Directed by: James Gunn
Premise: Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, the Guardians of the Galaxy have lost Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), leaving Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) heartbroken. When Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) is severely injured, the Guardians must confront The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).
What Works: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is presented as the end of the story for these characters as a group. It’s a fitting farewell that wraps up themes and storylines that extend back to the original film. Each installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy series has explored the background of the core cast while introducing new characters. Vol. 3 is primarily Rocket’s backstory and the action revolves around his origins. A surprise attack by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) puts Rocket into a coma in which he relives his past. The Guardians are set on a journey to find The High Evolutionary, a mad scientist type who is revealed to be Rocket’s creator. The two parts of the story fit together to create a whole while also deepening the stories of the rest of the cast. All the major characters get satisfying payoffs and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is surprisingly emotional. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has consistently included humor but these films rarely achieve the kind of human warmth that’s found in the Guardians films and especially in this third installment. It’s not soppy but the film does achieve an emotional impact that’s rarely found or even attempted in this kind of film. The filmmakers don’t take easy or obvious routes with their characters. The relationship between Peter and Gamora upholds the drama from Avengers: Infinity War and finds a mature and satisfying resolution of its own. While doing all of this emotional heavy lifting, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 retains the qualities that have defined the series especially the fun and the adventure and the whimsical sense of the absurd.
What Doesn’t: Contemporary action and spectacle films are frequently rated PG-13 even when that rating is unwarranted as it was for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hollywood’s PG-13 action movies have included lots of violence and high body counts but retained the lower rating because the filmmakers limited the gore and dulled the emotional impact. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has scenes concerning vivisection and animal experimentation that are upsetting. The film is never gruesome or gratuitous but parts of it are heartbreaking and the picture earns the PG-13 rating much more so than a lot of other spectacle films. Parents of small children should be aware of that going into the movie.
Bottom Line: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is an excellent trilogy capper to what is now the single best series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The third film deepens the themes and raises the stakes and gives its characters a satisfying sendoff.
Episode: #948 (May 14, 2023)