The third and final chapter in James Gunn’s beloved MCU franchise takes us deeper into the backstory of its witty raccoon pilot, wrapping up character arcs and bringing their journeys to a surprisingly satisfying close amid the MCU in comparative shambles.
Through a series of captivating flashbacks, we learn the origins of Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, as a weapon experiment conducted by the new big-bad named The High Evolutionary - an intergalactic geneticist on a mission to create the perfect species. Rocket's intelligence surpasses his creator, and now he seeks to protect others from the same horrors he endured.
“This story has been yours all along. You just didn’t know it.”— Block A 🟣🟢 (@VillainousComix) May 7, 2023
He is LITERALLY the main character. Bradley Cooper officially deserves to be up there with Reynolds, RDJ, and Jackman in terms of perfectly cast CBM characters!
Rocket Raccoon 🦝 ❤️ pic.twitter.com/EDilwsUnEw
Clocking in at 150 minutes, the film feels longer due to its extensive use of flashbacks and present-day scenes showcasing a great deal of brutal cross-species experimentation. Though the adorable flashbacks featuring Rocket make him even more endearing than Disney's recent popular green IP from Star Wars, visuals of terrified, bleeding creatures and their enormous, glistening eyeballs, leave a lasting impact on the audience and a sudden compelling urge to go give the animals in our lives the biggest, longest hug possible.
Me after seeing Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3 pic.twitter.com/Ok9ML9MK0X— Can I Essex His Springtime Serpent? (@havanesemom13) May 6, 2023
The CGI animals in the flashbacks are the most vibrant and lifelike we've seen in a while, surpassing the likes of Disney's 2019 remake of The Lion King and even the hideously rendered realistic aquatic life in Disney’s upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid. The distressing moments of animal torture elevates Volume 3 beyond standard superhero fare and into the realm of poignant storytelling that has been atypical of Marvel as of late. It seems multiple PETA violations were the way to go after all.
me everytime a rocket flashback came on in guardians of the galaxy 3 pic.twitter.com/bHiv4bY8u2— aleks (@daysbe4alekks) May 6, 2023
every time a flashback of rocket was shown in guardians of the galaxy volume 3 pic.twitter.com/1cCb98feEn— delaney • gotg3 spoliers (@ddelaneeyy) May 5, 2023
Peter "Star Lord" Quill, now drowning his sorrows in alcohol after the loss of his love Gamora, must navigate her alternate version's amnesia regarding her past affection for him and unending snark. Along with Karen Gillian’s perpetually perturbed Nebula, Dave Bautista’s playful numb-skull Drax, Pom Klementieff’s innocent Mantis and Vin Diesel practically playing himself as gym-bro Groot; embark on a mission to enlist the help of the Ravagers to rescue Rocket.
Chukwudi Iwuji's performance as the High Evolutionary differs from the “destined for higher purpose” tropes attributed to the ridiculously overpowered villains in other MCU films. He immerses himself in portraying a character who staunchly clings to his own flawed worldview through a series of exasperating tantrums, bringing out the Evolutionary’s deep-seated personal insecurities in his persistence in pursuing an impossible goal despite repeated failures.
Meanwhile, newcomer Will Poulter's portrayal of Adam Warlock, does however feel somewhat directionless. His childlike naivete and forced humor differ greatly from his brooding source material, leaving his introduction overshadowed by the emotional arcs of established characters.
adam warlock is literally me you don’t understand hes so bbg pic.twitter.com/uEPD7egMkp— Adam (@Starboy180304) May 4, 2023
But the definite show-stealers for this sequel were its assortment of animal characters. From the tragic lab experiments Teefs, Floor and Lylla, that make up Rocket's haunting past; to a fresh take on Soviet space-test dog turned telikinetic hero, Laika; Gunn capitalises on what probably started off as a lucrative merch-selling oppurtunity for Disney and moulded it to his advantage.
While Gunn fills the movie with explosive action sequences and battles, it can't disguise the script's muddled logic and scattered backstories for minor characters. However, unlike the recent lackluster Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Volume 3 showcases a restrained use of CGI-rendered realities and banks more on Gunn's signature absurd practical effects as seen with the fleshy production design and costumes of the OrgoCorp HQ.
The film also retains Gunn's personal touch, incorporating a fantastic mixtape that boasts the likes of Spacehog, The Flaming Lips and The Beastie Boys set to trippy cosmic phantasmagoria that for the first time since Spy Kids 3: Game Over, has not ended my 3D theatrical experience in regret (Indian moviegoers would understand the age-old L’s of zero-visibility 3D film screenings).
The film successfully recaptures the essence of superhero movies by emphasizing the importance of saving lives rather than taking them, celebrating the beauty of life even for its array of ridiculous alien NPC’s named in true Star Wars ‘Glup Shitto” fashion.
This has to be the best long shot in Marvel history, next to the hallway fight scene in Daredevil. James Gunn was in his bag every frame. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3 was great. pic.twitter.com/I9tr071JUf— 👑BLEACHTYBW #GOTG3 (@Animesempai0) May 6, 2023
However, the moral consistency feels shaky at times, with Quill’s cheesy flirtations often sidestepped for stunning single takes of frenzied dismemberment and murder, which in all honesty, echoes Thanos’ sentiment of….
The movie presents a theme of second chances all round, subtly echoing Gunn's own redemption story after being fired from the franchise for his questionable tweets in the past, but ultimately given another opportunity. Though reprehensible, Gunn probably doesn’t deserve to be pigeonholed into categories reminiscent of the film’s opening Radiohead cover. Rather, Gunn’s vindication seems suitably reified in Florence and the Machine's closing track for Volume 3.
Amidst its occasional setbacks, Volume 3 manages to deliver an emotional finale by showcasing the profound bond between its titular Guardians as a family that transcends blood relations. As we bid a bittersweet adieu to the “bunch of idiots standing in a circle”, the talking tree’s sudden expansion of vocabulary feels like the only encompassing sentiment resonating through the sniveling audience (which feels all the more special considering this is the first time the audience truly understands Groot)
The MCU has stumbled in its recent endeavors, leaving fans longing for the magic of old. With Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, we are reunited with beloved characters we've known and cherished for years, marking a necessary shift from lackluster experiments and disappointing debuts. The film provides a rare emotional payoff that probably won’t be as easily replicated in this franchise for the foreseeable future.
We're going with 4 out of 5 stars for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3