The Guardians of the Galaxy started off as nobodies. Practically no one except for hardcore Marvel comics fans knew who they were. Then James Gunn came around and changed all that, turning this ragtag group of outcasts into heroes. More than that, they’ve become a family. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the third and final film of the trilogy, and it brings them closer together than ever. It’s an emotional, action-packed, ear-pleasing space opera that hits all the right beats. The Guardians have never looked this good.
After years of adventures and saving the universe, the Guardians have settled on Knowhere to build their HQ and take things easy for a bit. Their peace is quickly interrupted when they are attacked by a mysterious and powerful being who manages to nearly kill Rocket. In an attempt to save their friend, Peter Quill learns of the High Evolutionary, a scientist who experiments on creatures in order to create a perfect society. Rocket was one of his earlier experiments before he managed to escape and now he wants him back. Rather than run, Peter brings the fight to the planet of Counter-Earth. The High Evolutionary has what’s needed to save Rocket but to get it could end up costing the Guardians everything.
Rocket is the heart and soul of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. While he spends a good portion of the film lying on life support, we get to see flashbacks to his past and how a common raccoon would become one of the smartest creatures in the universe. It’s a tragic story that hits you right in the heart. Not only does it add new layers to Rocket’s character but it also sets up the High Evolutionary as a true monster. He’s far from an Avenger’s level threat; he doesn’t want to take over the universe or strive for absolute power. He simply wants to create the perfect society. His method is pure madness though, and he will do whatever it takes to get there.
Chukwudi Iwuji is great as the High Evolutionary. He says everything he does is for the betterment of the universe, but he doesn’t see anyone as an actual living being. We’re all just cogs in his deadly machine. His suit gives him the ability to control gravity, allowing him to throw anyone and anything around like ragdolls, regardless of their power. Iwuji can have a calm and commanding presence but also turn it around in an instant and be a raging monster. His outbursts are terrifying, and Iwuji wonderfully captures the ferocity and anger of a man who is committed to his beliefs.
Then there’s Adam Warlock, played by Will Poulter, who was teased at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He’s the muscle behind the High Evolutionary. To be honest I felt like his character was a bit of a letdown. I wanted more for him to do other than chase down the Guardians. Despite his immense power, he is essentially a newborn who doesn’t know all that much about the universe and how it works. There’s an innocence to him, which can be quite charming. Poulter does a good job with the material he is given, but it isn’t much unfortunately.
The real focus of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the Guardians themselves. The team is pretty fractured. The Gamora they knew is dead, replaced by the time traveling version from the past in Avengers: Endgame. This younger Gamora doesn’t know the Guardians, aside from her sister Nebula, and is running with the Ravagers. Peter is still a mess over losing his Gamora, and having a different Gamora who doesn’t know him or their relationship together only complicates things further. Emotions are high in Vol. 3, and James Gunn hits those beats with perfect precision. The dynamic between everyone is great. At this point in the franchise, everyone has settled into their characters. Drax is the literal one, Mantis is the sweet and innocent one, and Groot is Groot. Gunn plays to each of their strengths. The banter between them is hilarious and some of the strongest in the trilogy. It works because there is so much heart behind it all.
There is an urgency to the film in that Rocket’s life is on the line. Peter has lost his family, his home, and the person he loves. He’s not going to lose another friend. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 also has some of the most stunning visuals of any Marvel Studios film. The worlds that James Gunn builds are beautiful and have so much rich detail behind them. Sometimes a scene is beautiful and you just want to take in the sights. Other times a shot might be done solely for a single joke. Regardless, every frame is a dazzling feast for the eyes.
Vol. 3 is perhaps also the darkest Marvel Studios has gone. Not only does it feature the first F-bomb of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it doesn’t shy away from the gruesomeness of what the High Evolutionary is doing. He has created some rather sick and twisted creatures that like Rocket are a mashup of tissue and metal. There’s a scene where he fails in creating the perfect creature for his perfect society and he resorts to incinerating his failure. It’s a brutal scene that hammers home just how diabolical he is. The film is still not on the same level of violence and darkness as the DCEU has been, but there are some moments that are not for the faint of heart.
Still, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has everything you would expect from James Gunn and Marvel Studios. The soundtrack is one again top notch. There’s plenty of humor and the action is thrilling. There is a hallway fight scene that will no doubt wow audiences. Everyone knows that hallway fights in any movie or show are on a different level, and Vol. 3 ranks among the best of them. Everyone is at the top of their game here and it shows. The collaboration and dynamic between the characters is when the film is at its most fun.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 goes out on a high note for James Gunn and this iteration of the Guardians team. It’s a fun, hilarious, and thrilling space adventure. The stakes could have been a little higher, but in the end the film hits the right emotional beats. The original Guardians of the Galaxy came at a time when Marvel Studios was deep in sequels to their flagship characters. It was a huge gamble that paid off immensely. Vol. 3 too comes at a time when Marvel Studios has found itself in need of new life. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is is a reminder that with the right cast, crew, and story, superheroes can still deliver.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the third and final film of the trilogy, and it brings them closer together than ever. It’s an emotional, action-packed, ear-pleasing space opera that hits all the right beats. The Guardians have never looked this good.