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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3: Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is a story of redemption, freedom, and family that reminds us why we love these intergalactic outcasts and invites us to embrace our own scars.

Why do we love the Guardians of the Galaxy? In Vol 3, writer-director James Gunn and co-writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning prove that they definitely know how to answer that question. We don’t love this intergalactic gang because they teamed up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) that one time, or because they helped the Avengers beat Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Endgame, and made us laugh with their quirks. We love the Guardians of the Galaxy because they’re flawed, and this makes them so very human.

The one thing that Peter (Chris Pratt), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) all have in common is that they’re outcasts. They’re not Gods with magic hammers, nor are they billionaires with infinite resources, or war heroes with superhuman powers. They are a bunch of misfits who just happened to lose everything but used the scars from their pasts to grow stronger, wearing them on their sleeves and creating a family of their own to replace the one they either lost or never had.

And if you’ve ever lost someone you loved, or felt completely and utterly alone, or made choices you regret and perhaps even blamed yourself for them, then the Guardians of the Galaxy are here to remind you that you’re still worthy of love, you’re not alone, and you can still be your own life’s “Kevin Bacon”.

The first Guardians movie gave us a team of unlikely heroes that we immediately grew to love because of how relatable they were, and their later appearances in Infinity War and Endgame helped cement that love. With Guardians 2 and Thor: Love and Thunder, it feels like the focus shifted a little bit, as they were mainly used for comic relief and the emotional aspect was sacrificed as a result. But in James Gunn’s latest MCU entry, the intergalactic outcasts we know and love are back. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 feels like the return of great Marvel storytelling, at long last.

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Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 begins with a scene that will feel like a punch in the gut, telling us a story we’ve never heard of: that of Rocket’s past. We are taken back to when the “not a raccoon” was a baby, locked in a cage with a bunch of scared puppies by an evil corporation who experimented on them. Of course, we knew that something like that must have happened to Rocket, but watching it happen is an entire different thing, and the frequent flashbacks to the raccoon’s childhood give us more pieces of the puzzle throughout the movie, breaking our heart a little at a time.

But we also get to see what happens in real time, at the Guardians’ headquarters, in Knowere. Former ravager Kraglin (Sean Gunn) tries to learn how to use Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) Yaka Arrow, aided by Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova), who always beats him with her infinitely superior powers of telekinesis. Meanwhile, Peter Quill is still mourning the loss of Gamora, and the others spend time reminiscing about their past or putting on a brave façade.

But their balance is interrupted by the arrival of a flying, golden stranger with superhuman abilities whom we’ll later come to know as Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), and who seems to be targeting Rocket. Though the Guardians try their best to fend him off, Warlock manages to plant a kill switch on Rocket’s heart that renders the raccoon unconscious. Rocket will die if the switch isn’t deactivated within 48 hours, which means it’s time for the Guardians to embark on a new journey.

And so, our worried heroes leave for the Orgoscope, the headquarters of the evil corporation that made said kill switch, and that just so happens to be the same organisation that tortured poor Rocket as a baby. But Peter, Drax, Mantis and Nebula are not alone: Gamora joins them, though she’s not the one we know. This Gamora comes from an alternate timeline, and only met Peter in Endgame, where Thanos’ time travel experiments brought past versions of himself and his daughters into the Avengers’ timeline. In fact, she now works for a ravager named Stakar (Sylvester Stallone), and she isn’t exactly helping the Guardians out of the goodness of her own heart.

When the gang manages to infiltrate Orgo Corp, we learn two things. The first is that Warlock is not the sharpest tool in the shed, which surprisingly makes him quite a likeable character. The second is that he’s not acting alone. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 ‘s main antagonist is actually the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a geneticist-turned-tyrant who’s really into – you guessed it! – evolution. His aim? Creating a perfect species that will inhabit a perfect society of his own making. How does he intend to do that? By using his own evolved brain to create superintelligent, peaceful beings to populate his new society. How does Rocket fit into his plan? That is for you to find out.

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Zoe Saldana as Gamora in Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is two hours and a half long, and you’ll be an emotional wreck for a good chunk of the film, as you discover just how much Rocket endured and lost in the past. Not only that, but the stakes are even higher, due to the timer on Rocket’s life and the dangerous situation in which the Guardians find themselves, which adds more tension to the mix. But this is absolutely essential for the second part of the movie to work, as Vol 3 will reward you with breathtaking worldbuilding, incredibly well-shot and choreographed action scenes, and hilarious puns and situations, as well as a deeper understanding of every single one of these characters and heroic moments that make their journeys come full circle.

But Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is ultimately the story of Rocket. It’s a tale of redemption for a character who comes to realise that this was “his own story all along,” and who learns to stop running, let go of all the guilt and shame, and accept and embrace himself for who he really is. But it’s also a film about family, where the “Kevin Bacon” hero figure doesn’t just have to be the skilled fighter with great comebacks and a larger-than-life personality. The shy, empathetic one who has the ability to really see others is just as important, as her words of encouragement are what makes them all stronger. And so is the one who can only utter the same three words on repeat, because he might surprise you with his heart, or the one who seems a little different, as he might just save your life one day.

In Vol 3, the Guardians of the Galaxy’s story comes full circle, as our heroes find what they were looking for all along. And it’s no coincidence that Peter’s hero was a young man who fought for the right to dance. The first Guardians film began with music, and Vol 3 ends with music too. But if in Vol. 1 it served as a reminder of past memories Peter didn’t want to let go of, in Vol 3 it becomes a liberating force that enables our characters to face those memories and become who they were meant to be all along. It’s a farewell to the Guardians, for now, but it’s a rewarding one, and one that reminds us to find strength in our own scars and freedom in the family we choose.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 will be released globally in theaters on May 5, 2023.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: Trailer (Marvel Studios)
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