"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Chukwudi Iwuji, and Will Poulter. Released on May 5, 2023, the film has the Guardians protecting one of their own from a major threat.
The film was written and directed by James Gunn, who also directed "Slither", "Super", "Guardians of the Galaxy", and "The Suicide Squad". It is the 32nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This intergalactic journey has been the strangest yet fascinating part of the MCU's history that should always be remembered. The ragtag team of otherworldly criminal misfits started as vague characters in the Marvel catalog, but now they had become some of the best characters in the superhero universe thanks to James Gunn's film interpretation of the team. The 2014 film was initially seen as a potential failure for the franchise since the Guardians weren't as well-known as Iron Man or Captain America during that time. However, the movie proved the doubters wrong as it became a surprise commercial hit, and critics and audiences regard it as one of the best superhero movies ever. This success kickstarted a galaxy adventure filled with laughs, action, and tears. Unfortunately, this year marks the end of the team's journey, as we're beginning the summer movie season with the final chapter in James Gunn's galactic trilogy and everything else that happened between the movies. Based on my experience with the franchise's third-chapter installments, there's no doubt that facing the music one last time will be a heartbreaker. So, does this latest playlist have enough hits to make this intergalactic swan song one to remember? Let's find out.
The story follows the Guardians of the Galaxy: Peter Quill (Pratt), Gamora (Saldaña), Drax (Bautista), Nebula (Gillan), Mantis (Klementieff), Groot (Diesel), and Rocket (Cooper). Set after the events of "Avengers: Endgame", the Guardians, along with the Ravagers, embark on a mission to find a cure for Rocket's life-threatening killswitch. Their journey resulted in them facing The High Evolutionary (Iwuji), a deranged scientist known for making hybrid creatures and Rocket's creator. However, the Guardians also have to deal with the golden High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), who plans to use her creation, Adam Warlock (Poulter), to exact revenge against the team. With the mission now more dangerous than ever, the Guardians must come together one more time to overcome their powerful adversaries and protect Rocket from The High Evolutionary's twisted scheme.
2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy" expanded the galactic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that was introduced in the first Thor movie in 2011. However, unlike "Thor", "Guardians of the Galaxy" provides a different perspective of the galaxy with its bizarreness and creativity. That alone makes the movie one of the most unique and hilarious installments in the MCU and the superhero genre, in my eyes. While its second volume didn't match its predecessor, it maintains the fun, weirdness, and emotion from the first film to deliver another entertaining experience. So now we have a third and final playlist that promises closure to the characters we have known and loved for almost a decade. Considering that the long-running franchise is at a downhill trend recently, the movie needed plenty of luck to turn this around. On the other hand, James Gunn has a healthy winning streak regarding superhero movies, both from Marvel and DC, which might be enough to ease our concerns.
If you've watched the previous "Guardians of the Galaxy" films or Gunn's other works, you'd already know the tone for "Vol. 3". It's a kooky and visually vibrant space adventure that combines sci-fi action with goofy comedy fit for its PG-13 rating. However, it also follows the MCU's trilogy-closing formula by injecting higher stakes, poignant themes, and more peril into its storytelling. Additionally, the amount of violence is also turned up a notch compared to the previous Guardians movies, including one involving animal cruelty. So while the kids still get some fun and humor from the characters and action, some of them (and even older animal lovers) might also be disturbed by its unsettling content, mainly from Rocket's flashbacks. So I recommend parents to talk to their children about the film before taking them, including those under six years old.
A dark tone in a film's narrative has its perks of exploring specific adult themes, particularly in superhero movies. But what really matters is whether it works for the story Gunn wanted to tell. After experiencing the music with the Guardians one last time, I can definitely say it works exceptionally well. While it's close to being another perfect superhero movie, the film is another fun experience that takes enough bold steps to deliver a satisfying and suitably emotional conclusion to the sci-fi trilogy. Of course, combining its dark tone with the light-hearted comedy risks the film being uneven and distracting. Last year's "Thor: Love and Thunder" had a similar goal in mind due to Taika Waititi, but its execution wasn't exactly what the filmmaker intended. Thankfully, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" avoided this similar pitfall of that Marvel sequel, as the balance of darkness and comedy left me with more fulfilling rewards than frustrating ones.
"Love and Thunder" and "Guardians 3" share a similar comedic tone amid their adult topics, including loss and acceptance. However, unlike the former, the humor in "Guardians 3" felt more natural during the dramatic moments regarding the characters' personalities and the execution. More importantly, it's actually more hilarious than the one in "Love and Thunder", mainly because it maintained a consistent tone from the last two "Guardians" movies. Furthermore, regarding the cast's chemistry and the dialogue, the humor has enough momentum to carry the film through space, including the parts where the dramatic moments lie.
The comedy is one of the reasons why I enjoyed some of James Gunn's other works. Regarding his direction and screenplay, his approach to dark humor has an equal share of fun and hilarity that matches well with the violence. "Slither" and "The Suicide Squad" are the best examples that fit Gunn's talents and amusingly twisted mind. However, Gunn also understands that the story and characters matter as much as making his audience laugh. In "Guardians of the Galaxy", the filmmaker made this seemingly unlikable team of criminals lovable through their charm, humor, heart, and daddy issues. He continued to do so in the sequel with satisfying results. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" has Gunn unsurprisingly accomplishing his mission once more but also provided closures for these characters that were well-earned and emotionally compelling, with Peter Quill and Rocket being the movie's highlights. Despite the lengthy runtime, which ran close to two and a half hours, the film ran smoothly to fit the narrative Gunn wanted to tell while showcasing the colorful visual appeal and desire for character moments he's known for. If Gunn can copy that success with his upcoming "Superman" film, we'll know that the DC Universe will be in good hands.
The cast also continues to shine in their performances, similar to how they did with the last few MCU films they're involved in. With the characters reaching their closure, the movie needed each of them to have a shining moment or two. It obviously did so with ease, primarily due to the chemistry they've been sharing since 2014. Chris Pratt delivered the charisma and heart once more as Peter Quill, and Bradley Cooper's performance as Rocket was one of the best roles he's done. Karen Gillan was also excellent as Nebula regarding her levity in the character's stern personality. I also really enjoyed Dave Bautista as Drax, further showcasing his ability to provide entertaining comedy outside his dramatic roles, and Pom Klementieff as Mantis.
But, of course, we can't forget about the film's villains, who also have moments that are as good as the heroes. The primary example is The High Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, who strives to "perfect" his society filled with half-human, half-animal creatures. Before watching the film, I heard a rumor that The High Evolutionary is the most hatable character in the MCU, but in a good way. I'm happy to say that the rumor is true. With some of the previous MCU movies having sympathetic antagonists, "Guardians" has the franchise going back to the basics of having a villain who's just straight-up evil and frightening but also easily enjoyable from a writing perspective. Let's just say that The High Evolutionary did some things that'll make you want to rip his head off his body, but again, in the best way. Chukwudi Iwuji did an outstanding job manifesting the character's obsessive and threatening nature, even though he can be a bit over-the-top sometimes. Will Poulter also did well as Adam Warlock, who's clearly a young boy in a man's body.
James Gunn knows how to provide a visually pleasing presentation regarding the effects, cinematography, and production designs, mainly for the "Guardians" movies and "The Suicide Squad". "Vol. 3" is unsurprisingly no exception, with the color palettes and set designs matching the galaxy's other-worldliness and the movie's mixture of vibrancy and bleakness. The visual effects also shine in portraying the creature designs, settings, and, of course, the action sequences. For the latter, the action creates a blast of energy and fulfillment that we expect from a superhero movie. The hallway sequence in the third act is my favorite scene regarding the framework, soundtrack, and Gunn's direction.
Overall, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is another intergalactic trip that provides a fulfilling playlist full of action, comedy, and emotion. It delivers the entertainment values and visual splendor we expect from a superhero movie, particularly one from Marvel. More importantly, it represents the heart and depth, both emotional and thematic, that made specific movies in the franchise's Infinity Saga so beloved by many. Understandably, its dark moments may not suit well with some children, and the runtime was a bit overlong. Nonetheless, this is one of the better installments of the MCU in a while due to its lovable cast, Gunn's direction, well-written characters, visual effects, and action sequences. However, I won't be quick to say that the MCU is fully back yet since it has a long way to go to regain the fans' trust. We'll see what happens next when we get to "The Marvels" in November. If you enjoyed the previous "Guardians" films and Gunn's other projects, this final list of tunes is worth listening to.