Time: 150 Minutes
Age Rating: M – Violence & offensive language
Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord
Zoe Saldaña as Gamora
Dave Bautista as Drax
Karen Gillan as Nebula
Pom Klementieff as Mantis
Vin Diesel as Groot
Bradley Cooper as Rocket
Will Poulter as Adam Warlock
Sean Gunn as Kraglin
Chukwudi Iwuji as the High Evolutionary
Linda Cardellini as Lylla
Nathan Fillion as Master Karja
Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord
Director: James Gunn
Still reeling from the loss of Gamora, Peter Quill must rally his team to defend the universe and protect one of their own. If the mission is not completely successful, it could possibly lead to the end of the Guardians as we know them.
The Guardians of the Galaxy movies are weird for me. For many, they are among the best movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and have quite the fanbase. Even as interest in the MCU declines, many detractors have claimed that GOTG 3 would be their last movie before they drop off the franchise for good. Personally I have found them to be pretty good, but there’s plenty preventing me from loving them. So I wasn’t exactly the most excited for Vol. 3, not helped by the recent string of fairly underwhelming MCU movies (like Ant Man 3 and Thor 4) and the uninspiring trailers. So it’s to my surprise that it ended up being one of my favourite MCU movies.
Some of my criticisms with James Gunn’s past comic book movies is that some of the attempted emotion and sincerity don’t always works, especially with how its paired alongside an otherwise goofy story and silly antics, leading to a very tonally inconsistent film (The Suicide Squad being a big example of this). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a massive improvement on this however. This surprisingly darker story and the more resonant moments are quite present throughout; I was able to buy into everything that was happening, and was emotionally invested with the characters and their journeys. For what it’s worth, I’d highly recommend rewatching Vol 1, 2 (and maybe Infinity War and Endgame) before this, because it really helps to emphasise the progression that these characters have gone through. As said earlier, Vol. 3 has a much darker story compared to the previous two movies, with a heavy focus on Rocket’s past, and taking on certain topics including animal testing and eugenics. The flashbacks on a younger Rocket are very well done and hit in the ways that they need to. There’s some good character work here, and the heart and emotion delivered as intended. I also liked the lower stakes of the plot; even when it reaches the climax of the movie, Vol. 3 isn’t about saving the whole world like the previous movies were. While the main antagonist is certainly very powerful and dangerous, the thing that causes the Guardians of the Galaxy to come into conflict with him is more personal. James Gunn’s humour is a little hit or miss, and generally it doesn’t work for me like it does for others. However, it felt less forced in Vol. 3 and doesn’t halt the story for elaborate comedic hijinks. For what it’s worth, it’s most effectively funny of the three GOTG movies. There are some sections in the first half that I potentially could see dragging on a rewatch, but on my first viewing I was on board for the 2 hours and 30 minutes runtime. There’s only one subplot which I felt was unnecessary (which I’ll mention later), but it didn’t take away from the rest of the movie too much. Without getting into it, Vol. 3 is clearly intended as a conclusion, and it was satisfying seeing where the characters end up. Unlike most of the MCU, there is a distinct feeling of finality that really added to the movie.
The actors of the Guardians of the Galaxy with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper are great in their parts. The found family thing was a little hard to buy into in their earlier appearances, but by Vol. 3, it’s completely believable. The chemistry between them is great, and they deliver on the comedic and emotional scenes. I liked seeing how far the characters have progressed, especially Nebula and Drax. The villain of this movie is named The High Evolutionary and is played by Chukwudi Iwuji. He is over the top, isn’t particularly complex and isn’t given much backstory. However, the writing and the committed way Iwuji plays him makes the character work, and is by far the most hateable villain in the whole MCU. Definitely one of the better villains in the franchise. Not all of the characters in the movie are great, this is especially the case with the roles played by Will Poulter and Elizabeth Debicki. Debicki reprises her role from GOTG 2, and she gets to do even less here. Poulter plays the character of Adam Warlock, and he is funny in his screentime. That being said, my only explanation as to why Warlock is even here is that James Gunn felt obligated to include him after teasing the character’s appearance in Vol. 2’s credit scene. While he is critical to the plot in a couple instances, he easily could’ve been written out of the story, and it would be made for a slightly better movie.
James Gunn’s direction is pretty good, definitely the best work I’ve seen from him so far. The visuals are pretty good, especially when compared to the look and CGI of the recent MCU movies. The production design is solid, and there’s a lot of great prosthetics and makeup. As expected with it being a GOTG movie. the songs are well picked, and the score from John Murphy is also quite good.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a surprisingly heartfelt, dark, and emotional conclusion to the GOTG movies, with a great cast and characters, and entertaining action. While it’s certainly possible that it won’t work as well on repeat viewings, this movie really worked for me considering that I was a massive sceptic going in. Of the 3 solo Guardians of the Galaxy movies, it’s by far the best, and is also one of the best films in the MCU.