Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) Review
JAMES Gunn has always been one of my favourite storytellers in Hollywood. His ability to take the most unconventional stories and provide the most outlandish characters with the deepest emotions is nothing short of spectacular. Gunn previously worked on 2006's Slither and 2011's Lollipop Chainsaw, a personal favourite of mine, but his coming out party was undoubtedly in 2014 with Guardians of the Galaxy - and nearly a decade later in the trilogy's finale, Gunn has created a near-perfect swan song for the most unlikely of protagonists.
The loss of his love Gamora (Zoe Saldana) has left Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) emotionally-repressed and longing for a sense of purpose, but when Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is left severely injured and fighting for his life, Peter and the rest of the Guardians must discover Rocket's tragic in order to find the culprit responsible for putting him in an enforced coma. Their worries become even more problematic when they must seek help from an alternate version of Gamora who never formed a relationship with Peter.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was conceived as a fun romp to sit back and relax, but only a few could have predicted the monumental success this band of criminals turned protectors would reach. The second movie further explored the individual emotions suffered by each Guardian, with this third instalment primarily focusing on Rocket's show-stealing backstory which explores the reasoning behind his crude, solitary nature. Bradley Cooper hasn't gotten much of a chance to express his emotional talents in this near decade-long role, but Vol. 3 is less of a Guardians movie and more of a Rocket Raccoon movie. Each flashback to Rocket's past instantly grasps the audiences with equal senses of joy, sadness and fear as we watch the continual mistreatment of Rocket as a youth before learning the tragedy behind his coming-of-age, with one scene in particular leaving viewers silenced in sincere shock.
But this wouldn't be a Guardians of the Galaxy movie if it didn't feature the rest of our merry protectors. Chris Pratt once again shines as the one true Star-Lord by being both jovial and disheartened when the script requires it. Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff are shown to be more comedic in their roles to begin, but as the film reaches its crescendo, Drax and Mantis respectively receive meaningful moments of content as they accept who they always believed they were deep down. Sisters Gamora and Nebula play parallels of their original characters with Nebula learning to embrace her character arc of grasping human emotion while Gamora returns to the ruthless killer she was in Vol. 1 prior to befriending Quill. This dynamic is old but feels brand new and provides Peter and Gamora with a heart-breaking conflict that is well-resolved in a bittersweet moment of acceptance of clarity.
Will Poulter and Chukwudi Iwuji star as the villains in this space opera, and while Poulter's Adam Warlock failed to leave a substantial impact, Poulter did the best with what little he was given. However, Iwuji may just be the best MCU villain since Thanos. His performance as The High Evolutionary is a masterclass on how to portray the worst person imaginable, beginning as a man whose actions you can understand but slowly becomes more and more heinous to the point where he has no remorse for any of his actions - no matter how selfish or catastrophic they are.
Music is a powerful storytelling device and has been since the dawn of cinema, but no other franchise has implemented songs in such an impassioned way than the Guardians trilogy. James Gunn has always chose the soundtracks for his projects, with Lollipop Chainsaw having a phenomenal score that epitomizes the feeling of being 17. GOTG continued Gunn's trend of music by including popular music, most prominently from the 1970's to highlight Peter's attachment to his home when he was taken away from it. Vol. 3 casually bucks the trend in small quantities by including 90's and 2000's hits such as Radiohead's Creep and Florence and the Machine's Dog Days Are Over - neither of which feel out of place and help to create some of the film's best scenes.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 sends the Guardians off in an emotion-soaked space opera that perfectly balances humour and heart. The decision to focus its story on the franchise's most solitary character was a risky decision that more than paid off. Each character receives a completion to their trilogy-long story arc, and if this is the end for James Gunn in the MCU and the original Guardians team, then this was a tremendous way to end my favourite superhero trilogy. Thank you James.