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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review: James Gunn delivers the best MCU film in years

The third film of the Guardians of the Galaxy is among the handful of Marvel films in recent years to have executed a compelling story packed with action and emotion

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review: James Gunn delivers the best MCU film in years

Last Updated: 11.30 AM, May 06, 2023


Story: The Guardians of the Galaxy are attacked by Adam Warlock at the behest of his mother, the empress Ayesha of the Sovereign, who is seeking revenge against the Guardians. The empress also has plans to kidnap Rocket and deliver him to the High Evolutionary, the man responsible for torturing and conducting experiments on Rocket several years ago. But when Rocket is severely injured in the ensuing battle with Adam Warlock, the Guardians are forced to join forces with an alternate version of Gamora to infiltrate the High Evolutionary’a base of operations and steal something that could help save Rocket’s life.


Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 endured a few delays, and at one point was even reportedly scrapped, after writer and director James Gunn’s firing by Marvel Studios. The new co-head of DC Studios was finally rehired after significant backlash, and it is evident why Marvel Studios were keen on offering an olive branch to the filmmaker. The first film in the trilogy redefined the superhero genre in many ways, and it became a template for all future Marvel films. While the comedy and action were well balanced for a film focusing on the Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios overindulged itself by using the same formula in every movie since. And it should come as no surprise that this formula has become stale.


The task facing James Gunn while writing the film was understandably challenging, considering he would have had to bring in fresh creative impetus to keep the audience invested in the story about the motley crew of space heroes. But Marvel fans and superhero fans can breathe a sigh of relief as Gunn has delivered the best Marvel film since Avengers: Infinity War, and the best superhero film since Matt Reeves’ The Batman. There is a noticeable shift in how Gunn has added a lot more emotional scenes than what one has come to expect from regular Marvel films. Despite Rocket (Bradley Cooper) being the central focus of the film’s narrative, there is significant emphasis on Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his relationship with the ‘new’ Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan) becoming a true Guardian, and the exploration of Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax’s(Dave Bautista) platonic relationship.


The film’s narrative and visuals appear to have taken inspiration from Eidos-Montreal’s underrated 2021 video game Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. Apart from a few minor changes like Lady Hellbender being omitted in favour of Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), Grand Unifier Raker being replaced by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), and Rocket's backstory being explored rather than Quill’s, there are plenty of similarities between the film and the video game. To Gunn’s credit, the changes and the similarities have an excellent balance and help in delivering a compelling film. He has also layered in socio-political allegories along with themes of warped and deranged ideas of a utopia and the ‘cleansing’ required to create a better world, and in this case a better universe.


The film is Gunn’s swansong at Marvel, as he works on rebuilding the DC film studios as its new co-head. And the film certainly instils hope that there is still life left in the superhero genre after a slew of flops recently. That being said, it is not without its faults. Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) is unnecessarily dumbed down for the film and his potential as a character is under-utilised. Even though he does have a major scene towards the end of the third act, his character development was far too predictable. Regardless, these are but minor blips in an otherwise engaging film with plenty of heart, humour, action, and some of the best soundtracks.


Verdict: James Gunn continues to deliver compelling superhero films and TV shows for both Marvel and DC, as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is his love letter to the beloved Marvel franchise he helped create. There are sections of the DC fandom who remain sceptical as to whether Gunn can indeed lead DC Films into the future, and if can deliver a compelling Superman reboot, titled Superman: Legacy, which will be written and directed by Gunn himself. Based on the evidence of his latest film, he appears to be more than capable of delivering an excellent superhero film. But whether he can top Zack Snyder’s criminally underrated Superman film Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill, remains to be seen.


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