You know what makes a movie great? When you forget about everything else going on in the world because you’re so invested in the characters and story. Not only was that my experience watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but it’s also one I think all Marvel fans will have.
Picking up a little while after the events of Avengers: Endgame and the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, the film begins with the cosmic misfits in an awkward state after the death of Gamora. And it’s not because they haven’t finished mourning, but because their leader, Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill, hasn’t. When we meet him this time around, his depression is beginning to take its toll on all of the Guardians. After spending most of his days drunk or sleeping, he realizes the errors of his ways when a new mysterious and seemingly unbeatable foe arrives and tries to kill Rocket. Rocket doesn’t die, but he is beat within an inch of his life. Not wanting to lose another friend, Quill gets his act together and races across the galaxy to save him.
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The defining trait of the Guardians series is the theme of found family. When the characters first come together in Volume 1, they are famously described in the first film as “a bunch of A-holes” who shouldn’t have anything in common or get along. With each adventure, however, they come to love one another as a family and one that will do anything to protect each other.
Granted, in the other films movies (and Marvel films in general), the drama revolves trying to save the entire world or galaxy itself. But what sets this film a part is that it’s driven so deeply by that established bond the Guardians have. A majority of this film the Guardians are mostly focused on just trying to save a single member’s (Rocket’s) life. The fact that such a simple selfless act brings them together really drives home how much they’ve grown to care about each other. But it’s also through that act that they end up getting involved in a much bigger threat from the High Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji in an incredible performance.
There are some villains like Thanos or Killmonger or even the Vulture (in my opinion) where you can understand where they’re coming from and you even sympathize with them on some level. But there are other villains that are great because they’re just straight up evil and you don’t know what they will do next and you have no idea how the heroes will take them down. That was the case with the High Evolutionary.
While Marvel has often been criticized for their usage of humor in their movies, the Guardians have always been the blueprint for how to balance comedy and drama well. In this film particularly, Gunn has somehow outdone himself, juggling both emotions effortlessly. The film captures the essence of actual family best with the way things can be sad and serious one moment but you can end up making each other smile at something stupid not long after.
Rocket’s backstory tugs on your heartstrings the most, as the audience is shown how he was created and the torture he went through in a series of flashbacks. It’s yet another testament to Gunn’s filming that he’s able to manufacture these emotions from a character who isn’t really there. CGI and voice acting that a film can make you feel that way about a character that’s not really there.
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With all the talk of Marvel fatigue, I admittedly went into this film feeling anxious and pessimistic. But even with its sad parts, this film really uplifted me. It took me to another world for two and a half hours where I laughed, got joyfully teary-eyed, and even felt like I was hanging out with old friends. During that final needle drop especially, a bittersweet feeling came over me, followed by a sense of pure joy.
The movie leaves with a lot of important messages to take with you. Firstly, you should love people for who they are and not who you want them to be. Secondly, you should not run away from your past or let it define your future. Lastly, it’s never too late for a second chances. The last one is particularly important when you remember that the formation of the Guardians of the Galaxy gave each member second chance at life. For all the debates about whether or not superhero movies should be considered real art. This is the type of movie that shows the even genre filmmakers like Gunn are still capable of pulling off complex and meaningful stories and that the Marvel Cinematic Universe still has the power to generate some great cinematic experiences. Whether you’re phased out by the MCU or superhero fatigue has really start to set it, at the very least let’s just agree that any movie that can make you feel emotional over a talking raccoon deserves some credit.
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