After the long wait for James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, it’ll no doubt excite fans to learn that not only was it worth the wait, but the movie is one of Marvel Studios' best to date.
The film has had a remarkable journey over the last few years. In fact, it’s almost hard to believe it’s finally a real, finished product.
Not only is it here, but James Gunn’s Magnus Opus is a whopping two-and-a-half hours long. Thankfully, every minute is used with purpose, and nothing goes to waste.
Rocket Raccoon Leads Some Fantastic Character Work
Every character in Vol. 3 is perfectly incorporated and woven into its complex narrative tapestry.
The utilization of characters who may have previously fallen short is handled masterfully here. At times, it feels like James Gunn is countering specific points in his latest Marvel adventure.
While Gunn might not ever admit that his character work in the past may have slacked in certain areas, the choices the filmmaker makes for this third installment organically enrich these characters fans have come to know for nearly a decade now, while successfully telling a rich and engrossing story.
Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord might have been the lead of the last two films, but Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon takes center stage this time around. Needless to say, the narrative work done for the character is amongst some of the best in the MCU.
It also provides some deeply emotional and disturbing moments as audiences learn the circumstances that created everyone’s favorite trash panda.
While Rocket was already one of the strongest characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Vol. 3 elevates him even further.
Star-Lord And Everyone Else Aren't Left Behind
This newfound focus on Rocket, however, doesn’t ever take the attention away from the rest of the movie’s sprawling cast. At no point does it feel like any character or plot point suffers due to the narrative focus clearly landing on Cooper’s Raccoon.
When it comes to Pratt’s Star-Lord, he’s having a hard time dealing with the death, and subsequent revival, of his dead lover. For lots of the film, Peter Quill is wallowing in his own misery—understandably so, given everything that went down in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
Despite the complex emotional situation Quill finds himself in, the characters’ classic comedic chops are still very much present, as is the case for the humor throughout the film. This time around, the balance between laughs and heavy drama is pitch-perfect.
There are three specific characters who all could have had better characterizations and development in the franchise’s prior installments. Those heroes are Gamora, Drax, and Mantis. All three are handled superbly, and in many ways, the development they receive here almost makes up for any shortcomings in the past.
This new Variant of Gamora feels far more aligned with her moniker of the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy. Drax actually gets to competently fight while also making time to explore his softer side. And Mantis‘s powers are put to use in unique and clever ways, while she also gains more agency than just simply being a supporting punchline to Drax’s many jokes
Also, when it comes to Gamora, Zoe Saldana gives her best performance to date as the character.
As for Nebula, her story in Infinity War and Endgame gives the former villain a great foundation for Vol. 3 to build on. It feels like she’s always been a member of the team, and despite her continued elevated anger, that’s no longer her singular trait.
Finally, one can’t forget about Groot. While previous iterations of the sentient tree may have come off as gimmicky for many, the version seen in Vol. 3 feels like the most fully realized and rounded take on the character yet.
New Faces Join the Guardians
As for the newcomers, the obvious first person to mention would be Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock. Teased at the end of Vol. 2 five years ago, the character finally makes his proper entrance.
Vol. 3 has a lot to juggle, and Warlock’s introduction is one of those many objects trying to stay afloat in mid-air.
Adam's story is not one that would seem like an organic fit alongside the rest of the narrative. However, Gunn does an incredible job of giving the character just the right amount of screen time without allowing anything to feel forced, unearned, or undercooked.
Then there’s the fan-favorite Cosmo, someone who enthusiasts have been dying to see in the MCU for years. Needless to say, the wait for the Russian telepathic dog’s arrival is worth the wait.
While her role in the film isn’t much, it’s just enough to feel satisfying and really makes audiences excited to see more of her down the road.
The Terrifying High Evolutionary
Let’s talk about the villain.
While Marvel has had plenty of problems in the past with its big bads, that trend doesn’t make an appearance here.
Chukwudi Iwuji’s High Evolutionary is one of Marvel’s best antagonists, and the Peacemaker actor gives his all for every second of his screen time.
Iwuji’s performance perfectly encapsulates the terrifying, maddened evil genius to a tee. He’s also impressively brutal at points in the story.
While the character is notably changed from his source material, the core aspects of what makes the villain unique are all there. Like all of the best villains, the story makes his motives very clear and skillfully creates his twisted logic behind it all.
Not only is the High Evolutionary the best villain in any of the Guardians movies, but he belongs in the running for one of the best MCU baddies in general.
The Finer Details of the Galaxy
When it comes to the overall production design of Vol. 3, it is just as strong as always.
The High Evolutionary’s base of operations sports a unique and eye-catching aesthetic, while another space station made entirely of organic matter may be quick to make some squeamish.
As for the costumes, the core team’s new matching outfits are fantastic. They are wonderfully comic-accurate, and many fans are no doubt thrilled to see Gunn put them on screen before his Marvel departure.
They aren’t all winners, however. The High Evolutionary's costume is notably weaker than anything else in the movie. Simply put, it’s completely forgettable.
Thankfully, Chukwudi’s performance is quick to make one forget about the slight costuming hiccup.
Then there’s the VFX work, which, for the most part, is astounding. The high quality can easily be noticed during any sequence with a CGI animal—notably any and all of Rocket’s backstory.
When it comes to this entry’s mixtape, the musical selection is just as wonderfully chosen and curated as any Guardians project before.
James Gunn Created A Winner
Not only did James Gunn successfully stick the landing for his era-ending story, but he’s also gone and created one of the very best movies in Marvel Studios history.
With the filmmaker now co-lead over at DC Studios, hopefully, he’ll be able to bring that same impressive quality to everything produced over with Warner Bros.
With the mixed reception that Marvel Studios has been getting with its recent projects, Vol. 3 could be a much-needed win for the company.
Fingers crossed that the project also hits the higher end of its box office projections. After all, fans are going to want to see these characters again sooner rather than later.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits theaters on May 5.