Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
by Hope Madden and George Wolf
Even if James Gunn had forgotten that his Guardians of the Galaxy formula was plenty familiar, the way Dungeons and Dragons just repackaged it would serve as a winning reminder.
So for the finale of the Guardians trilogy, writer/director Gunn smartly adds some unexpected layers to the good-natured humor and superhero action.
How unexpected? Well, if you had existential tumult and Return of the Jedi homages on your bingo card, congratulations to you. But if you figured Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) as the catalyst, think again.
Gunn wants us to know that this whole story has been Rocket’s all along.
Peter is indeed still hurting from losing Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to memory loss, but it’s a threat to the life of Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) that gets him back with Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) – with yes, help from Gamora – for one last ride.
The mission? Stop the “High Evolutionary” (Chukwudi Iwuji) on his quest to program evolution until perfection is achieved. The themes are heady, with both echoes of the past and callouts to the current “burn it all down” crowd, but Gunn still finds plenty of room for goofy laughs, warm camaraderie, and real heart.
Plus, mean Gamora is so much more fun than righteous Gamora. Drax and Mantis continue to be a joyous mismatch of besties and Gillen’s deadpan delivery is maybe more funny in this episode than any other.
Gunn’s MCU sendoff retains his trademark mischievous humor and fondness for raucous violence. The action sequences here match anything Gunn has done previously, while Rocket’s origin story packs Volume 3 with an unexpected emotional wallop.
When Gunn joined the MCU for 2014’s first GoG episode, he made his silly mastery of the blockbuster known. With ruffian charm, Rocket and the gang deliver deeper, more believably touching chemistry now than they did then. Volume 3 is a fitting, emotional, madcap swan song.