Guardians of the Galaxy is one of Marvel’s most beloved franchises, with characters introduced to audiences nearly ten years ago. Both they and the universe they inhabit has changed significantly since then, but they are just as enjoyable to watch in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. as they were when audiences first met them.
The main highlight of this film is the core group, and their relationships. Director James Gunn knows these misfits extremely well. They’ve all grown as characters, but all of them find new avenues to continue growing together, instead of simply regressing. Groot is the weakest link, apart from one amazing sequence the film largely has him sidelined.
There is some animal experimentation across the entire film, but it’s very mild and in fact necessary to understand Rocket’s backstory. It’s one of the most emotional beats of the film, and simply wouldn’t work as well if it wasn’t included. Gunn never strays into going too far with it.
Gamora is of course no longer with the Guardians anymore, and in fact the rest of the team consider her dead. She now leads the pirate Ravagers, but their presence is surprisingly minimal, especially considering what happened in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It seems that Gunn wanted to do more with this thread, but didn’t have time.
It’s a shame that her character was the only one completely reset. She should have been left after the Gamora audiences knew died in Avengers: Infinity War, but the film feels obligated to bring her in somehow.
Adam Warlock is a huge letdown in Vol. 3. He’s not the person fans are familiar with in the comics, but is instead a caricature, pining for his mum throughout the film as though he was born yesterday. It’s clear why Will Poulter was cast for the role, as this is an infant Adam, not Adam the man, and he plays it with childlike ignorance and desperation. Hopefully future appearances can fix this, he shows some limited growth by the end.
The High Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji brings an unhinged nature to the character, one who can be incredibly calm but one who can be rageful. His motivations aren’t overly complicated, in fact it’s a bit confusing. As far as the Guardians trilogy go, he’s the best of the three villains, as far as Marvel movies go he’s average.
Touching on the tragedy of the film a bit more, it’s one of its defining features. There is still the traditional Guardians comedy but it’s used more sparingly than the previous two films, and doesn’t undercut the tragic moments that are happening. There’s an uncharacteristic restraint shown, and generally speaking the jokes that are made are genuinely funny. Everyone knows this is the end of an era, and that fact is respected.
Much has been made of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill having the first F bomb in a Marvel movie, which felt cringy before seeing the film, but knowing where it’s placed and its context makes it a perfect fit. It’s used in a totally unexpected way, but that makes it all the better.
A final, negative point, is the action. Until the final third act battle, the action in this film feels small and limited due to the small environments they’re set in. There are also several death fake outs, seemingly to trick the audience. Before this film there was speculation about who would die, these fakeouts played into that and toyed with its viewers. It’s a surprise about how many Guardians survive the film and what the team would look like at the end of the film.
That said, the goodbye from the old team does manage to tug at the heartstrings, and it successfully brings to a close another early constant of the MCU. Who knows if the next Guardians film will be as compelling without James Gunn, but this trilogy and film end on a high note.