Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) is an emotional, action-packed end to the trilogy

The highly-anticipated culmination of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy has finally dropped, and it’s without a doubt one of the MCU’s best-ever entries. Since Avengers: Endgame, only two of the ten MCU releases have blown me away to a level that has made me want to instantly rewatch the film… this being one of them.

Despite the ever-growing size of the MCU at the moment, I’m glad we can still get films like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – one that’s only concerned with being a Guardians sequel and not playing into what’s happening elsewhere in the universe. I love this approach – it’s a love-letter to the fans and a celebration of the beloved characters we’ve followed for nine years, driven by the passion of James Gunn himself. As an MCU film, this is incredible, but as a conclusion to the Guardians trilogy, it’s perfect. This latest adventure is creatively written, action-packed, appropriately hilarious and so damn emotional – a combination of everything I wanted from a Guardians film and everything I didn’t know I needed. The specifics of the narrative are better left a mystery, but I’ll just say that the adventure our heroes are sent on this time around is both fun and emotionally heavy, hooking me in early and remaining engaging the entire time.

This is by far the darkest and most emotional entry in the trilogy – it’s a sombre narrative that really tugs on those heartstrings. For a trilogy renowned for its use of silly, witty comedy, this drastic tonal-shift tells you that the stakes are high this time around. There’s a real sense of danger and fear going into the climactic moments that anything can happen and no character is safe. With all that in mind, I can confirm that tears were shed at a couple of points throughout the film. However, as much as there are tears, the comedy still shines through with all the big laughs you expect. Each and every character dishes out the laughs in a way that fits their personality – an approach more in line with the first film than the second, where everyone was hitting silly jokes that didn’t fit.

The team dynamic among the Guardians has been a core element of the trilogy from the beginning, and it’s all the more prevalent here. Marvel has hit the jackpot with this combination of characters and actors – they showcase tonnes of heart with their unbreakable chemistry. What stood out in here is how much I love each and every one of these characters. The narrative aptly fleshes everyone out, giving each individual their moment to shine. Whether they’re working as a group, in pairs or solo, the dynamics amongst this crew are the strongest in the MCU to date.

As much as this is a team effort, this is undeniably Rocket Raccoon’s movie. He’s at the forefront of this entire story – the main narrative revolves around his character, and we receive extensive flashbacks that give us more insight on his backstory. Rocket has always been a beloved member of the group, but this film may have just thrust him into top position as the strongest and most fleshed-out member of the crew. In a way, this has always been Rocket’s trilogy as much as it has been Star-Lord’s, and this entry proves that. I love how they’ve given us a greater understanding of his character and his emotional backstory, and Bradley Cooper is once again exceptional in the role. Someone else who gets a huge boost in this sequel is Nebula. I’ve always liked Nebula as a character, but she’s really developed into one of my favourite Guardians members. She’s potentially the most level-headed in this film – contributing to the plot, action and comedy across some key moments.

Speaking of characters, what James Gunn does with the music/soundtrack is once again brilliant. The music is a character in this story as much as Star-Lord is – it’s part of the identity of the Guardians trilogy and it’s used to ramp up the fun in every moment. Action-wise, this film doesn’t put a single foot wrong. It contains some of the most exciting action sequences in the entire franchise, and potentially even the entire MCU. The variety that each character brings to the action is still so damn refreshing. Everyone from Mantis to Nebula kicks ass in increasingly creative ways. There’s one specific hallway “one-shot” fight sequence to look out for because it’s truly magnificent – one of the best fights in the entire MCU, and it came unexpectedly which is even better.

The villains in here signify one of the film’s highs and what I’d consider to be the film’s only low. Firstly, the High Evolutionary is a formidable villain who I loved following and learning more about. He’s essentially a Thanos-lite – a leader with a god complex and an ambitious goal, only without the decade-long depth that Thanos had. He won’t be one of the MCU’s most memorable villains, but I like the ferocity he displayed when going up against the Guardians. The biggest misfire is undoubtedly the handling of Adam Warlock. The character makes an explosive arrival early on, lending a hand to one of the film’s most awesome sequences, then he’s criminally sidelined to the role of a Boba Fett like bounty hunter. He goes from a brutal and menacing opponent to an obstacle focused on inconveniencing the Guardians’ plans. Warlock should have been the Vader to the High Evolutionary’s Palpatine, but alas we didn’t get that. And it’s not Will Poulter’s fault, it’s just the way the role is played.

In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the perfect way to close out this trilogy. The quality of the first film is something that will remain hard to reach in the MCU, but this finale isn’t too far behind. It delivers A+ quality in the emotionally-charged character-focused narrative, intense action sequences and well-timed comedy. The story is engaging and the group dynamic is endlessly entertaining, with Rocket Raccoon taking centre stage and being fleshed out more now than ever. Performances from Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff and Karen Gillan are on-point, making this one of the MCU’s best films.



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