Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is (obviously) the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and one of the more highly anticipated ones, up there with No Way Home and Wakanda Forever.

We left the Guardians on something of a cliffhanger after Endgame, with Gamora returning to life via time travel as a version of herself from before they met. That seemed like the natural direction to go here—to reconnect with Gamora—but they chose not to for the main plot, instead focusing on Rocket—although Gamora certainly isn’t out of the picture.

How was it? I’d put it in the middle—not as good as Guardians 1, but quite a bit better than Guardians 2.

My rating: 4 out of 5.

Big spoilers below.

So, there were a lot of things I really liked about this movie. It was a strong story overall. It had a good emotional arc. It gave us backstory on Rocket, who was probably the most mysterious of the Guardians, with the possible exception of Groot. Gamora still played a major role. She’s apparently living it up with the Ravagers now, which I thought was a pretty strong personality shift for her character, but it mostly worked by the end.

There were a couple of small moments that I thought stood out enough to put it over the top. I thought one of the best lines was when Drax said (paraphrasing) “Kill one guy who nobody likes,” and Peter responded with something like, “That just makes it sound sad.” And then, of course, the movie goes and wipes out an entire planet of people, some of whom we got to know individually and at least kind of cared about. I thought it was funny because it felt like a commentary on action movies in general.

Another one was when Lylla was killed…they really didn’t hold back on the reaction there. I have rarely seen such a raw display of emotion in film, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one where they cranked up the audio that high. It sound weird to say that I’m not sure I agree with that audio mixing decision, but it was an amazing scene regardless.

Also, the ending was a big plus for me. The final couple of scenes really felt like a fitting end to the trilogy as a whole—a real Return of the Jedi vibe. Basically every single major character, old and new, got a satisfying ending to their arc. (Mantis felt a bit forced.) It was maybe a little over-the-top on paper, but I kind of feel like that was exactly what a slightly kooky series like this needed.

Although they said at least Star-Lord was coming back, so I’m not sure what they’ll do there.

I did have some problems with this movie, but there was really only one large one. My biggest problem was the scenes where the Guardians were dealing with their emotional baggage or airing their grievances—Peter’s and Gamora’s relationship, how much Nebula, Mantis, and Drax annoy each other, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it worked as an arc, but each time it came up, I felt like they overcommitted to the bit, like they pushed it too far, and it became cringey—like how the characters themselves point out when Peter hops on the not-private channel with Gamora. And the fact that they made that joke suggested to me that the whole thing was deliberate. The whole point of the Guardians series is, like I said, it’s kind of kooky. They overdo it on stuff like that. But I don’t think it worked here, on several occasions, and that’s the biggest reason I downgraded the film.

Also, it’s minor point, but I thought it was unusual because this is the first MCU movie that used its allotted “One F-Word” for a PG-13 movie, uncensored. I was surprised Disney would do that at all; I may have said before that it feels like Disney is trying to pull a Harry Potter and lean into the MCU being a franchise kids have grown up with. But if I can be picky about such things, it felt like a poor way to do it, almost like Chris Pratt dropped it in there by accident. Infinity War and the MCU Spider-Man movies knew how to use a Precision F-Strike, even though they censored it. This one kind of fell flat.

But that’s really getting into the weeds. I don’t want to detract from the fact that this is a really good movie, and I will happily say that the ending absolutely deserves full marks. It’s just that the first half of the movie was a little overdone and didn’t flow as well that detracted from it.

About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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