5 Biggest Criticisms of Guardians of the Galaxy 3, According to Critics

By Sam Hargrave Posted:
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 quickly proved to be a resounding hit with fans, becoming regarded as one of the MCU's best post-Endgame movie releases. 

Even critics shared strong reactions to the James Gunn threequel, while The Direct's Russ Milheim called it one of Marvel Studios' best movies ever.

But that's not to say Vol. 3 was without its flaws, with the movie holding the trilogy's worst Rotten Tomatoes score at 81% compared to the 92% and 85% of its two predecessors. 

The Disappointing Adam Warlock

Adam Warlock
Marvel Studios

Will Poulter's Adam Warlock was perhaps the biggest new superhero addition to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but James Gunn's handling of the character failed to resonate with many fans for a number of reasons.

Guardians 3 essentially treated Adam Warlock as a petulant mommy's boy and often played him for jokes, occasionally treating him as something of a buffoon.

Unfortunately, this didn't line up with the badass all-powerful new superhero many fans were expecting to see with Vol. 3.

Some also suggested Adam Warlock was wasted in Vol. 3 as he essentially just served as a henchman for Ayesha and the High Evolutionary.

Is This Criticism Reasonable?

Technically speaking, despite being played by a 30-year-old Poulter in Guardians 3, Adam Warlock is essentially still the child he is played as since he was only recently birthed by Ayesha and the Sovereign as their ultimate weapon. 

This was only the MCU debut for Adam Warlock, and there's no doubt he will continue to mature and grow powerful as his year with the new Guardians go on.

The Movie Goes Too Depressing 

Rocket 1
Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 certainly takes its story in a more tragic direction than past movies, with the team immediately sent racing against the clock to save one of their family - the fatally injured Rocket.

The secondary flashback story to Rocket's past is naturally a depressing one too, as he was used, abused, experimented on, and had to see all his friends killed in front of him, at least partly due to his own actions.

All of this makes for a far more tragic and depressing tale than prior Guardians adventures, as the previous entries in the franchise, while certainly still featuring some emotional undertones, leaned far more heavily into the comedy.

Is This Criticism Reasonable?

The Guardians of the Galaxy movies are often seen as light-hearted comedies by many, but deep down they have always hidden some heavy and emotional storylines behind their troubled characters.

The animal-abusing villain and the looming threat of death for Rocket certainly bring out those more tragic elements to be more prominent than ever in Vol. 3, but the usual funny banter and jokes remain as intact as ever. 

The High Evolutionary Animal Torture

High Evolutionary
Marvel Studios

As the High Evolutionary's goal was to create the perfect society and lifeforms to inhabit Counter-Earth, the scientific villain did plenty of brutal animal experimentation, torture, and even killing in the movie.

Among the toughest examples came in the High Evolutionary's treatment of Rocket, his brutal killing of Lylla, Teefs, and Floor, and the horrendous experimentation he conducts on other animals.

The animal abuse in Guardians 3 proved to be a trigger that has turned select viewers away from the movie given the intensity and brutality of the subject matter.

Is This Criticism Reasonable?

In many ways, the High Evolutionary's horrendous treatment of animals was part of what allowed the audience to hate him - most people do love their pets and adorable creatures after all.

While the MCU often dabbles in villains with redeeming qualities or a justifiable plan, the High Evolutionary was straight-up evil and beyond redemption.

Yes, animal abuse, experimentation, and torture may be tough subject matter for some, but Vol. 3 in no way glorified or put any lightheartedness into the abuse - those were some of the movie's most emotional moments.

Even animal rights group PETA went as far as to praise Vol. 3 as an "animal rights masterpiece" with a "powerful message."

Too Much Happening in Guardians 3

Guardians Space
Marvel Studios

Between the High Evolutionary flashbacks, the mission to save Rocket, the trip to Counter-Earth, the introduction of Adam Warlock, an emotional arc of Peter moving past Gamora, and closing out the stories of these Guardians, some have criticized Guardians 3 as being overstuffed with too much going on.

Is This Criticism Reasonable?

James Gunn certainly set himself a tough task with Vol. 3 as he sought to conclude the Guardians' tale, tell an emotional story about Rocket, and lay the groundwork for a new group of intergalactic misfits.

But based on the positive reviews, most seem to agree he stuck the landing by juggling and intertwining the many plotlines. At no point does the film feel overwhelming or confusing, everything flows rather smoothly.

Gunn was likely aided by the threequel's extended runtime compared to the previous movies, jumping up to the two-and-a-half hour mark from a flat two hours.

An Expectation of Major Deaths

Guardians Deaths
Marvel Studios

As Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was always promoted as the end of the line for this group of intergalactic misfits while also clearly being an emotional affair, most were going into the movie expecting a significant death for one of the core team.

And yet, the credits rolled, and there was no such major death to speak of, even the villainous High Evolutionary surprisingly survived the final encounter.

This left many to see the conclusion to Vol. 3 as something of a disappointment or emotional anti-climax, especially after the entire adventure revolved around the quest to save Rocket's life from certain death.

Is This Criticism Reasonable?

While some were expecting to lose one of the Guardians as most of the original team bids farewell to the MCU, it's tough to justify the lack of a shocking death as an actual flaw with the movie's storyline, even if it was a disappointment to some.

James Gunn still managed to develop high stakes, create a hatred for the High Evolutionary, and feature many emotional moments that left audiences in tears, all without killing off any familiar Guardians icons.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is streaming now on Disney+.

- In This Article: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Release Date
May 05, 2023
- About The Author: Sam Hargrave
Sam Hargrave is the Associate Editor at The Direct. He joined the team as a gaming writer in 2020 before later expanding into writing for all areas of The Direct and taking on further responsibilities such as editorial tasks and image creation.