It’s been nearly a decade since The Guardians of the Galaxy released in theaters. What was once a relatively unknown group of Marvel heroes and misfits has turned into one of the most beloved franchises in the MCU. While the first two movies were fairly well received, most fans seem to agree that the first film was superior, and that trend continues with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3.
In Volume 3, James Gunn has crafted the swan song for this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy. There are a few different variations of the team in the comics, so we’ll see how the MCU handles the team moving forward, but this was continuously billed as the emotional send off of this Guardians team, as well as James Gunn, as he shifts his focus to DC Studios. The final product is a mixed bag, that while not terrible by any means, has a number of shortcomings.
Everyone who survived Guardians 2 returns in the third film, and the acting is still top notch. Like many MCU films, this team of Guardians has had substantial character growth between the two Guardians films, as well as Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Thor: Love and Thunder. These are not the same characters audiences met in 2014. Even Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who died in Infinity War only to return in Endgame. She should be much closer to the person she was in the first Guardians film, but Gunn and Saldana manage to change her up just enough to make her unique.
The proper introduction of Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) may have comic fans displeased with some changes to the character. This is not the Adam Warlock comic fans have been looking forward to. In fact, any powerful villain could have taken his place, as very little of the part specifically requires Adam Warlock. Luckily, the main antagonist in the film, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) shines, and matches his comic book counterpart fairly well, especially within the natural confines of the MCU playground.
For the most part, everything you’d expect from the actors lives up to those expectations. Where the movie starts to falter is in the plot. While not every Marvel film needs to have high stakes, the stakes need to at least be high enough that the heroes have a believable reason to risk their lives. The main plot point that moves the Guardians into action serves that purpose, and that is a bulk of the film, but once again this is meant to be the final ride for this team of Guardians.
Once the initial motivation has been resolved, there’s another issue that still needs attention. This secondary issue is where the stakes fall short. It’s here that the characters are meant to risk their lives for the greater good, but the issue is not a big enough concern for the audience to get behind the response from these heroes.
Without spoiling anything, imagine if the Guardians risked their lives to save Bereet (Melia Kreiling) in the first movie. You probably don’t even remember who that was (it was one of Peter’s women), but the point is that an audience wouldn’t care if Bereet lives or dies, so why would they care if the Guardians risk their lives to save her? It’s not that cut and dry in Guardians Vol 3, but the stakes needed to be higher if the Guardians could potentially die trying to save the day.
Music has been a staple of the Guardians trilogy, and that continues with Guardians 3. However, what felt very natural in the first film, and seemed more forced in Volume 2, continues to feel forced in Volume 3. Some of the songs work very well within the context of the scene, but many seem like random choices that don’t mesh well at all.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is a serviceable film. Some people will love it, others will just think it’s okay, but this is not the resounding homerun that many fans were betting on. It’s a step up from other recent Marvel films such as The Eternals, Black Widow, or Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but it’s not the return to form many were hoping it would be.
About The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Synopsis: Still reeling from the loss of Gamora, Peter Quill rallies his team to defend the universe and one of their own – a mission that could mean the end of the Guardians if not successful.
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn
Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Will Poulter, Chukwudi Iwuji
Runtime: 2 Hours, 30 Minutes
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.