Marvel Studios’ “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3” is subtly perfect, reinforced by the heart and humanity of found family, coming to terms with oneself, and the value of closure.
James Gunn’s latest creative adventure is brilliant, zany, wacky and incredible—Vol 3. is a perfect swan song to the overarching narrative, humanity, and struggle that our favorite protectors of the Galaxy possess.
It’s a familiar story that succeeds in the balance of pace, boasting incredible set design with stunning CGI and career-defining performances from everyone in the cast.
From the first opening seconds of the film, it’s established Marvel Studios stepped back and appointed Gunn to complete creative control. We are greeted with the patent Marvel opening still, you can see Gunn’s presence emerge with his fluid patent camera work and gorgeous lighting, all while a classic tune highlights the story. And it works, with the music and choreography acting as a conduit for the audience to connect with the film instead of pointless exposition or a forced plot weighing down the experience.
In terms of story, everyone gets a perfect departure, and the bookend to each arc is correct. Gunn does take each Guardian on a journey, and it works because we are shown where each resides and the quest they are about to pursue, along with the growth they have achieved at the beginning, signifying the sense of connection. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) feels safe among her found family, and Nebula (Karen Gillan) has confidence and identity. Drax (Dave Bautista) continues to be the heart and comedic relief. His one-liner jokes were just a sample of his career-defining performance, which had me in tears of laughter and sadness.
Kraglin (Sean Gunn) was engaging in this film. I enjoyed seeing him dealing with anxiety and imposter syndrome, trying to show worth while wearing the shroud of fear and struggling to fill the legacy of the ravagers left in the wake of Yondu. Rocket (Bradley Cooper), who is also a major highlight of why this film works, is first found walking the streets, holding the Zune, blasting Awesome Mix Vol 3, conveying to the audience that he’s the leader of not only the team but that the film. This leads us to understand that the movie will be from his perspective and that we not only see how he was made but also feel what he went through.
It’s sad to admit that this film does push our heroes, and it’s a poignant yet emotional ride that will test the audience and, in turn, the acceptance of one’s self. The message is also genius because the looming notice of closure, having the characters reflect on their growth, and evaluating the past films’ themes, cements the reality of why Guardians stands alone as one of, or if not the best, trilogy in the Marvel Studio library.
Of course, Chris Pratt was incredible as Star-Lord. He felt a bit rugged, lost, and seeking closure. I loved the maturity that Pratt brought to the role this time. The subtle confessions crafted through exposition and the various songs Gunn cherry-picked throughout Awesome Mix Vol 3 felt integral to these characters’ development and path. And if honest, with his arc and Rocket’s, I felt myself gravitating towards a ton, both broken, wanting to pick up the pieces, understanding it’s time to face the music, and Pratt and Cooper’s performances were incredible.
Speaking of the cast, one element of praise was the newcomers, such as Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), who comes off as a mix of the comics and how the 2021 game presented the character, with his Shakespearean dialogue feeling out of place, akin to a fish out of the water, was pretty funny. I hope to see Poulter return down the line because I felt there was a sense of untapped potential waiting to emerge, but his role was still crucial to the film’s fabric.
I will admit I enjoyed Zoe Salanda’s return as Gamora and how the role reversal of her and Nebula’s arcs was quite insightful. It gave a different layer to when we were first introduced to these characters during the events of “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014). I praise Gunn for establishing that this isn’t the same Gamora without appearing shoehorned. Instead, everything Gunn’s script brings forth is integral and organic to the growth of the arc being displayed.
One highlight of praise I need to address is how sweet and funny Maria Bakalova was as Cosmo The Space Dog. The motion capture felt so real. I noticed a similarity in how Bakalova’s performance was similar to other Disney characters like Doug from Pixar’s Up, with the collar having a voice modulator and speaking of arcs coming to a close. Many helped others through the fear, and it all felt essential.
Finally rounding out the Guardians was Groot, again brought to life by Vin Diesel, who shined. I noticed the character had a bigger role and acted as the audience at times, and other portions of the film were the heart and delivered some thrilling action.
Now in terms of the film’s villain, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), his role felt fleshed out and added to the execution of the movie while systematically pushing our heroes to the limit and coming off as a true sadistic antagonist. Every time he appeared on screen, you could feel your stomach twisting, and his ideology of “creating the perfect society” and his methods to achieve that goal were nauseating. Like the collector, his direction is riddled with pain as he disregards life’s value.
Still, the little details, such as his costume design and how his face was essentially stitched on, were a nice touch to reflect his ideals and value from the Marvel Comics lore. Iwuji also elevated his character’s performance with the ability to channel his emotions, which was impressive. You could feel the anger, sadness, or broken solace cracking every time the music or tone shifted from happy and joyous to the cold dread of reality-something the film does present to the audience in significant portions throughout its runtime.
Both ideals converge and connect quite well because the purpose and theme of the Guardians have always been delivered as finding family and overcoming our struggles and fear to become the person we are meant to be. Whereas the High Evolutionary is a multi-layered and complex villain, quite possibly the direction, Marvel Studios has been striving for years.
The presentation and content are darker in tone and delivery. It’s pushing the fabric almost becoming Marvel Studios’ first official R-rated film, but it still retains the PG-13 rating. There are concepts of animal cruelty, tons of blood, and the perfect inclusion of the MCU’s first official and canon f-bomb. If honest, the film does play with the balance of tone, showing the desperation and pain of each character and the obstacle of overcoming the malice to receive closure.
In addition to the well-rounded cast and how everyone has a strong performance tethered to the completion of each arc, I want to touch upon the masterful visuals, impressive set, and costume design. One of my favorite elements of this film was the comic-accurate attention to detail on the Guardian’s suits. They were perfectly replicated and plucked from the historic Marvel Iconography. It added to the cohesion and the growth of how this team has become a family and the sense of unity.
Regarding Marvel Panels being transferred to the silver screen, I loved how tangible and real the sets felt. Knowhere still comes off as the nucleus and home of the Guardians, but it goes beyond the team’s home; we see characters hanging out, playing cards, having side narratives, and it never felt dull.
Counter-Earth was another location the film takes us to, which was interesting. The subjection of a docile environment and banal community, but instead of taking notes from past variations such as the futuristic neon landscape from the classic animated “Spider-Man: Unlimited” series, the world was somewhat stuck in the late ’60s or early ’70s. The best way to describe that portion of the film was the classic episode of “Twilight Zone,” “Monsters on Mulberry Street.” Watching the white picket fences and the nuclear family was uneasy, only to realize the reign of terror and shroud of horror that the High Evolutionary cast.
Everything featuring Rocket and his past is vital to why the film works. Going into detail about the others he met would tarnish the emotional journey that Gunn weaves. Cooper’s performance solidifies his casting as Rocket as one of the best Marvel Studios ever achieved. Everything in this film succeeds in bringing to the forefront some of the best character moments the MCU has ever crafted.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a James Gunn film without the incredible flow and brutality of the action, and there is plenty throughout. Still, I must preach that “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3” contains one of the best camera and choreographed action sequences Marvel has put forth. It’s just comic book insanity, and I hope everyone is taking notes because Gunn has once broken the ceiling and set the gold standard.
It’s incredible to magnify why the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films are some of the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as this chapter has officially drawn to a close, and the audience has evolved and grown from this ride lasting nine years is perfect commentary.
The reason the emotion transcends the script and screen is Gunn’s ability to elevate the value of set design, colors, and tone, as I previously mentioned. All are themes and messages the director wants the audience to take away from each of his films. And in turn, one can notice that each chapter of this MCU trilogy is built upon the journey and character progression predicated on the values of family, love, and closure.
“Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3.” is a true cinematic masterpiece and experience like none other. It’s dark, heartfelt, balanced, rich with direction, and beautiful to its core.