Film, TV + Theatre

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3′ review: Almost perfect

The final mixtape


By Marissa Chin

IMAGES: Marvel Studios
‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3′ review: Almost perfect

Released on 5 May 2023, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) were reunited with the ragtag group of space misfits for their final face-off in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. As a self-proclaimed Guardians fan myself, I was eagerly awaiting this finale after Vol. 2 came out in 2017 and a lot has happened to our crew since then. Recap: OG Gamora went splat after being thrown off a cliff in Vormir, the squad, except for Nebula and Rocket, bit the dust, Gamora 2.0 returned, Kevin Bacon was kidnapped, and the Guardians get a new crib in a dead Celestial’s head. 

None of this sounds completely out of pocket, though, because this is what we have come to expect from a series that James Gunn gatekeeps to the extreme (he’s notoriously particular about every song used). Guardians’ DNA is made up of whacky shenanigans and off-beat humour, but it is also, at its core, a story of heart, friendship and family between a group who couldn’t be more different from each other looking for a place to belong. With the movie garnering $742 million worldwide so far and earning a certified Fresh rating of 85 per cent, it’s safe to say that the story Gunn envisioned for his Guardians send-off is the right tune—and thank goodness for that after the absolutely disastrous cacophony that was Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania.

After a less-than-satisfying Phase Four and a rocky Phase Five, Marvel needed a strong win to show that their Golden Ages are not behind them. Alas, it took the finale of a well-loved trilogy to do this—not totally great news for Marvel but great for MCU fans who have grown attached to these legacy characters. In saying that, it’s still an *almost-perfect* send-off, meaning that while Guardians 3 kicks the superhero fatigue to the curb, it still comes with some minor flaws. 

Warning: spoilers ahead!



Story-wise, there were a lot of loose ends that Gunn had to tie up. With Quill and new Gamora’s relationship, Rocket’s past, Adam Warlock’s arrival, Kraglin’s performance anxiety with Yondu’s Arrow and the Guardians’ newfound roles in Knowhere, wrapping up all of these nicely in two and a half hours shouldn’t be easy. But Gunn once again shows his superhero storytelling prowess by tying up these loose ends into a satisfying conclusion.

The primary focus of Vol. 3 is on Rocket and his past. Viewers have had crumbs of this throughout the franchise and its crossovers, but the finale finally dives right into the emotional thick of his trauma—and it’s really dark. The narrative involves heavy subject matter such as animal abuse, torture and psychological trauma, which already got me tearing up in the first 30 minutes of the film. James Gunn has stated that Rocket has always been the secret protagonist of Guardians and we know that to be true from all his scene-stealing moments and how his origins have been steadily built up until now. After all, it is his past—that literally catches up to him in the form of Adam Warlock—that essentially kickstarts the entire plot of the movie as the team works together to save his life after a devastating attack.

It’s a much more serious Guardians, they’re as uptight as we’ve ever seen them thus far, but the gang never strays too far away from their typical antics. There are still plenty of childish squabbles and farcical shenanigans that will get you giggling. However, I did occasionally feel that some of these could’ve been spaced out more, especially after a disturbing or harrowing scene. The emotional whiplash was very real. I wished that I was able to sit on these emotions more before they were undercut by some PG-12 joke, which is a Marvel problem that doesn’t look like it’s going away.   

As mentioned before, there are many side plots that are explored and given a great conclusion. After losing Gamora, Quill falls into depression and alcohol abuse. He tries over and over to win new Gamora’s heart; it’s clear that she is not the same person he fell in love with; she’s brash and brutish and definitely carries the air of being Thanos’ ruthless daughter. However, I really enjoyed how their relationship turned out in the end. Quill learns that loving someone is also letting them go and not forcing them to be the image or idea of someone they once loved. He has always been in search of love (the man comes with plenty of mummy and daddy issues), but it all comes full circle for him when he discovers that there is a family waiting for him back on Earth, which is beautiful in and of itself.

The rest of the characters also receive their own satisfying arcs, each with standout moments. While some of the cast, such as Karen Gillan and Dave Bautista, have stated that it would be their last time playing their roles, there are still plenty of strings to pull from for future Marvel roll-outs. It may not be Gunn’s version of the Guardians but the finale leaves room for potential cameos and cross-overs that will still be exciting to see.



The star of Vol. 3 is undoubtedly Rocket. The finale answers many of the questions surrounding his backstory and shows how he became the gun-wielding hot-headed furball we know today. I’m very weak when it comes to anything animal-related, so it was almost a Pavlovian response every time Rocket appeared on the screen for me to cry. Gunn does an incredible job of making me emotionally attached to a CGI raccoon, and that’s all because of Bradley Cooper’s amazing voice acting and Sean Gunn’s motion tracking. Every flashback scene with Rocket was heartwrenching, which tonally isn’t a Guardians standard but felt needed in order to bring up the stakes even more. He is the unsung hero of the Guardians, and the choice of him becoming the new leader could not have been a more perfect pay-off. 

Seeing Quill and Gamora was tough. Since the two were only just on the precipice of their relationship in Vol. 2, watching Gamora get killed in Infinity War was heartbreaking. I really felt for Quill because it was hard for me, too, as a viewer, to see the new Gamora in such a different version. However, like Quill comes to understand, we can’t change who they are to suit our own ideas of who we want them to be. We grieve and mourn Gamora’s loss, but we also take heart in knowing that the new Gamora is happy and living the life she chose for herself, with a new family that cherishes her all the same. 

The franchise hinges upon the great chemistry between the Guardians. In the beginning, they couldn’t be further apart from each other, and indeed, part of the charm and humour comes from how the characters work together. In Vol. 3, the Guardians are functioning like a full-fledged family unit: Mantis and Drax are the squabbling siblings, Quill is the beer-bellied dad, Nebula is the self-appointed mum keeping the place together, Rocket is the cool uncle, Gamora is the aunty-gone-rogue, and Groot is the easygoing grandfather, just happy to be there.

For a group of space outlaws, all of their flaws and imperfections fit beautifully together, and we see an amazing synergy on-screen that’s hard to look away from. While they work well in a team, the film also does a great job of showing their individual strengths. Drax proves he’s got brains and brawns, while Mantis show she’s more than a weakling, capable of making her own decisions. Nebula’s new leadership role in Knowhere is welcomed as this makes sense for her character—as someone who never had a safe home growing up, she wants to make sure she does it for others. 

We also finally got a menacing and terrifying villain in the High Evolutionary. This is mostly thanks to Chukwudi Iwuji’s fantastic performance. I’ve spoken about Jonathan Majors’ role as Kang the Conqueror, which left more to be desired, but Iwuji as the High Evolutionary was the Big Bad I was hoping for. Every time he appeared on-screen, it conjured feelings of hate (if you heard someone shouting “asshole” at the screen, yes, that was me) and downright terror. Playing a tortured genius with a serious God complex, there’s nothing the High Evolutionary wouldn’t do in pursuit of perfection. The stakes of the film only grow higher as he becomes more unhinged. He is Frankenstein and Rocket, his freakish creation. The showdown (I mean, face-off) between creator and creation makes for a stunning and emotional battle. 

The character that was a letdown for me was Adam Warlock. Like his entrance to the film, he comes barreling straight in with little introduction. In the comics, the superhero actually plays a pivotal part in the Infinity Stones arc, even wearing the gauntlet at one point. However, he obviously missed that train, and as a result, his appearance in Vol. 3 felt like a now-or-never situation. They’ve also reduced him to a baby in a superhero’s body who bumbles around foolishly, which is a departure from the comics. He’s a space idiot in a film full of space idiots, so Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock is unfortunately all too forgettable, no matter how well he pulls the part off.



After the silly-looking CGI in Quantumania, I was fearing the absolute worst for Vol. 3. Luckily, the finale still holds the same jaw-dropping visuals that captured me since the first film. The organic space station they travel to feels gross, sticky and slimy. There are plenty of memorable action sequences, with that one-shot hallway fight scene being one of the many highlights of the film. You also have to love the slow-motion shots Gunn often uses of the Guardians walking cooly, Quill passed out and carried bridal-style by Nebula.

Character designs are also fully realised in Vol. 3. Rocket’s friends, who look like Toy Story Sid’s petrifying soft toys, closely resemble their comic depictions. With their big doe eyes, it’s hard for you not to feel something when they meet their tragic demise. The High Evolutionary also looks every bit the part with his purple suit, stretched-out face and blue energy blasts (that look similar to Kang the Conqueror’s, but is far more impactful). I really felt the grandiosity around his character as his power is clearly shown, from civilisations to literal planets that he creates and destroys. 



As his final bow-out before flying over to the DC Universe, Gunn couldn’t have done a better job with Guardians Vol. 3. In my opinion, it is the most satisfying Marvel movie I’ve watched since Endgame and the most consistent film series of the MCU. It has drama, humour and a whole lot of heart. Perhaps the saddest part of the Guardians franchise ending is the loss of Gunn himself for Marvel Studios. The beauty and charm of Guardians were only possible because Gunn fought passionately to creatively express what he wanted. This should be a testament to what the MCU can produce should they let creators and directors fully take charge of a project.

With him moving over to DC and the Guardians bowing out, there’s no telling how Phase Five will continue, lest with Marvel’s notoriously rushed deadlines and overworked staff. If the studio could balance its meddling tendrils and creative integrity, we could see the MCU return to form in the near future. Until then, I’ll be putting Come and Get Your Love on blast. 

Rating: 8.5/10


For more movie reviews, head here.


Explore More