PG Score: 8.75/10
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was released in theaters on 5/5/23
Believe the hype. It's the end of an era, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 did it in style and delivered the best MCU movie since Spider-Man: No Way Home. Back in 2014, there was little expected of this group of characters I personally knew little about. It looked too far out there and unrealistic, especially with two of the main characters being CGI. But James Gunn (Peacemaker) was the right man for the job. It was all about the characters and the relationships between them that grounded this far-out-there franchise in reality. It was a long road to get here amid controversies and a worldwide pandemic, but the seventh and last outing with this cast of misfits just might be their best film to date.
These characters have become like second skins for the cast after playing them so much over the years. It's very easy to see them as a family with how well-oiled the chemistry is between them. Zoe Saldana (Avatar) got to break the mold a bit this time around as she truly embraced this second incarnation of Gamora. The dynamic between her and Nebula and her and Quill kept the relationships fresh and added some emotional turmoil to an already emotional farewell film. Will Poulter (We're the Millers) was underutilized throughout the film but was serviceable, as his introduction has bigger implications for the future. The High Evolutionary played the villain to a tee.
Manic and obsessive, Chukwudi Iwuji (Designated Survivor) embraced the madness of his character and gave us a unique antagonist that gave a masterful performance and another top-notch bad guy in the MCU with his own agenda. Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) has been great each time out, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was where he truly shined. Given a lot to work with, his character was fleshed out and the transformation from Vol. 1 was never more evident than what he went through in this film. Chris Pratt (Jurassic World) as Star-Lord has been through the wringer since we were introduced to him in Vol. 1. All the emotional upheavals and losses he's experienced play out in Vol. 3, and seeing his character trying to reconnect with a different Gamora leaves us with some of the funnier moments, along with some of the sadder ones.
Last and definitely not least is Karen Gillan (Dual) as Nebula. Her character has gone through the most growth throughout the Guardians run and has become a de facto leader of the group. Gillan has been an MVP for the MCU and there is a moment in the film when she truly pulls at the heartstrings.
Music, Effects, and Story
Gunn's ability to choose music for his films has been unmatched. Writing it into the script allows for natural moments to occur with a beautiful soundtrack to back it up. All three of the films have had great music to go with them that could tell the story itself without any dialogue needed. The special effects have only gotten better and the realism of Rocket and Groot makes it seem like those characters are really there in the flesh. The balance of realism and fantasy has never been better, allowing for the addition of a ton of unbelievable extra characters who don't seem that far out of the place. The sense of danger and urgency was prevalent throughout, and while the film lacks a certain payoff, it works with the emotional context of the story.
A Touching, Worthy Conclusion to Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 delivered on all levels. It was funny and sad and had great action to go along with it. The emotional payoff was heavy and even brought a few tears to my eyes. Some of the characters we won't see again, and others have bright futures. But the feel-good ending had me leaving the theater happy, even though this is the last time we see this iteration of the Guardians. Aside from Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy is only the second solo franchise in the MCU to deliver three solid films. It's sad we won't see all these actors together again, but the payoff was beautifully done. I look forward to what is in store for the future of the remaining characters.
While the film closes out James Gunn’s run with Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and his work overall leaves me with high hopes for what he will bring to the DCEU.