Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review: A heartfelt but overlong finale
🎞️ When is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in cinemas: 3 May 2023 (UK); 5 May 2023 (US)
⭐️ Our rating: 3/5
🎭 Who's in it? Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter, Sean Gunn, Maria Bakalova, Sylvester Stallone
👍 What we liked: The humour when it worked, the horror, and its heart. Oh, its heart.
👎 What we didn't: The dip after the film’s natural conclusion 30+ minutes from the end; the jarring use of songs; the all-too convenient wrap-up
📖 What's it about?: As Peter Quill struggles with the loss of Gamora, a pressing need to save one of the Guardians offers him a way back, as Rocket’s past comes crashing into their present.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be the last time we see this iteration of the Guardians on screen, we’re told. Whatever that means. But certainly, writer-director James Gunn is moving on, his hands full, such as they are, with rejuvenating DC’s cinematic universe.
This movie, then (the 32nd in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) serves as a send-off to the existing ragtag team of galactic superheroes as they gear up for their most important mission yet – saving one of their own. None other than the Guardians’ most valuable member, Rocket Raccoon.
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Will Poulter takes the role of Adam Warlock, whose arrival in the MCU as the genetically engineered ‘perfect’ being has been long-awaited by Marvel fans. He’s almost nebbish at first with unbridled power bubbling beneath, and it’s he who first enters the fray as the one tasked with kidnapping Rocket to return him to his maker – the nefarious High Evolutionary (played by a theatrical and really freaking menacing Chukwudi Iwuji).
This dude is also responsible for the creation of Adam, alongside his ‘mother’, the High Priestess (Elizabeth Debicki), secondary antagonist of Vol. 2.
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Cue some unbearably tear-jerking flashbacks to Rocket’s youth as a laboratory experiment alongside a group of crudely cybernetically and genetically enhanced beings – Teefs, Lylla, and Floor.
We’ve seen them in the trailers, and they’re adorable – their pluckiness in the face of adversity is heartwarming. This ultimately gives way to agonising tragedy.
There must be something in the air, or water, or formaldehyde because tinkering with life in labs is having a moment right now in pop culture. The Mandalorian and the recent reimagined Dead Ringers series have also both played with the idea of crafting life in labs, pushing our horror buttons at the same time.
Shout out also, while we’re on the horror theme, to the Cronenbergian bubblegum flesh-techscape of the Orgocorp HQ, gross and hypnotic in equal measure.
We first meet the Guardians in this instalment at their HQ on Knowhere — established as such in the Disney+ Holiday Special — where Cosmo the telekinetic Spacedog is integrated as a pretty much fully fledged member of the team.
Cosmo is voiced by Borat 2’s Maria Bakalova and is paired with a Kraglin (Sean Gunn) still getting to grips with Yondu’s Yaka Arrow. Peter Quill, meanwhile, is mourning Gamora, and — like Thor when he was really upset — has turned to drink and the oblivion that route offers.
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Yes, it’s the darkest of the Guardians movies but there’s also plenty of characteristic GotG humour (not all of it landing). Saving Rocket is a handy distraction for Quill but his grief ultimately brings him to the realisation he needs to explore another unresolved issue in his life. Will we see more from Quill? The movie certainly sets that up.
The film has a natural ending about 30 minutes or so ahead of its actual end, and you’ll sit through a largely butt-numbing finale — save for one cool hallway fight sequence — while the final wrap-up all seems kinda convenient and not necessarily in keeping with the message of both previous films, about found family being paramount.
What other critics thought of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Total Film: A rousing, resonant finale (2 min read)
IndieWire: These intergalactic weirdos are the real heart of the MCU (8 min read)
The Telegraph: Marvel’s once-perkiest heroes now look like a spent force (4 min read)
Independent: The best Marvel movie in years (3 min read)
The whole affair is typically peppered with songs which have felt welcome before but here feel mostly crowbarred in, some diegetically, others played over the action.
The movie ultimately paves the way for these characters to return in some way, shape, or form. Which is good, because it’s really sad to imagine the MCU without them.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is in UK cinemas and IMAX now.
Watch a trailer below.