Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

by - May 5th, 2023 - Four-Star Corner Movie Reviews


Heartfelt Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Sends its Family of A-Holes into the Forever

I’ve enjoyed all of the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Both 2014’s introductory adventure and 2017’s amusing follow-up tickled my funny bone and offered up enough explosively imaginative action to keep me on the edge of my seat. I liked how director James Gunn kept each installment in the series as close to self-contained as possible. While a few seeds for other chapters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were planted, the filmmaker still kept his focus on a ragtag group of crazily unique characters who were cementing unbreakable bonds of friendship that would eventually transform them into interstellar heroes.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) | PHOTO: Marvel Studios

Gunn brings things to a spectacular conclusion in the final chapter of his sci-fi comic book trilogy. Not only is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 my favorite of the series, but it’s also quite possibly the best entry in the entire MCU. Right when I was starting to think these Marvel efforts could no longer surprise or wow me, no matter how entertaining they may prove to be (or may not — I’m looking at you, Thor: Love and Thunder) along comes Gunn to show just how wrong I was.

This effort works as well as it does because Gunn triples down on telling a story completely outside of whatever is currently happening across the extended Marvel multiverse. Instead, the latest journey of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Matis (Pom Klementieff) cares about them and them alone. It pays off plot strands from the previous features involving Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Cosmo (Maria Bakalova), and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). Most of all, it gives the audience a reason to emotionally invest in the outcome for every single character, a reason that is honest, true, and heartbreakingly authentic.

Do not misunderstand what I’m saying. This isn’t a Marvel melodrama. There is still plenty of humor, and the laughs come fast, furious, and from seemingly every corner of the galaxy. The visuals are eye-popping, the special effects displaying a tactile, non-cartoonish quality that has been sadly lacking in the MCU for quite some time of late. The action is incredible. A third-act battle between the Guardians and the primary villain’s powerful hordes of soldiers and weaponized animal cyborgs is a thing of thrilling beauty.

Gunn orchestrates everything with confident precision. His expert handling of the material is never in doubt. It’s clear he adores these characters, but he doesn’t let this affinity cloud his judgment. He refuses to cut them any slack or let them off the hook. They are going to face an ongoing series of increasingly contentious obstacles and, for maybe the first time in the series, they are not going to come out triumphant after every battle.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) | PHOTO: Marvel Studios

Through it all, they still have each other. The core friendship that has developed between this group of self-described “a-holes” has blossomed and matured far beyond anything they could have anticipated. Despite their differences and backgrounds, they have all chosen one another to be a part of their family. Their love allows them to keep fighting long past any normal breaking point. They keep going into the fray, not caring an iota about the politics of gender, species, or sexuality. This group is there for one another, period, end of sentence, and everything else is only background music (and they’re all wearing earplugs).

This final ride into the forever and beautiful sky centers on Rocket. After he is catastrophically wounded in a battle with the returning Ayesha’s powerful son Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), the remaining Guardians — Peter, Drax, Nebula, Groot, and Mantis — are determined to do whatever is necessary to save their friend’s life. Turns out, Rocket was the result of one of monstrous experiments by the malevolent High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who desperately wants to study his creation’s brain.

The rest of the plot is better left a mystery. Just know that Peter still hasn’t gotten over Gamora’s death (she was thrown off a cliff by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War). And the fact that her past self is still alive but now a part of their current timeline (courtesy of the Avengers: Endgame’s “time heist”) isn’t helping him deal with his grief.  As for the Guardians, they’re still setting up a base of operations on Knowhere, the floating planetary head of a deceased Celestial, its diverse inhabitants looking to the group — particularly Nebula — for leadership.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) | PHOTO: Marvel Studios

Iwuji is a strong antagonist, instantly becoming one of the best bad guys in the MCU. The flashbacks outlining his experiments and the evils he did to Rocket and the other critters in his care are borderline nightmare fuel. But Iwuji never overplays his hand. This allows the High Evolutionary’s evil to build bit by bit, and so by the time the Guardians decide to take him down, I wanted to join them on their quest.

But I keep going back to these central characters and their relationship to one another. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a splendidly entertaining roller-coaster ride, offering up a slew of creative twists and turns I found delightful. But it is this film’s heart that blew me away. I’d always liked spending time with these characters, but I’d never fully fell totally and completely in love with them. Until now.

Film Rating: 4 (out of 4)

Leave a Reply