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Film Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ is an Emotional Goodbye to Friends From James Gunn


Throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe, no franchise has been more consistently beloved, or handled with more of a singular vision, than the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Shepherded by James Gunn, the now three movies are all big science fiction epics, to be sure, but they’re also funny tales of friendships and makeshift families. They’re more personal tales than they might initially seem on the surface, which is a part of their charm. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunn has upped the ante, making for one of Marvel’s strongest flicks in some time. Brace yourself, because this isn’t just exciting and funny, it’s emotionally devastating at times, too.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is one last ride with a team you’ve grown to love. Moreover, Gunn has made this Rocket’s story, which invests you in a CGI raccoon more than you’d ever expect. To that end, it’s worth noting that there are several harrowing scenes involving animal endangerment, albeit of the computer generated variety. It’s not done in a manner that’s offensive, but if you’re an animal lover, it’s going to be intense. That’s more evidence of how Gunn gets you to identify with his characters. The agony and the ecstasy, the heartbreak and laughter, it’s all here, just sandwiched within a sci-fi sequel in the MCU.


The Guardians of the Galaxy have set up shop on Knowhere, operating it and having a headquarters of sorts. All is not well, however, as Peter Quill / Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) continually drinks himself into a stupor, still mourning the loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldana). While Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are going about their duties as normal, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) appears to be in a funk as well, haunted by…something. When Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) arrives on Knowhere, sent by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and intending to leave with Rocket, his past comes to the forefront. Rocket is wanted as proprietary technology by The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who created him. Adam fails, due to the efforts of the team, but his attack leaves Rocket mortally wounded. Moreover, Rocket has a kill-switch inside of him preventing any medical procedure from happening. Snapping Quill out of his drunken daze, he’s determined to not let his friend die.

Leaving Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova) in charge of Knowhere, the Guardians set off to try and save Rocket’s life. As they pursue the passcode, they run up against The High Evolutionary, as well as reunite with the current version of Gamora, who shares none of Pete’s fond memories. While their quest is going on, Rocket is flashing back on his early days, including how he was created by The High Evolutionary. His tragic past, featuring haunting loss and an even sadder existence than his friends could imagine, provide the emotional core as this shapes up to be one last ride for all involved.


The cast know these roles like the backs of their hands and are relishing one last ride. Chris Pratt is ostensibly the lead again, but there’s more to do for Bradley Cooper as Rocket this time, while the rest of the team are hardly shortchanged. In fact, Karen Gillan shines with a more expressive turn. Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff again have terrific chemistry, If there’s someone with less to do, it’s Zoe Saldana, but only because of the circumstances of her character (give or take Vin Diesel, for similar reasons). Newcomers Chukwudi Iwuji and Will Poulter fit in seamlessly, with the former an intense villain, while the latter brings an amusing naïveté to an overpowered character. Supporting players rounding out the cast include the aforementioned Maria Bakalova, Elizabeth Debicki, and Sean Gunn, as well as Jennifer Holland, Daniela Melchior, Sylvester Stallone, and more.

James Gunn has such love for these characters that he imbues the audience with that love. As such, his story (co-written with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning). hits on emotional highs and dark lows, offering up the most complex script in the trilogy. His direction veers a little more serious, with fewer jokes than in the the first two, though there’s well-placed tension breakers. However, something new here is the ability to bring out tears. I freely admit that I cried more than once, though I won’t saw where. Gunn is saying goodbye to the MCU with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and to his beloved characters, so he finds incredibly effective ways to have you do the same. As always, his musical cues are on point. This is spectacle filmmaking with immense heart. Kudos to Gunn for pulling it off.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 sticks the landing. It’s an emotional goodbye to friends from James Gunn that brought me to tears on more than one occasion. He also lands on the perfect ending for this team, which may not fully be the one you’re expecting, but it’s the right one. He loves all of these characters, so no matter what state he leaves them in, it’s done with a ton of heart, intelligence, and investment. He cares as much as the fans, resulting in a Marvel adventure that is more than just top-notch blockbuster entertainment. Bring the tissues.

SCORE: ★★★1/2


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Written by Joey Magidson

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