Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 (Review): Marvel is Dead

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is my final hurrah as an MCU fan. It’s the last project of Marvel’s I genuinely care about. But how was it?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 begins somberly, with Rocket and Quill mulling over their traumas. But their reflections are quickly shattered when Adam Warlock attacks Knowhere on behalf of The Sovereign and mercilessly beats the Guardians. Rocket, in serious medical condition after the battle, needs special attention to be saved. But to do so the Guardians must embark on a journey across the galaxy and uncover the hidden depths of Rocket’s backstory.

FINALLY we get a Marvel movie which I don’t wanna whine about. ‘Cause I freaking loved this one! Shocker, I know…

I’ve got to assume that you’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame if you’re this deep into the MCU. But Guardians 3 features multiple handy exposition dumps for the vast minority of you who haven’t seen those movies. It’s weird for a sequel to have SO much happen off-screen between instalments, but other famous franchises do this as well. Just pay attention to the dialogue and you’ll understand well enough.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 strides with a confidence which few superhero movies can claim. James Gunn is a steady and sure leader with strong vision and drive to execute his ideas. And, unlike most directors at Marvel, he’s long-since grown accustomed to big-budget action films.

Gunn perfectly sets up the plot’s stakes! The team has 48 hours to solve their problem before something really bad happens. And the whole plot is about them struggling to achieve their goals through obstacles and people with competing agendas. This is textbook screenwriting: simple and effective.

Though the leisurely pace of this film surprised me. I expected a break-neck, rush-to-the-finish, go-out-in-a-blaze-of-glory kinda pace. But Gunn wisely showed restraint. We’ve seen a million grand finales before, and expected one here, but Guardians 3 is more unique. We KNOW it’s the end for this team, and we’re gifted with a sense of finality, but the Guardians themselves view it as just another adventure– albeit one with heavy emotional stakes. So the conclusion feels truer to life than most finales: that one status quo drifts into the next, and life goes on.

The MVP of Guardians 3 is good ole Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper). He’s mostly useless in the present as he spends the film flashing back to his childhood, but said flashbacks invest me such that I don’t care. His backstory is as horrifying as I always imagined! And it genuinely disturbed me. Cooper imbues this computer generated raccoon with an unbelievable level of pathos.

The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) is Marvel’s scariest villain. He’s not the most badass, or powerful, or threatening, but he’s easily the most sadistic. It’s all the worse that his methodology is practiced by real life villains here on modern day Earth! The High Evolutionary’s God complex and its manifestation were fascinating, and I wish they’d explored it in greater detail.

High Evolutionary begins the film as a reserved and menacing figure. Though he devolves into an unhinged and scenery-chewing maniac whenever he encounters obstacles. Both sides of the character were enjoyable, though I wish his manic side unleashed a little less. That would have made his outbursts more special.

Chris Pratt turns in a series-best performance as Star-Lord! He’s matured and grown into his leadership role, yet he privately wallows in self-pity and struggles to move on from Gamora. His arc is emotionally complex with an immensely satisfying resolution!

Speaking of Gamora, Zoë Saldaña is delightful to watch as an alternate version of the character. She’s more cruel, harsh, and abrasive than ever. We the audience, like the characters, must come to terms with the fact that this is a different person than the one to whom we’ve grown accustomed. And I greatly respect that decision! It would have been predictable for Gamora to have cheated death without consequences. This way she’s unpredictable and fresh again.

Especially impressive this time around was Nebula (Karen Gillan)! She’s come full circle from disgruntled daughter of Thanos to loving Guardians family-member. Her maturity and compassion put her in stark contrast to the new Gamora, as they’ve effectively traded places. Karen Gillan’s dramatic range in this film is incredible!

Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) was Guardians 3’s most anticipated character. I can’t say he lived up to the hype though. He had an awesome introduction in the film’s first scene, but quickly took a backseat. His side story is kinda cute and mildly intriguing but never grabbed me.

Though I understand why Adam Warlock was underused. Guardians 3 already had a lot going on. It would have cracked under its own weight trying to juggle the main team’s denoument, a new villain, AND a new anti-hero.

Then again, we could have used more Adam scenes in place of the funny but largely inconsequential C-plot on Knowhere. Said plot is there so that the ending doesn’t come out of left field, and to add comic relief to an otherwise heavy story, but it wasn’t strictly necessary to include.

Mantis and Drax remain the dynamic comedic duo we’ve grown to love. Yet Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista are also gifted more diverse material with which to play! James Gunn found the perfect balance when he decided that the goofy weirdos are also the team’s most emotionally stable members. They keep the others grounded and keep the film from veering into grim-dark territory.

I’m shocked to report that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 walked the perfect line between funny and serious. The emotional moments are stronger than arguably either of the previous films, and the laughs are just as prevalent. Yet comedy and drama always complimented one another and were used appropriately.

The jokes are mostly solid, and ought to make you smile at the least. I only laughed out loud a few times, but those few times were memorable. And the drama is rife with consequences! It’s been a minute since I’ve seen a superhero film with such drastic and permanent outcomes.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is visually stunning. I appreciate its use of practical sets, prosthetics, and makeup to craft immersive and memorable alien environments (Counter-Earth, the High Evolutionary’s HQ, and Knowhere specifically). Beyond the practical elements, Guardians 3 features impressive uses of CGI– notably on the animals’ fur. It’s scarily lifelike. I’ve also got to shout out the costume designers for gifting us comic-accurate outfits! Better late than never, right?

The lesson I took from Guardians 3 is that desperate desires for control often take bad forms, despite good reasons; To influence the status quo is understandable but to manipulate it is unnatural. Most of the characters wrestle with these ideas of control in unique ways, which competently demonstrates multiple angles on the theme. There’s also the notion that we can’t let our self worth be defined by other people. Neither of these concepts were too in your face, but they hit their mark.

As for critiques, I admit: the needle drops in Guardians 3 aren’t as immediately memorable as the other two upon first impression. The songs were well-incorporated though. And music lovers might appreciate the greater variety of styles and decades from which Gunn drew.

Also characters shout too much at each other. Intensity is well and good but this much yelling proved a distraction. It’s not so bad until you notice, but it’s hard to un-see once you do.

That said, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 gleefully sticks its landing to cap off Marvel’s best trilogy (and one of the best trilogies I’ve ever seen, period). It’s a diamond in the rough for MCU fans but, more than that, a solid sci-fi film in its own right. It made me feel everything from nostalgia to dread and left me utterly satisfied.

So what about my title to this article: “Marvel is dead”? Guardians 3, so far as I can see, is the end of MY MCU– the one with which I grew up. And I’m no longer excited for anything else. To be clear: I’ll continue to watch Marvel content (because reviewing movies is my thing) but I doubt if I’ll see EVERYTHING from here on. This franchise isn’t worth my full attention anymore.

But thankfully Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is a Must See.


Would you like to see the Guardians return under the leadership of anyone but James Gunn? What did you think of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.

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Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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