Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

As we reach the conclusion of an era, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 marks a pivotal moment in the Marvel cinematic universe. Director James Gunn, who introduced a group of unconventional heroes to the world in 2014, now bids farewell to both Marvel and the beloved Guardians themselves. Let’s explore whether this cinematic journey comes to a satisfying close.

Volume three wastes no time, picking up shortly after The Holiday Special, where key revelations from that special add depth to the narrative. The Guardians find themselves in the crosshairs of the enigmatic High Evolutionary, portrayed by Chukwudi Iwuji. He commands the Sovereign, his experimental creations, to capture Rocket, an escaped experiment from his past. The Guardians are forced to devise a daring plan to save their comatose friend, involving theft, mischief, and a reunion with the 2014-era Gamora.

Rocket’s character takes center stage as he experiences poignant flashbacks to his captivity in the High Evolutionary’s labs and the meaningful connections he forged during that time. These sequences are emotionally resonant and provide a darker dimension rarely explored in the MCU. The High Evolutionary serves as a compelling antagonist, more a psychological foe for Rocket than a universal threat. The film strikes a balance between action and narrative depth, with a standout one-shot hallway scene featuring a killer soundtrack, a highlight of MCU action sequences.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 feels like a quintessential James Gunn film, characterized by his distinctive style, pushing the boundaries of the PG-13 rating. The movie is laced with quirky humor, including the MCU’s first F-bomb, and substantial violence. It ranks as one of the darkest and most violent entries in the mainline Marvel films, making it unsuitable for younger audiences. Gunn excels in navigating the dysfunctional family dynamic, seamlessly shifting between laughter and tears. He masterfully handles the tonal shifts, ensuring each Guardian, even Drax, has their moment to shine. The introduction of a different timeline Gamora adds a confrontational and isolationist element to her character, setting her apart.

While the film’s duration may feel slightly extended by about fifteen minutes, and purists may find Adam Warlock’s portrayal deviating from the comics, the movie’s strengths overshadow these minor flaws. It delivers a touching, humorous, tragic, and intricate exploration of purpose and family dynamics. In my opinion, it surpasses Volume 2 and serves as a much-needed success for Marvel. This film provides a fitting farewell for both the characters and James Gunn himself. As expected, there are two post-credit scenes, with one offering a thought-provoking final statement. Be sure to stay for those.