Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review | All for one…

by W. Andrew Powell
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 brings the awesome trilogy to a close this weekend, and it’s not just James Gunn’s best film to date, it’s also his most confident, with the most emotional storytelling.

For all the film’s heart–and it has a lot–Guardians Vol. 3 is also hilarious, it’s fun and action-packed, and Gunn wraps up everything you could want from the trilogy with a bow on top.

Does that make it the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best trilogy yet? You bet it does.

Everyone is back, including Gamora (Zoe Saldana) from the alternate-timeline, and even Howard the Duck, starting out on Knowhere with the opening of an official headquarters for the Guardians. The mood is glum though until Adam Warlock, played by Will Poulter, suddenly shows up and kicks their butts, nearly killing Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper).

Chukwudi Iwuji as The High Evolutionary
Chukwudi Iwuji as The High Evolutionary

Rocket is going to die unless the team can do something, but because he was created in a laboratory, he basically has a bomb inside of him, and the only way to defuse it and help him is to hunt down his creator.

What follows is a wild, earnest, and funny trip across the galaxy that could get most of them killed, while they have to face off against the forces of the absolutely evil and jaw-droppingly great High Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji.

The heart of the story is about the Guardians, rallying to save their fallen friend, and we get most of Rocket’s backstory. The flashbacks are incredibly moving and well told, and they’re going to leave audiences in tears, or very close to it. I can only imagine it as Gunn’s great commentary on the evils of animal testing.

Rocket’s story lifts the whole film up, but all of the character arcs are excellent. We get Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), AKA Star-Lord, practically in the gutter dealing with the “new” Gamora who has no memories of him from before. Nebula (Karen Gillan) ends up being the one there for Peter the most, which feels like a big shift, and she’s turned a corner where she will do almost anything for this team.

Meanwhile Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) have reached a crossroads in their friendship that feels as close to love as they will ever get, and Kraglin (Sean Gunn) is trying to live up to Yondu’s legacy by learning to use the Yaka Arrow.

The performances are all excellent, especially from Gillan, the voice work by Cooper, and Iwuji who has created one of the best villains put to screen in the MCU to date. The High Evolutionary is not just scary and crazed, he’s maniacal, complex, and hyper-intelligent, with a mood that shifts in seconds, and Iwuji makes him utterly detestable.

All of the action is over the top, including a hallway battle set to the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” that lives in my head rent-free, and yes, the whole soundtrack rocks.

Baby Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper)
Baby Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper)

Gunn’s expert, emotional storytelling is also a rarity in the MCU, and it’s very welcome in a story that is about found family, and a team that cares about each other so much, even if they would sometimes deny it just to save face. I can’t think of another Marvel film that has sustained such an emotional story.

The result is a a satisfying finale that takes everything we have seen from the trilogy, and connects it together in a meaningful way. I hope it will give other filmmakers something to think about when we start seeing the next generation of Marvel films.

It’s nearly perfect, but it’s not flawless, and that’s okay.

What we’re left with though, as fans of the Guardians and these singular characters, is a sense of saying goodbye to a family that we may not see again for a long time. Or, maybe never again. I’ve read so many books that tugged at my heart that way, but very few films have the power to send off their characters like that, and leave you literally on that edge of happy-sad.

At the end, the film perfectly centres Rocket as the main character of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and sends another character off for more adventures in the MCU. It’s a terrific achievement for Gunn, and this whole cast, and I can’t think of anything more fulfilling for the fans.

All images courtesy of Marvel Studios.

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