because Iwuji delivers one of the best performances of a villain in the Guardians films. He plays a short-fused intellectual who can quickly go from a content god who acts with pomposity to a screaming mess of a man with the most fragile of egos. The animal rights message comes across incredibly clear as well, especially for the incredibly tragic backstory that will make even the most jaded of audiences weep for the character once referred to by Peter as a trash panda.
Gunn’s direction is not only fun for the characters still exuding that underdog charm but for the lavish sci-fi settings. One of the most eye-popping scenes in the film is when the Guardians need to infiltrate an organ replication corporation that occupies a space station composed entirely of fleshy materials. With its gooey controls and white walls, this facility has an odd and off-putting nature that feels as gross as a snot factory yet as sterile as a hospital. It also helps that the Guardians infiltrate this corporation while wearing multicolored space suits, giving the space scenes a much-needed boost of color. Of course, the many fights are a pleasure for the senses, especially a brutal assault in a hallway that will garner many rewinds to catch every detail.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 proves to be a fantastic closer to an already fantastic comic book saga. The audience who has come to know and love this odd assortment of characters will be just as caught up in the plight and fight that it doesn’t matter that this film has the minor laughs of the series. What it does have is an overwhelming amount of heart and character while still being a genuinely entertaining sci-fi adventure beyond just being another entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the same way that the Guardians set themselves apart from the more organized Avengers, this series has an outsider element that has made it all the better. Gunn has left behind one of the best Marvel Comics movie trilogies ever made and it makes me excited to see what he has planned for his new role at DC Comics.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.