Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is heartfelt, emotionally charged, and earnest, something recent MCU films lack. James Gunn’s writing can be hit-or-miss at times but Vol.3 delivers an emotionally high-stakes story that keeps you invested and entertained throughout.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 feels ripped out of an older phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Phase 4 taking a slightly cheaper approach in both visual quality and writing, Vol.3 feels like a return to form. Following the core cast of Guardians, this film is less a swashbuckling adventure across the Galaxy and more of an internalized journey. The core plot centers around Rocket Raccoon’s past and how the team sets out to save him while also confronting their past traumas.
Vol. 3 is ultimately a very satisfying conclusion to the Guardians’ story and part of the reason is the balance of tone. Director James Gunn, who is now leading the charge at DC and helming the new Superman movie, manages to balance the humor and action of the previous films while allowing the characters to experience new emotional depths. I was not a fan of Guardians Vol. 2, mostly because the slapstick humor and one-liners felt overbearing. Likewise, I felt The Suicide Squad was overindulgent and messy. There was not much confidence from this critic on this Guardians finale, but that made the pleasant surprise of it being great that much sweeter. In particular, Rocket Raccoon’s arc as the thematic core of the movie added an extra layer of emotional depth to the story that brought out the best of Gunn’s strengths.
The performances in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 are also great, with each member of the ensemble bringing something fresh to the table. Zoe Saldana continues to shine as Gamor and had one of the best performances in the film. Chris Pratt seems to be everywhere in Hollywood these days, particularly in animation but his portrayal of Peter Quill continues to be his best. There is an added sense of gravitas to his character in this film, as he comes to terms with the events of previous films. However, it’s Bradley Cooper’s performance as Rocket Raccoon that truly steals the show. There is a wide range of emotions in his performance and it gave the film an emotional through line to hold on to, even when the humor and slapstick from the other characters got a little old.
It is safe to say James Gunn’s humor is not for everyone. The witty one-liners may not always play out as well on screen as they do on the page and that plays out on Vol. 3 as well. The second act in particular, and scenes where Gunn can’t help but insert his family members and close friends as cameos take you out of the story. There is a very fine line between a fun cameo and nepotism and Gunn tends to fall into the latter. There are moments in the film that feel like an SNL skit featuring the Guardians characters, and that is when the film ends up being at its worst. Here’s hoping that the family cameos come to an end with Guardians 3 and don’t plague his upcoming Superman movie.
In conclusion, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is very a satisfying and heartfelt conclusion to the trilogy. The film manages to strike the right balance between humor, action, and emotional depth. Rocket Raccoon’s arc steals the show and is a standout element of the film. Overall, one of the better Marvel movies in recent years.