Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Movie Review
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Movie Review Metadata
I think one thing we should all remember is that Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (2023) is a James Gunn movie and as such, feels like a symphony conducted by a child who has heard the music a hundred times, but has also had a box of Froot Loops and a 20oz Mtn Dew. If you’re not completely up on the intricate multi-property story jumps Guardians has taken, and only spent time catching up on the first two, you’ll feel just a little lost at the open. Allow me to catch you up.
The Guardians are settling in nicely on Knowhere, the disembodied head of a long-dead Celestial that serves as a mining colony. Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt), spends a lot of his time very drunk and very sad. His Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is dead and he’s having a really rough time of things.
For reference, you’ll need to go back up to Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022). Linear storytelling within individual properties is something the MCU really needs to work on.
Anyway, in an unexpected attack from a villain we’d seen for three seconds exactly once during the post-credit scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume II, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) suffers injuries that no one can treat. Due to his entire existence being proprietary (and stolen since his escape) IP, he cannot be medically treated for his severe injuries. Buried within his body is code requiring a kill switch, which can only be obtained from the source, a genetics lab located in an organic planet called the Orgosphere (it’s a creepy eye). Assisting them are the Ravagers. Not Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) Ravagers, exiled because they trafficked in children, but the original space pirates lead by Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2¸ 2017). They loan assistance in the form of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) that Peter has a super hard time dealing with. It’s not his Gamora (silly multiverse) and she thinks he’s a chucklehead.
The Big Bad, in what is promised to be the final installment, is Rocket’s creator, The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). He spends his time playing an unethical god by genetically altering creatures either for peace or for war, and then wiping them out when they no longer serve a purpose or he gets bored, whichever comes first. Desperate to save her race from obsolescence, Sovereign Empress Ayesha (Elizabeth Debiecki), sends Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) to retrieve Rocket at the behest of The High Evolutionary, even if Adam hasn’t quite figured out his place in the greater scheme of things.
Woven throughout all of this is Rocket’s origin story, his life flashing before his eyes as he lays dying.
Is that a lot, because it sounds like a lot.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is very busy, cramming a lot of story, fighting, explosions, and weird creatures into 150 minutes. The complicated relationship between Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is fleshed out, Nebula (Karen Gillan) takes on a strong leadership role in light of Peter’s emotional collapse, and finding new and exciting ways to be a hindrance is Peter, who is tired of losing people he loves. All of those taken separately are compelling and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is certainly a ride taken with the heart as well as the eyes, but crammed into one movie with barely time to process is less a ride and more a hostage situation in a car without brakes and a disconnected steering system.
Full disclosure, I enjoyed it. Yes, it was a lot, but I was entertained every single one of those minutes and it suited my attention span just fine. Fans of the comics and canon may take issue with the way some characters are crafted. As I am a fan of neither, I cannot speak to those issues. I was touched by Rocket’s backstory, I was bolstered by the camaraderie of the new Guardians, now joined by Kraglin (Seth Gunn) struggling to master Yondu’s fin and arrow, and Cosmo the Spacedog (voiced by Maria Bakalova), a former exhibit of the Collector’s Museum.
I didn’t mind the music which has jumped from the 70s and 80s classics enjoyed by Quill’s mother, to tunes from the 90s and 00s, likely explained by Yondu’s gift of the Zune, but Radiohead, Florence + The Machine and The Mowglis just don’t strike me as Guardians fare.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is fun in the dark ways Marvel can be fun and terrifying. There are cameos with Nathan Fillion and voice work by Linda Cardellini that give the alien landscapes a familiar feel and give Guardians a solid send off. While the post-credit intertitle card says the Guardians will be back, we don’t know what shape they’ll take. Stick around for one of two mid-credit sequences for a hint, but don’t hold your breath for clarity.
Does Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 work as a bookend to the trilogy? Yes, it does, but not everyone is going to like it and there will be the usual complaints. I enjoyed the Guardians series as much and for the same reasons as I enjoyed the Ant-Man series. They’re less serious and more relatable as far as ordinary non-powered humans go, and I like fun silly action movies with a little heart. It’s a movie I’d own to murder a rainy weekend as a complete rewatch.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (2023) is rated PG-13 for swears, disturbing genetic experiments on helpless creatures, gruesome space deaths, violent body slams, goo, and sad farewells.