Character walking in formation with fire in the background

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios (c) 2023

Over a decade into his tenure with Marvel Studios, James Gunn has wrapped up his latest project as he prepares for a new role as co-chief at DC. On Twitter, he perfectly summed up the Guardians franchise by saying, "I didn't want to make a movie LIKE Star Wars, but a movie that made people FEEL like Star Wars made me feel as a kid. Outlandish characters, extraordinary locations, a space opera with a touch of magic filled with heart." Gunn's words are spot on.

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," once again written and directed by Gunn, ventures into darker territory than its predecessors. It delves deeper into the characters' emotional landscapes while maintaining the humor and action-packed spirit the series is known for.

Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, takes center stage in this installment. His heartbreaking backstory is explored as he's one of several animals experimented on by the villain, The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who wants to create the perfect utopian society and is obsessed with creating superior animals for his "perfect" new planet.

The story unfolds as the Guardians, our motley crew of misfit heroes, are ambushed on their refurbished base, Knowhere, by Will Poulter's Adam Warlock. Rocket is seriously injured, and the team struggles to revive him due to a kill switch in his chest. To save him, the Guardians rally, with the help of the Ravagers and 2014-Gamora, on a mission to find an override code. Along the way, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), Adam Warlock's "Mother," seeks revenge against the Guardians after stealing some of her property. While Rocket's creator, the High Evolutionary, is obsessed with retrieving Rocket, his genius of a subject, at any cost.

Each member of the cast brings their character to life with nuanced performances.

  • Dave Bautista's portrayal of Drax the Destroyer balances a tough exterior with a tender interior, showcasing the complexity of the character.
  • Karen Gillan's Nebula exhibits the most impressive character development in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with her performance genuinely standing out.
  • Pom Klementieff brings a delightful mixture of comedy and humanity to her role as the empathetic Mantis, stealing numerous scenes.
  • Vin Diesel's Groot asks, "Do you even work out, bro?"
  • Chris Pratt's Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord, ATTEMPTS to continue his romantic storyline with Zoe Saldana's Gamora, who returns as a revamped version of her character.
  • Gamora, portrayed by Zoe Saldana, displays an unhinged demeanor. The movie explores a new team dynamic due to the "new" Gamora.

Music has always played a significant role in the Guardians of the Galaxy series, and Volume 3 continues this tradition. The film opens with Rocket wandering around planet Knowhere, the melancholic "Creep" by Radiohead setting a somber tone.

The Guardians, weary and prone to bickering, hint at an end to their adventures. The film explores themes of redemption, sacrifice, teamwork, confronting abuse, and trauma, blending seamlessly into a compelling story. The flashbacks to Rocket's traumatic past reveal Gunn's horror roots, though these emotional segments can occasionally disrupt the narrative flow. Despite many characters and plot points, the film successfully maintains a balanced narrative. However, it leaves unresolved threads like Star-Lord's drinking problem.

Will Poulter's Adam Warlock enters with a bang, causing havoc before taking a backseat to allow other plots to unfold. This character, like Rocket, was created for superficial reasons, but after a personal loss, he finds solace in an unexpected place. His role feels underdeveloped, leaving plenty of potential for future exploration.

The film's main antagonist, the High Evolutionary, is a cruel yet less engaging villain than Thanos. Portrayed by Chukwudi Iwuji as a sociopathic mad scientist trying to play God, he's a character you'll love to hate.

One standout moment is an adrenaline-fueled action sequence in a corridor, the best since the first Avengers. With dynamic camera movements and slow-motion effects, it's an immersive and awe-inspiring scene, enhanced by the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" blaring in the background.

Animal lovers, bring the tissues...The visual effects artists deserve recognition for their work on Rocket and other animal characters. Their suffering is convincingly and affectingly depicted. The practical effects, stunts, and CGI are some of Marvel's best to date.

Despite its darker tone, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" shines through its well-polished characters and emotional depth. The poignant scenes addressing animal experimentation are undeniably impactful. However, the film sometimes struggles to balance its humor and action with the darker themes of Rocket's backstory, leading to occasional disjointedness in its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. James Gunn's signature writing and directing are on full display. The horror elements, humor, endearing characters, heartfelt moments, and subtle sexual innuendos, all set against a backdrop of great music, attest to Gunn's love for this franchise and its characters.