Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review (2023)

Although Adam Warlock was severely underutilized, it’s clear Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was all about the original team and the familial bond they have. It’s an emotional roller coaster from start to finish, delivering tear-jerking scenes, it’s hilarious, contains several memorable character moments, it’s beautifully edited/shot, and the action is top-notch.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the film this universe needed right now. In a time where it seems the quality is tending to dip post-Avengers: Endgame in the MCU (not everything, of course), along comes James Gunn to remind us how it should be done. Of course, I had my reservations about it since, although I do enjoy it, I’m not the biggest fan of Vol. 2, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania left a bad taste in my mouth and sometimes, as a supporter of these films and properties, you tend to worry about whatever following it suffering the same fate. But, I absolutely adore the original (it’s a top 5 MCU film for me), and at the end of the day, I know the Guardians are group of characters Gunn profoundly cares about and he will do them justice. Thankfully, Vol. 3 completely surpassed my expectations in more ways than one and it’s, easily, the most emotional film Marvel Studios has ever produced. It’s evident this was deeply personal to Gunn not only because it’s a proper end to the Guardians team we know, but it’s also a farewell for Gunn in many ways since he’s seemingly moving on to bigger and better things with the DC Universe.

I wasn’t ready for how emotionally invested I was going to be with this movie. I mean, from the trailers, I figured it would be, at times, overwhelmingly depressing, but the trailers really don’t prepare you for what happens in the film. During the build-up and marketing, Rocket (Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn) was being setup as the main character of Vol. 3 and, sure enough, he absolutely is the MVP of this story. It’s sort of an origin story for the character and let me tell you, it’s an absolute tear-jerker. Trust me, you are not ready for this. I always liked Rocket as a character, but I can’t say I ever felt connected to him on an emotional level until now. The way the movie touches on the severity and reality of animal cruelty and how they’re experimented on is devastating. Rocket is a product of this and it’s hard not to feel for him and what he’s been through. It explains quite a bit as to why he is what he is and why he conducts himself in a certain manner.

The sole contributor to his sad reality is the High Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji. I enjoyed Iwuji’s work in Peacemaker, but I’m not entirely sure anyone expected him to have this kind of menacing performance in him. The High Evolutionary has put all of the other MCU bads on notice with his apparent disregard for life. In many ways, he reminded me of Thanos and, in theory, their motives seem to align in similarity. Both are seeking to perfect the universe and those who inhabit it and will do whatever it takes to reach that goal, no matter how twisted or disastrous it may seem. At times, there was a certain calmness and peace to the High Evolutionary, but at the same time, there’s chaos and rage mixed in. I’m not sure there are many other actors who would’ve been able to bring it out the way Iwuji does.

The rest of the Guardians are even better than you probably think. I mean, I was a bit skeptical about how much certain characters would be given to do, but every other member had their moment to shine while still being in service to the main plot point. Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord is still reeling from the events of Endgame and learning to live without the love of his life, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who isn’t necessarily the same person he remembers. Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) are their usual oblivious selves, Nebula (Karen Gillan) is the stone-face, monotone one who, deep down, truly cares and, in many ways, keeps everyone together, and Groot (Vin Diesel) is the lovable tree no one will ever get tired of. Individually, they all bring something to the table, no matter how serious, silly, or insane it may seem. But, it’s when they come together as a team, or better yet, a family, where they truly showcase why this group of misfits is so special.

Most of the other characters are fine, but some aren’t really given much to do. Specifically speaking, Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock is a bit disappointing. In the comics, Adam Warlock is a supremely powerful being, but it’s safe to say this version of the character, at least at the moment, is severely nerfed. I can only assume he’ll get more powerful and comic book accurate in subsequent films, but he didn’t really do it for me in this one. I guess I was led to believe he would have a bigger, more important role, but he’s more of a side character who doesn’t really do anything worth remembering. His future is definitely bright, but his introduction into the MCU took off on the wrong foot. For the most part though, I have to applaud Gunn for creating these characters the way he felt was best. It’s rare to see such care for these beloved characters and properties in these films at times, but it’s clear the person in charge holds it dear to his heart, and I can’t say the same about everyone else.

The most memorable element is the story. At the beginning and towards the middle, there’s a lot going on and at times, it can feel a bit rushed. However, it never really loses focus and never becomes a convoluted mess. M It’s absolutely devastating at times though, which I want to touch on a bit more. As mentioned earlier, a huge aspect of this film’s story is the depiction of animal cruelty. Unfortunately, it’s a huge reality in our world and hopefully, this sheds a light on it and why it’s such a terrible reality in our society. Gunn manages to humanize this in ways I didn’t expect and being someone who loves animals deeply, it hit me unexpectedly hard. Despite the depressing plot point, the movie is also hilarious, full of dramatic moments, and, most importantly, it’s well written. A big gripe I have with certain MCU movies is the focus on the comedy. I have no issue with having a good laugh, but a lot of times, some serious, dramatic moments are virtually ruined by the badly placed humor. To be honest, it almost happens in this movie in various scenes, but it never reaches the point to where it completely goes off the rails. Kudos to Gunn for finding the perfect balance between all of these themes and tones to deliver a coherent and cohesive rhythm to this entire narrative.

The impressiveness of the special effects, editing, and action sequences further proves the care and love those involved in this movie have for this property. If you look at prior films, the CGI was poorly done (I’m looking at you Quantumania) and the set pieces left plenty to be desired. It’s the complete opposite with Vol. 3. All of the locations are rather unique and visually pleasing, and nothing ever looks terribly edited. Everything seems to be fully realized with great detail and how it was visualized to be from the very beginning. Vol. 3 has some of my favorites action sequences in the entire MCU and that says quite a bit. The way these actions shots are made absolutely phenomenal and part of the reason why I want to see this film again is to watch these scenes all over again.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is what you get when the person in the director’s chair cares about the story and the characters. I can’t say it’s the most rewatchable film due to its subject matter and the sadness it may bring, but it’s one I’ll be thinking about for a long time for many reasons. In a way, it brings a satisfying conclusion to the team we’ve grown to love throughout the years, but it’s also the beginning of something entirely new. James Gunn manages to create one of, if not, the best trilogies in the entire MCU and he’ll definitely be missed. I’m sure we’ll be getting more superhero goodness from him soon though. Now, it’s time to listen to the groovy soundtrack on repeat.

Score: 9/10


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