Once more with feeling.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 follows the titular group as they band together for one last mission, scrambling to rescue Rocket (Bradley Cooper) after an attack by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?) activates a kill-switch left by the company Orgocorp when they first created him. Alternating between flashbacks exploring Rocket’s past and the present day, The Guardians travel to Orgocorp to find the override code, teaming up with the new version of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) (first introduced in Endgame), who has no memory of the past two films.
Eventually retrieving Rocket’s file the group are dismayed to see the code has been removed, prompting them to get straight to the source and confronting The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji)– who first created Rocket- head on. The High Evolutionary however is a dangerous individual who wants to recreate the universe in his image, promising one hell of a battle for The Guardians if they ever want to see their friend again. With so much on the line can the group save Rocket, defeat The High Evolutionary and repair the universe to boot or will one last mission turn into the last night of their lives?
The MCU seems to get bigger and bigger with every passing year and with each new release it seems like you have to have more and more knowledge of everything that has come before, making it so every new film has an entire history of catching up before you can even consider watching. I think because of this I have sort of strayed away from the films and am not as big a fan as I once was, only really prioritising the films I really want to watch. With Guardians I do still love these characters and because the storylines are somewhat separate from the rest of the MCU (mainly because they take place in outer space), I feel like I can watch these films as sort of standalones and not worry about not watching the past ten films in order to reacquaint myself. I know that the Guardians did appear in the latest Thor film (which I have not watched) but apart from this I have watched everything else the group appear in and don’t seem to have missed anything major, so I do still feel like I can enjoy these films regardless of my feelings towards the rest of the MCU.
One of my favourite aspects of this trilogy has always been the family the Guardians have found in each other and here they have never felt more united or gelled more as a team (even with the absence of Gamora). Now three films in (not even counting the Avengers appearances), the Guardians are completely united and they just get each other, membership may range from a tree to a racoon to a former villainous robot but this is a group of people who truly care for one another and would do anything to keep each other safe. I think this was particularly highlighted by new Gamora’s utter confusion at this closeness, never having experienced it herself, and we really got to see her witness the team go to great lengths to save and rescue each other, it was very heart-warming. Even at the end when the team went their separate ways we got one last dance together and a real belief that it wouldn’t be the end, this is a film series about found family and The Guardians will always be there for one another whatever may come their way.
Volume 3 really explored Rocket’s character and backstory, the latter of which was absolutely heart-breaking and I really enjoyed getting such an in-depth character dive into his past, even if it did leave me in constant tears. Rocket’s creation alongside Lila, Teefs and Floor was very telling to his present day actions and I think re-watching the first two films made me re-evaluate a lot of what I knew about Rocket. Seeing the four friends locked up in the cages but still bonding despite everything was massively bittersweet and the end to the flashbacks nearly destroyed me, the film really went down a pretty dark path. For the past two films Rocket arguably has been the teammate we’ve known the least about and so this film really felt like the perfect send-off to his character and it really showcased the cruelty of the world we live in, The High Evolutionary was an absolute monster of a villain.
One thing I’m really glad that this film didn’t do is put Peter (Chris Pratt) and Gamora back together just for the sake of a happy ending. Since we were now dealing with this new iteration of the character who had never met The Guardians, Gamora was very different and not the same person we’d come to know and love these past two films. Without Peter and the others in her life, Gamora remained pretty guarded and tough and I like how this never changed, even with the time she spent with the new team. The old Gamora presumably had years with the team but this new Gamora had one single mission and she wasn’t just going to change back overnight because that’s not how feelings work. Even if she did warm up to the group overtime it still wasn’t the same person and I’m glad the film acknowledged that and let her go and live her own life. I really liked that final scene between Peter and Gamora where she sort of recognises that they could have been fun together but it still wasn’t ever going to happen, it very felt honest to the new version of the character.
Nebula (Karen Gillian, Jumanji) is definitely the MVP for me here (shortly followed I think by Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Thunder Force)) and her development across the past three films has really been something amazing to see. I always love a good villain redemption story and seeing her go from Gamora’s evil sister to a real essential part of the team has been really special. Now a fully fledged member of The Guardians, I think the other members do look to Nebula for leadership in the same way they do Quill and she takes on an almost second-in-command role here. I also liked how her relationship with Gamora has changed, both from her own development but also with the change in Gamora’s character and how she is now considered the ‘nicer sister’ if you will. I’ve loved Karen Gillian since her Doctor Who days and to see her in such a big franchise is great to see, she plays the role brilliantly and I really hope this isn’t the last we see of Nebula.
As a bonus I also watched the recent Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and as always with these characters I had a great time and enjoyed watching. Drax (Dave Bautista, Glass Onion) and Mantis made for a killer duo and I loved the idea of them kidnapping Kevin Bacon (They/Them), leading to your typical Guardians hilarity. With this being a Christmas special we also got some festive fun and I loved Peter trying to explain the concept of Christmas to literal aliens (as well as some nice flashback scenes between young Peter and Yondu). I’m always up for more of these characters whether it be a full length film, cameo is special appearance and so this felt like a nice holiday treat (even if I was watching in May…)
Overall I really loved this third instalment of The Guardians franchise and felt like it did a great job at finishing up everybody’s storylines and allowing the characters to move on to their own respective things. The Guardians franchise has always been a favourite of mine for the pure chaotic, found family aspects and getting one last mission really felt like a really satisfying send off. Rocket’s own backstory explored via flashbacks was completely heart-breaking and very telling to the present day character and I really enjoyed the deep dive into his character. For me Nebula and Mantis were the real MVP’s here and I hope that this isn’t the last time we seen the characters here, some of them definitely have real motive to return and I’d love to see more.