Directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 has blasted into theaters. Ironically, the film kicks off the summer blockbuster season when it is essentially a dear John letter between Marvel fans and the cast and characters they have come to know and love over the years. It will be the final installment in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and the last time that the initial lineup of Guardians will appear together in the MCU. The finalities do not end there with this film as this movie is Gunn's last venture with the MCU as well as the last time that cast members like Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana will take up the cowl. With all these finalities, this latest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film has huge expectations to live up to and, boy, does it.
In this trilogy finale, we follow the titular Guardians-who are still dealing with the shake-ups caused by the events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019)-as they fight against the machinations of the High Evolutionary (played by Chukwudi Iwuji). I believe the High Evolutionary to be a very compelling and disturbing villain. This is thanks to Iwuji's haunting performance, the horrendous actions we see the character commit in the film, his sheer narcissism, and his connection to Guardian Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). This connection is at the forefront of the story as the film centers on Rocket. The film delves into his tragic backstory through multiple flashbacks to Rocket's past that will stir watchers, particularly animal lovers, to tears. Although the film is still a colorful comedy like the previous films, it pulls no punches in displaying the cruelty experienced by Rocket and other beings like him that we see used by the High Evolutionary in his scientific endeavors to create what he deems 'perfect'. Something else that will strike a chord with the audience is how the dynamic between the High Revolutionary and Rocket frames the former as a narcissistic paternal figure that is both physically and mentally abusive. It is a dynamic that I don't doubt will hit a little too close to home for some viewers.
Throughout his time in the MCU, the furball that is Rocket Raccoon has always been easy to laugh at due to his crass and trigger-happy nature. This can cause the average Marvel fan to not see him in a serious light as they would with a character like Nebula (played by Karen Gillian). In its focus on him, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 tears the perception of Rocket as simple comic relief into ribbons by divulging his tragic past and displaying his harrowing dynamic with the High Evolutionary. The latter makes Rocket's final confrontation with the High Evolutionary more than just a simple fight between hero and villain. It makes it an empowering moment where a survivor confronts their abuser and takes back their power from them. In doing all this and using it to egg on Rocket's development in the film, Gunn makes Rocket the beating heart of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
How the film addresses the post-Endgame situation with Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana) is something I find to be well done. At multiple points in the story, Star-Lord/Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt) attempts to project pre-Infinity War Gamora onto post-Endgame Gamora. Not only is he consistently rebuffed by Gamora, but the story also even goes as far as to have the new Gamora call Quill out on his codependency issues. Allowing Quill to be flawed in this way makes seeing him start down a new path at the end of the film satisfying.
I am absolutely in love with what the film does with Gamora. This is not the same Gamora that we've come to know: both the film & the Gamora herself shout that at both the audience and Quill. Her storyline is refreshing in how it subverts the widespread trope of a female character being the emotional support for a male character. One could call her storyline feminist as we see a female character vividly refusing to be defined by her connection to a male character. I respect the film for taking such a path with Gamora's character and respecting her autonomy throughout the film.
The other characters are done justice as well. Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) are a spectacular comedy duo, as per usual. But they are given an ample amount of character depth. Due to the groundwork set up in the previous films and Gillian's balanced performance, Nebula stands fully formed and malleable to both the film’s comedic and heartwarming moments. Side characters like Kraglin (played by Sean Gunn) and Cosmo the Spacedog (voiced by Maria Bakalova) are nothing to sneeze at with them providing ample support to the main stars with them being so well-placed in the story.
The action in this film is what you expect from a Marvel film, one huge spectacle with guns, knives, flying, kicking, and slashing. How they handle Mantis in fight scenes is so fun due to how unconventional and unique her fighting style is. A thing about fight scenes in Gunn's movies is that there will always be comedy. That was the case in this film as well and it worked out great. The best fight in the film is the hallway fight thanks to the spectacular camerawork used in that scene.
In essence, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 is a great movie. I would dare call it one of the best Marvel movies to come out in recent years. We have stellar performances from Cooper, Pratt, Gillian, Mikaela Hoover, and Klementieff. James Gunn once again proves that he is a superhero maverick and continues his trend of producing S-tier superhero flicks. I highly recommend people to watch this film as it is a great watch, one of the best MCU products to come out in years, and a proper send-off to one of cinema’s most beloved superhero teams.
Edited Kavya Venkateshwaran
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