After a tumultuous six years of mid-at-best releases, the future of the MCU may very well depend on this movie.
It has been a long messy road to get to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
In 2014, James Gunn directed and co-wrote the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Many considered the film to be the first big risk of the MCU considering how the ensemble film focused on a relatively unknown group of heroes.
However, the film was a critical hit, and has since gone on to be considered one of the best MCU entries to date.
Three years later, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out, and while it was not a critical hit, it still managed to gross $800 million worldwide, making it an ever bigger financial hit than the first one.
But in the months that followed, Gunn became embroiled in a social media scandal revolving around his old tweets involving pedophilia jokes, his hosting of a To Catch A Predator-themed party, and personal connection to known sex offender Huston Huddleston.
As a result, Disney decided to fire Gunn, though this decision was quickly reversed just months later after the Guardians themselves made it clear that they would not do a third film without the director at the helm.
That brings us to 2023. James Gunn is now the head of Warner Bros. Discovery’s DC Studios and has wrapped the final Guardians of the Galaxy movie featuring the original lineup.
In desperate need of a big box office hit, Marvel Studios is hoping that the hype behind this being the last film of one of the MCU’s better ensembles will inspire audiences to buy a ticket.
The problem with the continuity of the Guardians is that with the exception of Avengers: Infinity War, they haven’t really played a big role in the ongoing MCU storyline up to this point. It’s been 4 years, a cameo in Thor: Love & Thunder, and a Christmas Special since Avengers: Endgame was released in theaters and we’re just now exploring how the events of the two crossover films impacted the Guardians.
Beginning after events of the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special that was released on Disney+ late last year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 finds the team having since established established their headquarters on a rebuilt Knowhere.
At the same time, Peter is having a difficult time dealing with the loss of his version of Gamora, who was killed by Thanos in Infinity War. But as he attempts to process his loss, the team is attacked by Adam Warlock, and Rocket Raccoon is wounded in the resulting battle.
From there, it’s soon discovered that an evil organization from Rocket’s past, OrgoCorp, has returned in the hopes of kidnapping the talking Raccoon in order to acquire a certain bit of information he has in his possession.
Refusing to let their their friend suffer at their hands, the team soon travels to the group’s headquarters, the Orgoscope, in the hopes of finding a way to override Rocket’s kill switch and save his life.
However, the team gets far more than they bargain for once they realize that they know nothing about the person who they have called their best friend for years.
As with every discussion of the MCU, the elephant in the room is the fact that the quality of its films have stagnated. Once praised as some of the best blockbusters around, the shared cinematic universe is now known for being not good enough to be great but not bad enough to be terrible, albeit with a few exceptions.
That said, Vol. 3 is excellently average for casual moviegoers. However, if you are a fan of the comic books, there may be a lot of things in this movie that you’ll take exception to.
Let’s start with Adam Warlock. Adam Warlock was teased at the end Vol. 2, which led fans to believe that the golden-skinned cosmic entity would play a major role in Infinity War and Endgame like he did in the comic book story that inspired them.
But when all was said and done, they instead found that the character had been left out completely, leaving many to question what was even the point of establishing him in the first place.
Unfortunately, Warlock’s portrayal in this film won’t make things any better. Like many of the male characters in this movie, he is portrayed as a complete and utter idiot.
His introduction makes it seem like he’s going to be a formidable challenge, only for his heat as a villain to be immediately sucked out of the room within the first 20 minutes. Ultimately, Warlock is reduced to an overgrown child who’s barely more intelligible than Drax the Destroyer.
As for the plot, it turns out to be nothing more than a series of conveniences. In fact, it only works if you can accept that despite being a team for almost ten years, Rocket told none of the other Guardians about his origin story.
The film’s villain, The High Evolutionary, is portrayed as a mad scientist who wants to be God. Meanwhile, his design makes Chukwudi Iwuji look like yet another version of Kang the Conqueror – and I won’t be the only one to notice that considering we just met the latter villain three months ago.
Further, in spite of its $250 million production budget, Marvel Studios’ signature rough visual effects work is present throughout the film. While some scenes have great detail and look great for an outer space opera, others look down right unfinished.
The series’ trope of playing classic music throughout the film is alive and well, and Vol. 3 doesn’t spare any expense in licensing big name artists for its soundtrack – especially when it comes to the Beastie Boys, as their discography seems to have become to go-to song catalog for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (see The Marvels trailer for reference).
Because this is a Gunn film, it was expected that would be a ton of dumb gags that would undercut what was setup to be a particularly serious.
While the director doesn’t go full Taika Waititi, the overall juvenile nature of his film tends to lessen the blow of its more sincere moments. The thing is, you need them for this film to work. Your overall enjoyment of this movie is going to be based on what type of MCU fan you are.
If you’re a casual popcorn moviegoer who just wants to waste two-and-a-half hours of their time, Vol. 3 is decent enough to leave you satisfied in that regard. If you’ve watched all 32 MCU films an you’re looking for motivation to keep moving forward, you’re not to get it from this movie.
With this being the final story of a chapter and the MCU having nothing really to look forward to after it, Vol. 3 serves as a mirror to a lot of the problems Marvel Studios is having with their dying cash cow of a shared universe. At the end of the day, audiences are just finding it harder and harder to get invested with the largest cinematic soap opera in history.
Ultimately, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is another C+ addition to the overstuffed Oreo that is the MCU.
- A nice sendoff for the Guardians crew.
- Well acted across the board.
- Starlord & Nebula shine bright.
- A 2.5 hour runtime.
- Too many characters.
- Character-induced stupidity.