Guardians of the Galaxy was an unexpected hit in 2014. The film turned an obscure group of superheroes, fairly unknown even in the comics, into one of the most popular franchises of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was a blockbuster and a critical success, to the surprise of even the biggest Marvel fans, but every good story comes to an end. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 3 is the last film from director James Gunn, who now works for the DCU as Co-CEO. It is also the last time we will see the Guardians as we know them, as both Marvel and James Gunn have promoted the film as the last ride of the Guardians. As such, this film is an emotional and spectacular finale for the group of A-holes who stole our hearts.
Guardians take center stage
Guardians of the Galaxy is part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Vol. 3 feels more like a stand-alone adventure, rather than connected to a larger whole. Even if Thanos is mentioned by name and Gamora is the new Gamora after Avengers: Endgame, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 feels like a separate story. For example, there are no references to the events from Thor: Love and Thunder and no guest appearances by Marvel heroes and villains from other films or series. Personally, I am very happy about this myself, because the film is supposed to be a farewell for the Guardians and then it is nice if the film does not serve as a set-up for new films and series. During the film, we see how some of the characters became what they are today and some of the heroes are given a conclusion to their story in the world of the Guardians.
One of the new characters we do get to know in the film is Adam Warlock, played by Will Poultier. Although Warlock sometimes feels like an afterthought, he is a nice addition to the universe. Early in the film, it becomes clear that Warlock is very strong and a bit quirky. Poultier especially portrays that quirkiness excellently and seems to be well cast as Adam Warlock.
The fact that the film feels self-contained is not the only point that sets it apart from recent Marvel films. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 stands out visually. Cinematographically, the film is very well done with many different and interesting shots. The film is even more colorful than the previous films and has many interesting locations and environments, some of which seem inspired by Square Enix’s Guardians of the Galaxy game. The CGI in this film is really many times better than, for example, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantummania or Thor: Love and Thunder. There was not a moment in the film where I was taken out of the story by bad animation, which was the case several times in the aforementioned films. Of course, as befits a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the music is again hilarious. There is something for every music lover, from hip-hop to rock ‘n roll. Vol. 3 also adds some new aliens, beasts and monsters that have the craziest shapes and outfits. These creatures all look very good and, of course, have a Guardians twist.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is about acceptance. The Guardians learn to appreciate themselves and each other, with all their faults and quirks. They discover that their shortcomings can also be their strengths. For example, Rocket Raccoon is one of the main characters who learns to accept himself. Together we learn how Rocket became the way he is. Another important part is Star-Lord struggling to accept that his Gamora is no longer around and how he deals with this. The theme around acceptance does not end there. As we know, the Guardians like to argue among themselves over the most silly things; it’s no different in this film. But in Vol. 3, emotions run so high that the Guardians cannot resolve it with sarcastic one-liners, no they have to open themselves up emotionally.
The storylines surrounding acceptance make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 feel much more mature than the previous two films. Something James Gunn has hinted at before. The mature feel of the film is not only due to the emotional aspect, the action is more brutal than ever and the boundaries of PG-13 have been pushed. Star-Lord and co are not averse to a few swear words and the maximum number of swear words in a PG-13 film is certainly achieved. In the process, the action in the film is accompanied by richly flowing alien blood and limbs.
Which brings us to the film’s big bad guy; the High Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji. The High Evolutinary is one of the MCU’s better new villains. As befits a true villain, he is evil through and through, but he will never admit that to himself. The High Evolutinary has one goal: to create the perfect race. Nothing and no one will stand in his way of achieving this goal. The end justifies the means, is not a slogan for him, but a way of life. This means there are many gruesome moments with cute life forms in the film.
The mature feel of the film does not mean that funny moments are lacking in Vol. 3. In terms of humor, it is a typical Guardians of the Galaxy movie with jokes as we have come to expect from James Gunn and Marvel. I laughed a lot during the movie, but sometimes skits and the jokes really did go on just a little too long. It could be due to my sense of humor, but it is something that most new Marvel films seem to suffer from. Fortunately, the jokes don’t undermine the emotional moments.
An emotional farewell
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a farewell for more people than just James Gunn, for example, Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana have let it be known that they will not return as Drax and Gamora after this film, so it is fair to conclude that the Guardians as we know them now will not be returning to the Galaxy for a fourth time. Given all this, the film has the tough task of ending the trilogy with dignity. I can tell you: it succeeded. Thanks to the running time of 2.5 hours, all the Guardians are given time to shine and develop personally, and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) in particular steals the show. Gunn manages to establish a good flow throughout the film. Vol 3. does not consist of non-stop action and there are many tempo changes that benefit the development of all the characters making everything build up to a nice conclusion to this Guardians adventure.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is an excellent finale to James Gunn’s Guardians trilogy and a worthy farewell for the Guardians. Cinematically, the film looks good and visually it is one of the most appealing Marvel films. In terms of action and vocabulary, the film pushes the boundaries of a PG-13 film and in terms of content, it is a very mature MCU film. The CGI is good, so good that I wondered what went wrong with the previous MCU films. It is unfortunate, though, that the jokes sometimes go on a little too long and that Adam Warlock is more of an afterthought in this film. I expected more from him. All in all, I enjoyed the movie very much and was not bored for a minute during Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the emotional moments and self-reflection of the Guardians managed to touch me. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a great ending for the trilogy.