The time to write this review has finally come. And no, I’m not even talking about how much time has passed since the last one you’ve read on this site despite all my intentions at different moments in time to write this or that about any of the recently released so-called blockbusters. No, this time we’re talking not only about a particular movie but about THE movie. I can’t hide the fact that I’m a bit of a Marvel fanboy (if it’s not obvious already from all the reviews in this site on the topic) but my actual weak spot in this huge comics and movie universe have always been the not-so-popular, the underappreciated and the amazing Guardians of the Galaxy. Therefore, prepare for an objective review wannabe in which all my emotions (even though they’ve already calmed down as quite some time has now passed since I watched the movie) and all my love towards this franchise are gathered.
The truth is that until 2014 I knew too little about these galactic superheroes and James Gunn was the one that shed light upon their existence and managed to put them in the spotlight in order to break the hard shell that the Avengers have built around them as the core of the Marvel’s cinematic universe. A few read comic books, a few games played several times and a few movies watched again and again later you should already be aware that Gunn’s swan song in Marvel’s world was probably my most anticipated movie not only for this year but for this phase / iteration in MCU in general and even for what’s coming after it. Well, I can wholeheartedly say that the director didn’t disappoint and “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3” is more than a worthy ending of the franchise … Ah, who am I lying, THE MOVIE IS EPIC SO IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED IT YET, GO AND FIX THAT MISTAKE IMMEDIATELY!!!
Although this scene is a reference to “2001: A Space Odyssey” (confirmed by the director itself), on purpose or not Gunn has included a small hint towards one of the recently popular games “Among Us”, which I personally find to be a very clever way to attract the attention of different generations of movie fans. It’s a good thing the plot didn’t turn out to be the way it usually happens in the game.
… And so, now that I’ve quickly shared my thoughts with you, it’s time to explain with a few words (paragraphs) why the movie is what it is and why you should watch it. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is somewhat of an event as far as MCU is concerned since it’s most likely the only franchise that can easily be watched even outside the scope of the universe. And yes, there are 2 or 3 more important things that happened between the movies in the franchise which are not part of Gunn’s writings and which influence the plot but after all, even in the characters’ dialogues you will hear enough facts that more or less would give you an idea about what had happened so far and would keep you up to date with latest events. If you’ve watched enough Marvel movies with more than 1 or 2 main characters you’ll know that wherever the Guardians have appeared, they’ve been more of a background than an actual influential party and even when there have been moments in which one of their actions has triggered a main plotline, in the end it’s the others who have been the ones that shine and get remembered. Well, Gunn’s franchise is these outsiders’ moment to completely shadow the others and they definitely manage to do it.
Now that I’ve watched all three movies and the Christmas special (which, by the way, I also highly recommend, if possible before you watch the third part as it includes some important details and characters which you would otherwise not see in the first or second movie apart from cameos or easter eggs), I can safely say that for me personally “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the most complete franchise in the universe purely plot-wise and as sad I am that we won’t see those people in the same crew in such movies anymore, I’m happy that Gunn managed to give them his own amazing perspective and sign off a perfect ending to their epic. The trailers didn’t show us anything noteworthy and after I’ve seen the movie I’m even happier now that most of the theories around the main characters proved to be incorrect or at least partially incorrect. Well, actually all heroes got more than a satisfying and beautiful conclusion to their stories and the band of outcasts which were gathered from here and there 9 years ago are now a perfectly well-oiled and inseparable crew of legends who will definitely be missed. Not to even mention all the other previous and new secondary characters who we saw and who got their moment to shine but we’ll speak more about them a bit later.
One of the most beautiful and at the same time most heartbreaking moments in the history of MCU. Even now when I think about the dialogues and the events that followed I’m ready to silently shed a tear.
And so, let’s talk about the heroes themselves. This is one of the rare cases in my minimal reviewing career where I don’t really want to sum up my impressions for the main characters but, similar to Gunn, to rather tell you a little something about each of them and clearly outline them the way I saw them. Let’s get on with it:
Rocket – I didn’t really want to rank them by importance but there’s no way I wouldn’t start with the blabbering raccoon. Rocket is the character whose story made me go back and think about all his actions and dialogues in order to find their purpose and realise what actually stood behind them and why he’s the most important Guardian. I’m trying to be as spoiler-free as possible but even from the trailers it was already obvious that he’s going to be the main character in the third part and oh man, did Gunn deliver probably the most dramatic, most heartbreaking and most emotional story in the whole MCU. I can still sense all the retrospectives which we saw in those 150 minutes and kudos to James Gunn and especially Bradley Cooper for successfully bringing a CGI to life and breathing into it so much character and humanity. The raccoon not only has a heart but he’s also the heart of the Guardians, as well as the true leader of this bunch of outcasts, in case that’s not clear for all of you yet.
Star-Lord – I have to admit that this role of Chris Pratt is one of the few that actually work out as expected for him but this doesn’t really matter, the important thing is that it works out here. Peter Quill got his introduction in the first movie and his personal story arc culmination in the second and now he gets a completely satisfying epilogue. Yes, you will read quite a lot about the slight comments towards Gunn regarding the missing signature belongings of the character but those get their logical explanations. I personally join the people who agree that the differences are the Russo brothers’ fault to some extent since they changed what Gunn has set up in the second Guardians movie in the last parts of the “Avengers”. In any case, instead we got a cool and obviously put on purpose scene with a biblical reference towards the end of the movie with Pratt’s presence that confirmed the good impressions from his character. Rather unpopular both as a hero and as an actor before his performance in “Guardians of the Galaxy”, Pratt definitely established himself as one of the most recognizable and successful superheroes in MCU and even though not under Gunn’s control, what we saw in the bonus scenes can only keep us happy and hopeful towards Star Lord’s future.
High Evolutionary – now that we’ve discussed the two top Guardians, it’s time to mention one of the top villains in the MCU so far. Even though we’ve only seen him in a single movie, Gunn and Chukwudi Iwuji have managed to build an awesome and complete image of a sociopath and an egomaniac with a God complex. The character gets more than enough background story to back his motives and actions and enough screen time to establish his status of a hated character. And this, in the case of movie villains, is always a sign of a perfectly played role. Gunn knows very well how to pick the people he works with and his involvement with “The Suicide Squad” and “Peacemaker” definitely influences his choices since not only Iwuji, but also a solid dose of other actors (including his wife) appear in “Vol. 3” in one role or another (only one I didn’t see was John Cena but that’s normal, you can’t see him anyways after all).
If you’re looking for similarities with the original comic book character you won’t find a lot but everything else is perfectly tweaked until the last scratch. Ronan and Ego can only learn from the Sovereign’s creator on how to be proper super villains.
Nebula – I’m putting her here on purpose since to me Karen Gillan’s heroine is the one that underwent the biggest metamorphosis in the trilogy and in MCU in general. The development of Thanos’ daughter from an insensitive machine to a strongly empathetic part of the team comes not only from the plot written by Gunn but also by the actress’ spectacular performance. At the moment I regret it a bit that in the year when the second part came out I had the opportunity to see her live but I never got to the point of meeting her because her main focus back then was “Doctor Who” and mine obviously wasn’t. Well, now I can safely say that Nebula will remain (and who knows, maybe in the future still will be) one of the mose memorable and impressive characters across the galactic Guardians.
Gamora – Zoe Saldana has proven herself as an actress a long time ago, or at least as an actress who knows how to play roles in high production value and extremely lucrative movies. It’s a fact that her heroine has been through a lot which only shows the gracefulness of the actress when performing and coping with the different phases in Gamora’s life. In the third part I saw Gamora in the exact way I imagined her to be and how she was actually supposed to be. Well, in the end we didn’t get the soapy ending but this is where the beauty in Gunn’s script lies – the character had a new change of heart and went through a mini-cycle in the span of two hours where the result we got was more than decent.
Groot – Groot is Groot in all movies and everyone loves him, that’s clear. What we see here apart from his teenage macho phase which is also the last one that hasn’t been covered yet (well, excluding the mid-life crisis one but we also somewhat saw that in the bonus scene) is the regular goody two shoes that can also turn into a really angry wooden humanoid. Of course, we also yet again noticed the concept of family which is such a favourite of Vin Diesel’s but the coolest thing was the direct interaction with the audience which we had towards the end of the movie. I won’t spoil anything but props to Gunn for the idea and the execution of the moment where we, the normal human beings, were finally able to understand what Groot wants to tell us.
Drax – when Bautista officially announced that he won’t play the role anymore, everyone expected with a bit of concern what was going to happen with the Destroyer. Well, friends, you can relax, Drax’s story development is pretty decent and I liked the fact that nothing in his character changed and in this movie Gunn yet again manages to handle properly all the idiotic jokes, mixed very smoothly with serious and emotional moments concerning the actor.
Recently out of his cocoon, Adam is more or less on the same mental stage as Will in “We’re the Millers” but honestly I can’t think of another more suitable young actor that would be able to handle the character in his current state.
Mantis – even though she appeared later than the other Guardians in the franchise, the heroine managed to win the audience’s hearts and her chemistry with Star-Lord and Drax, along with everyone else, reaches its peak point here and makes her a true part of the squad. Pom Klementieff is an amazing comic relief in the tense moments, especially when combined with Drax and I’m really glad that with all those characters in play Mantis still managed to find her place and shine.
Adam Warlock – I felt obligated to mention him even though in reality his screen time was not that long. Despite that, technically speaking Adam is the one who initiated the main plot and who more or less closes it so his inclusion, even at such a late point in the development of MCU, should definitely not be underestimated. I’m a fan of Will Poulter and considering what we saw in the bonus scenes, I’m looking forward to seeing how and where will things develop and to what extent Marvel will manage to show the enormous power and potential of the character.
Cosmo – the character which has technically appeared in all three movies and in reality doesn’t have that much influence over the plot but still gets its moment to show what it can. After all, we can’t miss it, from a patriotic point of view at least. A huge BRAVO from me to Maria Bakalova who not only managed to break through Hollywood but also have her name written in such a production. Whether it’s a CGI or not doesn’t make any difference (take Cooper or Diesel, for example), I personally really enjoyed the soviet dog and I can’t wait to see more from our girl, why not even in a bigger role as part of MCU.
Kraglin – last but not least, we have to honorably mention James Gunn’s brother too. Sean took over gracefully from Michael Rooker and manages to handle as required not only his legacy pen but also the rather short screen time he gets. Let’s also not forget that the younger Gunn also does the motion capture for Rocket himself which is not a small feat. Including Yondu as part of his journey even in the third part was also a nice reference and the ex-ravager managed to turn into a hero whose future would be interesting to follow.
A lot more can be said about the characters but I think I’ll stop here so that you can see all the rest in the movie. In the end, Gunn’s script and the entire cast are only a part of the details that make this adventure so special. The director hasn’t left his style even as far as the audio and visual components are concerned. The movie is shot especially for IMAX and I managed to watch it exactly in that format and I have to admit that it looked gorgeous. From planets, to costumes and make-up, to CGI characters that even PETA would commend and protect, to slow-motion fights in tight spaces, every shot was profesionally taken and edited.
Gunn has used the movie rating’s limitations to the maximum and in this one we see not only the first F-bomb (which for Americans is something quite dramatic for some reason, like their kids don’t hear this on a daily basis anyways, but that’s a different topic), but also a solid amount of more details and more explicit scenes that would satisfy even the more demanding part of the audience. And yes, we didn’t see as epic of a boss battle as we wanted to see towards the end but it was still pure joy to see the participation of each one of the heroes in finishing what they’ve started. The soundtrack is yet again a killer and even though we didn’t see an officical Awesome Mix Vol. 3 cassette, the background music has always been one of the most powerful weapons of the franchise and the tendency has been kept in this iteration as well where you can here everywhere the perfectly well selected collection with old-school vibes.
What a bunch of a-holes.
Whatever else I say about the franchise and James Gunn’s stay in the Marvel universe won’t be enough. You’ve probably already noticed how many times his name has been involved even in this text and there’s a good reason for it. MCU can only suffer losses from the director leaving and personally I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with DC and whether he’ll be able to breathe a new life in their somewhat left-behind universe. The important thing at the moment is that despite the severed connections with all other movies (especially with Thor, and thank God for that), the constantly changing circumstances, the prolonging of the movie shootings and its release due to the pandemic and even some decisions taken for MCU on a higher level, Gunn managed to tell the story exactly in the way he wanted to and to flood us with a whole roster of superheroes that will potentially bring us joy in the future again.
I mentioned the bonus scenes several times already so definitely stay until the end – both of them very sneakily leave the door open for the future Guardians of the Galaxy and considering that Gunn has given a green light for such (not that anyone asks him, but still), it wouldn’t be a surprise if see potential sequels or spinoffs at some point. Until then all that’s left for us is to just enjoy what the director has given us as a legacy because, even though there are still several films to come out as part of Phase 5, to me “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol.3” is not only one of the best movies in it (and it will remain such) but also in MCU in general and I could even safely conclude that it will become my standard for comic book cinema.