Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is an emotional farewell for the lovable band of misfits

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Mathew Dickman

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is showing in theaters across the nation.

Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, released in theaters on May 5th, 2023, released with the intention that it will be the final onscreen adventure for many of the characters that made their original debut in 2014. In this film, the Guardians of the Galaxy rush to save one of their members after an unexpected attack by past enemies. This adventure ends the Guardians of the Galaxy main trilogy on an explosive high that maintains the emotional, character-driven core that has made the series so successful. 

The biggest strength of this movie, like the previous two, is the characters. Each character in the ensemble receives their own impactful journey and moments to shine. All the actors have excellent performances that display their love and understanding of these characters. However, it is evident that this film puts the majority of its focus on Bradley Cooper’s character Rocket. The entire narrative centers around Rocket and his past. The other stand out of this film was Chris Pratt’s performance as Peter Quill, who must navigate his feelings and place in the universe after losing the Gamora he knew in Avengers Infinity War.

The primary villain, played by Chuckwudi Iwuji, is written as a supremely hateable character that the audience desperately wants to see defeated by the Guardians.  Potential viewers should be warned that this villian’s evil deeds do involve some scenes of graphic violence against animals. While he is largely one-dimensional, his powerful presence and heinous deeds make him a worthy final adversary. 

The only problem relating to the characters is an excess of them, with the movie sometimes struggling to balance the new and old cast and their place in the story. Most evident of this was the secondary antagonist Adam Warlock, played by Will Poulter, who sometimes feels like an afterthought. 

In regards to the plot and setting, this film is another planet-hopping adventure that shows off creative worlds. The plot is always moving thanks to an added ticking clock element that keeps it from meandering. However, this quick pace was somewhat jarring in the first act, which made the movie difficult to fully engage with initially. The film also tells the origin story of Rocket Racoon through consistent flashbacks, acting almost as a secondary story. These memories deal with the same antagonist as the present and add extra emotion, motivation, and depth to the conflict. The primary flaw is that due to the fast pacing and focus on Rocket, it doesn’t feel like a sendoff to the character until the very end.

Surprisingly, the spectacle and scale of this film are not needlessly elevated compared to previous movies. Instead of another galaxy ending threat, it is a more intimate story that has greater stakes for the characters we care about. This goes for the action as well, which is purposeful and stylish, instead of unreasonably huge. Nevertheless, there is still no shortage of massive battles and exciting moments. All of this is achieved with excellent CGI that never takes you out of the movie. There is also a commendable amount of practical makeup and sets that ground these fantastical locations in reality. 

Obviously, James Gunn’s style is preserved and prevalent throughout the movie, which is a balance of comedy, emotion, and classic music. Gunn seems to put the most priority in the emotional moments of the story, which are effective in not being just cheap shock value. He also addresses criticism of previous work by refraining from undercutting these moments with comedy. In general, the amount of jokes has decreased, but when they do show up, it is hilarious. The film has an excellent soundtrack that includes a wider range of music than ever before thanks to Peter Quill’s new Microsoft Zune. While the songs usually enhance the emotion or excitement, they sometimes cause tonal whiplash between scenes due to the fast pace of the story. 

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a joyous final outing that cements the trilogy as one the best things to come from the comic book and sci-fi genre. While its fast pace and large cast of big personalities can be overwhelming at points, the film remains gripping until the very end. The script, effects, action, and cinematography are firing on all cylinders to send these characters out on a beautiful note. This is a farewell at the same level as Avengers Endgame and will be near impossible for Marvel to top in the near future.