Peter Quill, still reeling from the loss of Gamora, must rally his team around him to defend the universe along with protecting one of their own. A mission that, if not completed successfully, could quite possibly lead to the end of the Guardians as we know them.
And now, it’s time for the grand finale before fully focusing on his new gig: Taking over the DC universe of movies, shows, and more. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because his final entry into the Marvel universe is well worth our attention.
Some fans were worried about the writer-director’s ability to juggle so many different projects at once across two different companies, yet every single one of them turned out great. He even put together a set of Groot-centric shorts and a Holiday Special ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 to appease the Disney Plus content gods.
The marketing for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has had “bittersweet ending” written all over it, and the movie does indeed pack a punch, yet most fans should walk out of it with a big smile on their faces. It’s hard to imagine a better finale for this specific set of characters; all troubled by their past and seeking comfort wherever they can find it.
It’s no secret that the narrative sights were set on Rocket (Bradley Cooper) ever since Vol. 2’s poignant final scene, and James Gunn and the marketing confirmed as much. This is Rocket’s story, and with good reason, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only one getting closure. Hearts will be broken and mended several times before the credits roll, and audiences should be taking home a handful of great memories.
As expected, Vol. 3 largely feels like one final test for the team and the bonds that unite them. With Thanos defeated, the known universe saved, and the original Gamora dead, the Guardians are trying to rebuild Knowhere into a respectable place that welcomes everyone who has lost something. However, pretty much all of them are still missing something, and an unexpected attack on the unorthodox space station promptly sends the crew once more into the unknown.
We already felt some of his pain in the Infinity Saga’s two-part finale plus last Christmas’ Holiday Special, but here he gets to exhibit genuine anger, sadness, and above all, the experience as a leader he’s amassed over the years. It’s one of the best leading performances we’ve had in the MCU so far, up there with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans’ best.
Nebula (Karen Gillan) and alternate timeline Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) also find themselves in unexpected places, each trying to get over their father’s abuses and the many shocks that came with the war for the Infinity Stones. For Nebula, the path forward might be one of protecting those who have suffered like her, and that starts with her new comrades. Gillan once again delivers a nuanced performance that highlights how Nebula has had one of the wildest character arcs in the entire MCU and one we won’t soon forget.
Meanwhile, Gamora is back (not really, as this variant is an entirely different one) to being rude and aggressive, basically swapping places with her sister. After the huge confusion of being told she died in the reality she’s now stuck in, she’s found refuge with the crew of Ravagers led by Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar Ogord. The banter with Peter, the ex-boyfriend she’s never met, is often hilarious, and thankfully, the solution to their unique problem avoids many pitfalls.
Groot (Vin Diesel), Kraglin (Sean Gunn), and Cosmo (Maria Bakalova) perhaps get the short end of the stick in this really packed third installment, yet all of them have plenty of moments to shine and big payoffs. The script puts them wherever they can make the biggest impact, but knows its focus should be elsewhere. In other movies that deal with sizable teams of heroes, it’s easy to see characters that could be removed altogether from the equation, but James Gunn worked his magic once again here to make everyone feel irreplaceable.
Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) are still the finest comedic duo of the Guardians, capable of derailing almost any serious conversation with child-like innocence, bad jokes, and unfiltered comments. It’s a testament to the actors’ talent (and James Gunn’s excellent writing and direction) how many gags that could’ve landed flat or quickly become annoying totally work time and again. Everyone is on the same page and knows what to aim for with every little moment. And yes, both Drax and Mantis get powerful dramatic beats as well.