Half a decade ago, the world witnessed James Gunn’s dramatic fall from grace when offensive tweets resurfaced, leading to his firing by Disney. Gunn was seemingly relegated to the sidelines, whilst his brainchild, the beloved group of miscreants, were slated to return for a third Guardians of the Galaxy film without him at the helm. However, embodying the familial spirit of the characters they portray, the cast of the Guardians of the Galaxy were unyielding in their solidarity of refusing to return unless the twisted genius responsible for the films was reinstated. The Guardians of the Galaxy, a group of misfits granted a second chance in life to do something good, paralleled James Gunn’s journey in creating this film, and something good was certainly delivered in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where we find Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) still grappling with the loss of his beloved Gamora. For the few individuals who may have missed Avengers: Endgame, a past version of Gamora was brought into the present through time-travel shenanigans. However, the caveat is that this Gamora has no recollection of her relationship with Quill and cannot conceal her aversion at the idea of a romance with Quill. Whilst Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord has rightfully claimed top billing for each of the films, the hidden story of the films revolves around everyone’s favourite racoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). The conflict at the heart of the film carries high personal stakes for Rocket: he is relentlessly hunted by his cruel creator, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), who makes zero compromises in his quest to exterminate Rocket, whom he sees as an imperfection in his quest for a perfect society.
Whilst Marvel hast often recently gone in the direction of sympathetic antagonists, with an alternative worldview which the hero must learn from, the High Evolutionary is as contemptible as possible, delivering monologues steeped in Shakespearean eloquence
Rather than the foundation of the trilogy’s prosperity being intricately woven and thrilling plots like those found in Christopher Nolan movies, the success of this film and the prior two come from the deeply personal and multifaceted treatment of the characters. The Guardians of the Galaxy truly embody a family, with each member undergoing character arcs that are intertwined with the film’s thematic essence. Chris Pratt delivers his usual charismatic performance as Star-Lord, as he grapples with the harsh reality that this new Gamora does not reciprocate his affection, forcing him to confront his demons. Although his story is mostly told through flashbacks, Rocket is absolutely the film’s emotional backbone, as we are finally exposed to his profoundly harrowing backstory, which tugs at heartstrings through the utterly cruel animal abuse that the High Evolutionary inflicts. Whilst Marvel hast often recently gone in the direction of sympathetic antagonists, with an alternative worldview which the hero must learn from, the High Evolutionary is as contemptible as possible, delivering monologues steeped in Shakespearean eloquence.
The Guardians of the Galaxy films have often garnered praise for their iconic soundtracks, and Vol 3 is no exception. Starting with Rocket’s rendition of ‘Creep’ and finishing with the cathartic ‘Dog Days are Over’, the film’s meticulous use of music elicits a strong emotional reaction
Nebula, brilliantly portrayed by Karen Gillan, continues to be Marvel’s most underappreciated character, as she continues her journey of shedding the scars of her abusive upbringing, enabling her to transition from a once ruthless assassin to rediscovering her humanity. While Drax and Mantis provide comic relief, Gunn is able to adeptly strike a balance between their over-the-top humour and subtle yet poignant character arcs. Groot, now affectionately referred to as ‘Buff Groot’ due to his redesigned appearance, is expertly integrated into the film’s fight sequences, taking on a formidable Kaiju-like form. These sequences, which bookend the film, rank among the finest action scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first is set against the backdrop of Knowhere at night, with the visual aesthetics evoking those of Blade Runner 2049, where we are plunged straight into the action with the Guardians putting their lives on the line to protect Rocket from the mercurial Adam Warlock. Later in the film, a flawlessly executed hallway fight scene provides each member of the team time to shine, through Gunn’s impeccable direction. The Guardians of the Galaxy films have often garnered praise for their iconic soundtracks, and Vol 3 is no exception. Starting with Rocket’s rendition of ‘Creep’ and finishing with the cathartic ‘Dog Days are Over’, the film’s meticulous use of music elicits a strong emotional reaction.
Although easy to overlook due to the film brimming with creativity and heartfelt moments, it isn’t without its flaws. Whilst Gunn finally fulfils the Vol. 2 post-credit promise of the character of Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), the character feels somewhat tangential to the main narrative, despite Poulter’s ability to inject a few humorous moments into the narrative. Gamora, regrettably, seems to be treated as an afterthought by Gunn compared to his personal connection with his other characters, but nevertheless, she contributes to Quill’s journey. And although being billed as the definitive conclusion to Guardians’ narrative, the film surprisingly leaves you with a lingering sense of incompleteness, as it doesn’t feel like the definitive end for this team.
While Vol. 3 may not attain absolute perfection, the film itself imparts the message that imperfection can possess a profound beauty, starkly contrasted to the heartless nature of High Evolutionary’s ‘perfect’ society. As this Guardians of the Galaxy line-up bring their journey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a close, the same is true for director James Gunn. With this film, Gunn bids his farewell to Marvel, as he makes the transition to their director competitor DC, where he assumes the role of CEO, and thus is a potential thorn in Marvel’s future ambitions. Gunn’s creative and deeply personal approach has often quelled the claims of Marvel being creatively bankrupt, and his departure leaves a void of vibrant creativity in the studio.