To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is an epic space opera superhero film based on the Marvel Comics team of the same name written and directed by James Gunn (The Suicide Squad). Featuring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter, Elizabeth Debicki, Maria Bakalova, and Sylvester Stallone; it is the third film in the Guardians of the Galaxy series 32nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Set after the events of The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, the story follows the Guardians as they embark on a mission to save Rocket after he is badly injured during an attack.
In a cage a nursery of raccoons frolic, eat, and play. When someone enters the room the raccoons become afraid and run towards the back of the cage. A young Rocket, before his cybernetic enhancements, stands frozen in front of the others as the cage is opened and a hand reaches in. Rocket is grabbed by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) and taken away from the others to be experimented on.
Years later an adult Rocket (Bradley Cooper) walks around Knowhere while listening to Peter Quill’s Zune. He finds Quill (Chris Pratt) drunk in a bar and is berated by his teammate for using his stuff. Quill takes the Zune away before passing out as Rocket grabs a drink from the cabinet. The rest of the Guardians arrive and Nebula (Karen Gillan) takes Quill to his apartment to rest. That evening as Rocket prepares for bed he is attacked by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter). A chaotic fight ensues with Adam easily besting the Guardians in combat. Eventually, he is subdued after being stabbed through the chest by Nebula new arm. Quill realizes that Rocket is mortally wounded and tries to heal him with a med pack. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work and the team realizes there is a kill switch attached to his heart if anyone tampers with his internal physiology. Deducing that Rocket was created by the High Evolutionary the team embarks on a mission to find him and save the life of their friend.
The MCU has been in a tough spot lately. With the lukewarm fan reception to Phase Four and the low box-office return of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania at the start of Phase Five, Marvel Studios really needs a win right now. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 might just be that win as it is an emotionally riveting rollercoaster that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. I enjoyed what James Gunn did with Guardians of the Galaxy. It was the first MCU film set in deep space with very little to do with the happenings of Earth. It’s funny, emotional, and action-packed. I’m not the biggest fan of what he did with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as even with the emotional story I felt he went a little too far with the jokiness.
Nevertheless, audiences loved it and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was supposed to be the first MCU film post Avengers: Endgame. However, after some controversy over past tweets, Gunn was fired by Disney as director of the film. During that time away from the Mouse House he went on to write and direct The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker for Warner Bros. (A move that ultimately landed him a sweet gig as Co-CEO of DC Studios) before being rehired by Disney after rampant criticism from fans, entertainers, and journalists. Those events along with the COVID-19 Pandemic delayed the film significantly. In that time, however, Gunn was able to refine his script and give us the fantastically heartwarming The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special as a taste of what was to come.
This is very much a bottle episode of the Multiverse Saga as there is no mention of the multiverse or overarching threat of Kang. Still like with many post Endgame MCU projects, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 deals with trauma and loss. Star-Lord is still dealing with the death of Gamora, but surprisingly this is not the focus. This time around Gunn concentrates on the origins of our favorite smart-mouthed raccoon. Through flashbacks, we get to finally see how Rocket was created, what his childhood was like, how he got his name, etc. What he goes through is explained as being worse than what Thanos did to Nebula. His backstory on Counter-Earth is crafted so elegantly that tears are bound to roll down at least half of the audiences faces. There’s a scene involving Rocket and Lylla (Linda Cardellini) that is one of the most emotional scenes in the entirety of the MCU.
The performances are top-notch this time around. Karen Gillan is great once again as Nebula. Her character has had the best arc throughout these movies and it shows. From a former villain to the de facto leader of the Guardians team. She has crazy fight sequences and hilarious jokes. Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) are still a fun duo coming off of their starring roles in the holiday special. Their brother-sister-like banter works well. After not being present in the special Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) is back and clearly different than her previous incarnation. A bit more hard-nosed, this younger Gamora has no love for Quill or the Guardians, sans Nebula. Without Thanos around and no memory of the team, she has found a home with the Ravagers. A superhero movie is only as good as its villain and the High Evolutionary is a great one. Chukwudi Iwuji plays the immoral scientist as intelligent, narcissistic, and menacing. His performance can be compared to a corrupt businessman meets Dr. Frankenstein with a sprinkle of Brando from The Island of Dr. Moreau. Audiences will love to hate him, especially those that are pet owners. Will Poulter’s portrayal of Adam Warlock will probably upset hardcore comic fans, but his goofy presence works within the confines of this story. As far as I’m concerned James Gunn can put his wife in all his projects because; a. Jennifer Holland is a fantastic actor and b. her cameo in this movie is super funny!
With this being Gunn’s final Guardians film fans are expecting someone to die. Considering how the story has been building over the years and how someone important died in almost every Phase Four movie it makes sense to have some kind of loss. Without spoiling anything I was pleasantly surprised with how Gunn handled this throughout the film. It almost felt as if every character was on the chopping block which made the suspense more palpable.
As far as negatives, there are a few. The needle drops are plentiful and match every moment perfectly – and this may be an IMAX thing – but they are way too loud. It’s almost like the movie becomes a music video for a few minutes. Although I like the standalone nature of the movie I do feel that more connections to the greater MCU could’ve helped. The Blip erased half of all life in the universe for five years and it barely gets a mention. I feel like those events would have had a more drastic effect on civilizations than what we have seen. The High Evolutionary is viewed as a god to some yet he was not attacked by Gorr? Why wasn’t Captain Marvel called for help? That’s the trouble with having a connected universe but small throw-away lines could have fixed these minor issues. Lastly, there is a certain character who realistically should have died or at minimum had medical assistance after an elongated time in the vacuum of space but was seemingly fine.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 may not be the best MCU film since Avengers: Endgame, but it is one of the best MCU films. James Gunn crafts an emotionally satisfying ending for this iteration of the team while leaving room open for what’s to come. I give Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 a Decent 8.9/10. After seeing this movie I have no doubt that Gunn will do a fine job with Superman: Legacy and his new DCU. He’ll be a hard mind to replace at Marvel Studios if they proceed with a future Guardians of the Galaxy feature.