Saturday 6 May 2023

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Movie Review)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a mixed bag of late. For every Spider-Man: No Way Home, it seems we've gotten at least three less competently put-together sequels like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. This is primarily why I approached Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 with a measure of uncertainty. The first film had taken the MCU in a bold, new direction while its sequel had served as a somewhat worthy follow-up. But given the current direction of the MCU or its lack thereof, the third film definitely feels like it's got its work cut out for it. So does it manage to right a ship that is clearly veering off course or does it succumb to the growing sense of superhero fatigue?

The film picks up right where the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special left off with the eponymous team now taking up residence in the severed head of a dead celestial known as Knowhere. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still struggling to come to terms with the death of the original Gamora (Zoe Saldana), spending his days drinking himself into a stupor. But after Rocket (Bradley Cooper) becomes the target of a mad scientist called the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), through a powerful mercenary named Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), Peter must work together with the rest of the Guardians to protect their good friend and comrade.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that a lot was riding on James Gunn to deliver another homerun with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. You only need to look at the box office performance of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania to see just how dire a position the MCU is in. Gone is the magic that once drew fans to these movies in record numbers or at least so it would seem. Basically every sequel since Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has seen diminishing returns compared to its predecessor. But I would put that down to the quality of the storytelling in the recent crop of movies, which appears to have taken a nosedive, than any actual sense of superhero fatigue.

The real question then is how does the new Guardians of the Galaxy compare to the old ones. Well, I am happy to report that it compares quite favorably. I might even go as far as declaring that it is a return to form for the overall MCU, although I'll hold off until I've gotten a chance to see The Marvels before making such a declaration. The film not only captures the essence of what made the previous Guardians movies great, namely the top-notch characterization and killer soundtrack, but it also isn't afraid to take audiences to some very dark and disturbing places.

The film functions as both an origin story for Rocket, whose existing ties to the High Evolutionary are explored through flashbacks, as well as a final outing for the current iteration of the ragtag team. So do with that information what you will. Just know that the movie tugs on your heartstrings from the very beginning and it doesn't let up until the very end. It is also one of the most violent movies in the MCU and I could definitely see a lot of James Gunn's sensibilities on display. But it is how he is able to balance all that out that makes him one of the more gifted directors of superhero films working today.

The action scenes are as sharply stylized as they've ever been especially one extended beatdown sequence that was set to the Beastie Boy's "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." Likewise, the entire soundtrack feels meticulously curated by hand, with each song lending the on-screen drama and action additional weight. Considering that this is most likely James Gunn's final contribution to the MCU, having since taken up the position of co-CEO at the newly-minted DC Studios, I would say that he has managed to go out with one hell of a bang.

About the only thing that I can really fault the movie for is that it doesn't always appear to make the best use of some of its characters. The core team of Guardians get to shine of course, even newer additions like Kraglin and Cosmo. But characters like Adam Warlock barely get enough screen time, making them feel tacked on or written into the story after the fact. Some others were just thrown in for a quick cameo with no real bearing on the plot. And while I was never a fan of the decision to bring Gamora back after Avengers: Endgame, I was at least surprised by how her inclusion in this movie had played out.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a near-perfect sendoff for the MCU's most unlikely heroes. The film earns every minute of its two hours and thirty minutes runtime and somehow still leaves you wanting more. This is the most fun I've had with a Marvel movie since Spider-Man: No Way Home and that's including the various highs that came with entries like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It serves as a stark reminder as to why I'd fallen in love with these MCU films in the first place and it shows that there is still some magic left to be found in the aging franchise.


  1. I wasn't sure either going into it. And the movie did seem to take its time getting going. It did pick up speed and deliver though. Could've used with a little editing as some bits were just a bit too long though. I'd warn anyone who loves animals to prepare themselves going in. Those bits were the hardest to watch.

    1. We've been consistently getting a lot of longer films lately so I suppose that might be why I didn't really feel the length of this one.

  2. I really didn't like the second movie but the holiday special was fun. I've always had a thing for raccoons so if a lot of the plot focuses on Rocket that's fine with me.

    1. The second movie definitely wasn't as great as the first for sure but I really loved Yondu and his character arc in it.