“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” was written and directed by James Gunn and is the final installment in his Guardians franchise. After an attack from a being called Adam Warlock, Rocket is critically injured and, in order to save his life, the Guardians embark on a mission leading them to Rocket’s malicious creator, the High Evolutionary. The film is intercut with flashbacks of Rocket’s soul-crushing origin story, which is the heart of the movie.
Getting the negatives out of the way, the plot for this film is a little clunky. Rocket apparently can’t be saved by normal means due to his creator leaving some sort of kill-switch in him, so the Guardians have to go on a video game quest for a McGuffin data chip which will erase the kill-switch or something. Also, the way Gamora rejoins the Guardians is pretty forced and rushed. However, I appreciate that the mission is deeply personal, character-focused, and, in comparison to most other MCU films, lower stakes, so I was somewhat willing to roll with the punches here.
Another issue is how Gunn addresses the Guardians’ powers. What I mean by this is a character — let’s take Nebula for example — will have a certain ability introduced (in her case, the power to shoot lasers from her robotic arm) and will only use it once, never again utilizing it for later situations when it would come in handy. It’s such a lazy and ignorant writing mechanic. Also, without getting into spoilers, there’s one scene toward the end of the film with Star-Lord that was wholly unnecessary and absurd. It desperately needed to be cut, and I have no idea why Gunn ever thought that scene was a good idea.
Complaints aside, I practically adored “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” The MCU has been catastrophic since “Avengers: Infinity War,” with almost nothing good being released, and what was good being deeply flawed (Endgame and No Way Home). This dying behemoth of a franchise desperately needed a hit, and it got one. Vol. 3 is possibly their best film since Infinity War. It packs a poignant punch, warts and all.
Of course the most heartbreaking moments of the film are with Rocket’s brutal backstory. Gunn didn’t hold anything back, showing all the horrors of animal cruelty, torture, and psychological torment that made Rocket into the deeply broken character he is. The new animals introduced as his original friend group, despite having limited screentime, are instantly lovable. They’re so sweet despite their mutilated bodies and when tragedy strikes them later, the audience is nearly as distraught as Rocket.
I also appreciated how Gunn never cut dramatic beats in the film with a joke. While there is some humor in this film, it’s never present in the more grim scenes, which are always allowed to breathe. Chris Pratt in particular gives his greatest performance yet; all the cast-members are on their A-game for this film.
I had many issues with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” a bloated mess of a film with character inconsistencies, particularly with Drax. In the first film, he was a more serious character grieving the loss of his daughter, whereas in the sequel he was nothing but comic relief. In this final film, Drax finally has the best of both worlds. He’s never been funnier but is also given an arc where he’s able to become a father figure again. This is also aided by Dave Bautista’s performance; Bautista is probably the most talented thespian in the cast after Bradley Cooper.
The most impressive part of Gunn’s script was how he addressed the new version of Gamora. I thought that it was a giant mistake to bring her back in Endgame, and when I saw the trailers for this film I thought she was going to be nothing but an annoying presence which ruined the sacrifice in Infinity War. Yet she wasn’t. Instead, Gunn clearly establishes that this Gamora is far different from the original and he cleverly used this one as a metaphor for Star-Lord overcoming his grief. He thankfully doesn’t redo the romance. I still believe she never should’ve been brought back and that Gunn was, frankly, screwed over by Endgame, but he did the best with what he was given and I have to give the film props for that.
On a technical level, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is easily the best of the trilogy. Gunn has evolved as an action director, particularly in the hallway fight scene at the end of the film. He’s also an impressive creative force, with each world, set, and alien race being entirely imaginative and weird in the best ways possible. Vol. 3 has the most stunning set, costume, and makeup design in the whole MCU. In fact, this film has broken the world record for most prosthetics in a movie, with over 22,500 pieces used.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” certainly has a sloppy plot (although it’s far better than every Marvel film’s narrative since Infinity War), it overcomes its faults thanks to the unflinching gut punches, amazing characters, excellent worldbuilding, and stellar cast. It’s an immensely satisfying conclusion and I pray Marvel doesn’t dredge Gunn’s characters back up to obliterate them.