It’s incredible how director and screenwriter James Gunn has managed to turn a relatively unfamiliar group like The Guardians of the Galaxy into a blockbuster franchise for the Marvel Cinematic Universe but he outdoes himself by delivering a third installment that is filled with so much heart amidst the chaotic mood of the narrative that all three ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movies have become a testimony that comic book movies can be genuinely profound and explore authentic human truths while having a lot of crazy fun in the process. In ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,’ Gunn manages to deliver a satisfying arc for all his main characters while also introducing some new faces.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ underlines how each of the characters of this story are all broken and lost in relation to their idea of home. Banding together for support and safety and strength, the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy – Peter Quill, Nebula, Mantis, Drax, Rocket, Groot, and in the first two films Gamora – became a perfect example of the found family. Even the nature of the actual sibling relationship between Peter and Mantis (as explained in the Disney+ special ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’) and Nebula and Gamora becomes an interesting texture that becomes part of this tapestry of what the third film is all about.
Because when the Guardians end up battling Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) in Knowhere, Rocket is hurt badly and they discover they can’t heal him because of some sophisticated technology that is inside him that is preventing him from getting medical help. In order to save their friend, they must travel to find Rocket’s creator, The High Evolutionary.
At its core, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ is not some mission to save the universe. No, it’s a very simple and intimate story about a group of friends facing insurmountable odds to save one of their own from dying. What they end up discovering is that Rocket’s past, the one he has been keeping secret for the past two ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movies and even in ‘The Avengers’ movies, is a dark history of pain and suffering at the hands of a megalomaniac known as The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a powerful being who is determined to create a new species and society that would be a true utopia and he’s willing to commit genocide to ensure he gets it right.
With Rocket’s life hanging in the balance, every member is pushed to their utmost limits and this is where Gunn’s trademark genius comes into play. While the characters are stressed out and tense, they lash out at each other to highly comedic effect and while we are laughing, we are also seeing these characters unravel and show their true humanity (even if they are aliens). Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is obsessed over Gamora desperately holding on to every vestige of his family that he can while Nebula, played brilliantly by Karen Gillan, is lashing out as we see the full force of her friendship with Rocket (that was explored during ‘Avengers: End Game’). Pom Klementieff is having a blast working out Mantis’ very wide spectrum of emotions. She’s frustrated that no one listens to her but manages to find time to play pranks on Drax or kicking butt when a fight ensues.
But the actors who really steal their scenes are Zoe Saldana, Chukwudi Iwuji, and Linda Cardellini. Saldana, who gets to play a different Gamora, which means she gets to really play as the outsider. In fact, she’s more like Nebula in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1.’ That must have been fun for her. Chukwudi Iwuji was instructed to not play to any humanity in The High Evolutionary and creates a fantastic villain that is touted as one of the most vile by the internet. He manages to find degrees of madness within his character and creates great performances that never feel one-note. Cardellini does the voice acting for Layla, an otter who was one of Rocket’s early friends. The warmth and sweetness in her delivery of lines just completes the picture of Rocket’s past and is so instrumental to the climax of the film.
It’s quite amazing how amidst gorgeous space sequences that include the Guardians jumping out into space while wearing different coloured space suits, or a wonderfully choreographed fight scene in a corridor filled with bad guys, James Gunn deftly delivers incredible visuals, while cementing the importance of family. Throughout the film, the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy are getting on each other’s nerves. It makes no sense that they work so well together considering all of their very distinct personalities but they do because what Gunn and his cast manages to do is show how much these characters love each other and need each other.
So much so, that when the narrative begins to push each character to their conclusions – whatever they may be – there’s this feeling that it is inevitable for each of them. Scenes and moments from all their appearances in the MCU seem to push them to this particular end and what it highlights most of all is how important it is for each of us to find a place that we can call home.
Everyone gets a turn, a completed character arc, even characters like Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and Cosmo (Maria Bakalova) and new characters like Adam Warlock. No matter how big the film looks and feels, it still manages to feel intimate and personal because we are dealing with the deepest desires of our main characters: which is to find and protect their home.
Without another MCU movie to set up, by being its own film, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ is a fitting finale for these characters. There are still stories that can be told but even if the actors choose not to return, we can be very, very happy with how this story ended. And find great joy in watching all three volumes (and the holiday special) all over again for how wonderfully complete this whole set of films are.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now showing in cinemas nationwide. Buy your tickets here