You'll love it if:
- You’ve been a long-time fan of the MCU or the Guardians
- You don’t mind a superhero movie tugging at your heartstrings
- Your faith in the MCU has been shaken by the few recent releases
Not for you if:
- You’re experiencing superhero fatigue
- You’re not much of a Guardians fan to begin with
- You don’t like body horror in your action comedy movies
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been a bit turbulent in recent years. Ever since Avengers: Endgame capped off a decade-long Infinity Saga, fans were hoping for a new overarching storyline to begin. With Phase Five well underway, and with the recent few releases not living up to the marketing hype, there’s been a bit of fatigue surrounding the MCU.
Disney’s diversification into the TV realm hasn’t helped much, with rare few projects like WandaVision and Loki being as rewarding to watch as advertised. Enter Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, the final chapter in James Gunn’s unlikely series. With expectations for this release being higher than ever due to Gunn’s newly-acquired position as the co-CEO of DC at Warner Bros., how does the movie fare? Is it a satisfying conclusion to our heroes’ long journey or is it another by-the-numbers sequel of which the MCU has had its fair share of lately?
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is everything the fans were hoping for in the team’s final hurrah. James Gunn and his crew poured their heart and soul into this script and it shows from start to finish. Only time will tell when and how we’ll see these beloved characters again on the big screen, or Disney+. For now, at least, the saga of the Guardians is at a satisfying, albeit open-ended conclusion.
Laying the Groundwork for the Finale
Guardians of the Galaxy always had an uphill battle to fight when it was first announced. The movie relied on a group of misfits who call themselves “Guardians of the Galaxy” of all things – how could the formula ever work on the big screen? Fast-forward to 2023, and Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 has become the most anticipated MCU release in recent years. As is tradition, James Gunn is once more at the helm as the writer and director, someone who has been an integral part of the Guardians’ journey ever since they joined the MCU.
Returning to Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 are the fan favourites, Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as Groot, and Bradley Cooper as Rocket. They’re joined by Karen Gillan as Nebula, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Sean Gunn as Kraglin, and Maria Bakalova as Cosmo the Spacedog (a breakout favourite of the movie). Returning from his Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 post-credits scene is Adam Warlock, played by Will Poulter, a powerful artificial being created to hunt down the Guardians.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is stacked when it comes to its cast – the Guardians are bigger than ever, but somehow, it all “works”. There’s not a moment where the viewer might feel as if there’s too much going on, or if any of the characters has received less attention than they deserved. Instead, James Gunn managed to use every minute of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 and its 150-minute runtime to tell a heartfelt story of love, family, and finding one’s self in a vast, confusing galaxy. It takes a seasoned storyteller to combine human characters with a telepathic dog, a talking tree, and a genetically-modified racoon (we sincerely apologize, Rocket) and make it all work.
This is Rocket’s Story, First and Foremost
Bradley Cooper’s Rocket has been a fan favourite alongside Vin Diesel’s Groot ever since the first Guardians of the Galaxy. However, we’ve barely got to know anything about his backstory and resentment of being called “a racoon” over the years. While comic book fans might have an idea or two of where Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 might be going, everyone else is in for an emotional, nerve-wracking ride.
The third instalment in this series was always meant to be Rocket’s story – his journey of self-discovery and reflection on who he was and who he can become. Despite him being a walking and talking CGI racoon, he manages to pull at the heartstrings and truly stand out in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. Ironically enough, everyone else’s arcs come to a “conclusion” of sorts in this movie, while Rocket’s story feels like it only concluded its first act by the end of the movie. Without delving into spoiler territory, we can safely say that his long-time fans are in for a treat with this one.
However, be mindful of whether you’ll bring younger siblings or children with you to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. Even though it is a superhero movie at its core, it does have quite a bit of body horror and scenes which younger viewers might find upsetting. Think Made in Abyss combined with Watership Down. There is no body horror involving humans in the movie at all, but there is a lot of organic, bodily imagery which some might find disturbing even if it’s sometimes played off for laughs.
Marvel’s Villain Problem
The MCU has always had issues with building up solid villains for our heroes to face. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 does go a step farther than most MCU movies do but it’s still a far cry from Thanos. This time around, the villain is one Dr Herbert Wyndham, or The High Evolutionary, played by the talented Chukwudi Iwuji.
While he does serve his role as the central antagonist to our crew, he’s still mostly just a plot element for our heroes to overcome. Even the aforementioned Adam Warlock quickly becomes more of a bad guy turned good by the end of the movie, which is fine. At the end of the day, Marvel movies are a series of intertwining stories meant to serve as a singular, long journey for our characters.
Similar to the medium of television, it’s difficult to keep coming up with new “villain of the week” type foes for the main protagonists. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is best enjoyed as what it’s advertised as – one last ride for our heroes, not as an introduction to a game-changing new big-bad for the MCU.
The Movie’s Soundtrack Shines, as is Tradition
Given that Peter Quill is from Earth, making it that his only memento from his time there is a Sony Walkman was a stroke of genius by James Gunn. This allowed him to implement era-specific songs, mainly from the 70s and 80s, into the first two movies without them seeming out of place in space. This time around, he expanded the soundtrack to include both the 90s and 2000s and the results are expectedly phenomenal.
You’ll hear songs from Radiohead, Alice Cooper, Florence and the Machine, Bruce Springsteen and many others in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. Best of all, each song is now appropriately placed so that it reflects the characters’ moods and actions. This is the most intimate and close look at the Guardians we’ve had so far. So, songs like Radiohead’s Creep or Rainbow’s Since You Been Gone are used to elevate the emotional impact of each scene.
That’s not to say that there are no funky or upbeat songs to be found here, however – it’s still a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The movie’s amazing selection of songs is followed by the now industry-standard orchestral music which doesn’t do the movie’s story justice as well as Peter’s Walkman.
Catching up with the Guardians
Seeing as this is a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, it goes without saying that there’s some homework you should do beforehand. The third entry in the Guardians’ saga is full of payoffs to setups brought up long ago in the first entry in this trilogy. As such, much of its subtext might be lost to the viewer. For the younger ones who simply enjoy a good time with some snacks, this shouldn’t be an issue.
So, to truly enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 and all of its story beats, here’s what you should watch before heading to your local cinema:
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Avengers: Endgame
- Thor: Love and Thunder
- The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
While the list may seem overwhelming, it’s been made less so thanks to Disney+. Disney and Marvel have done an amazing job of making it easy for fans to jump in and catch up on their favourite heroes’ journeys. All you need is an afternoon or two of free time and a Disney+ subscription – no DVD or Blu-Ray rentals are required. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is enjoyable as a standalone movie, but it’s doubly emotional and rewarding if you’ve come to know and love these characters beforehand.
Should you Watch Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3?
This movie is a love letter from James Gunn to people who’ve grown fond of the Guardians over the years. The movie doesn’t rely on clichés such as the destruction of the universe to drive its plot forward. Instead, we’re treated to a more intimate, personal take on these characters’ lives.
In that sense, James Gunn succeeds to merge comedy and drama, joy and sadness, action and quiet moments unlike ever before in this trilogy. While we can’t be sure where or how we’ll get to see these characters again, especially with James Gunn’s new obligations at Warner Bros. and DC, one thing’s for certain: Both his characters, and the writer/director himself have developed, matured, and changed throughout this journey, culminating in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.
And while there are two post-credits scenes present, as is tradition, they’re in no way critical to your viewing or “what’s to come”. They’re charming little vignettes which set up a brighter, more hopeful future for the Guardians, without relying on teasing a carrot on the stick for the viewers. This is a much healthier approach to handling these scenes because, with Disney+ shows, it’s already hard enough to keep up with the MCU. Throwing in mandatory post-credits plot development would be too much at this point, and Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 doesn’t go there at all.
We can only hope that more Marvel projects follow the same path and learn the valuable lessons of planting seeds and letting them flourish, just as they once did with The Infinity Saga. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is a good time and you should absolutely give it a watch, especially if Marvel’s recent output felt “off” to you compared to pre-Endgame projects.