guardians of the galaxy vol. 3 review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review | James Gunn brings his trilogy to an epic conclusion

The Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy comes to an emotional end in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Read our review.


The Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy comes to an emotional end in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Read our review.

Marvel doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to its trilogies. As recently as February, Ant-Man kind of fluffed it and most of the studio’s individual franchises are too concerned with the larger universe to work as their own thing.

Then there’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the franchise everyone believed to be Marvel’s first bomb, but turned out to be its most wonderful, quirky, strange series of films. Writer-director James Gunn brings his trilogy to a remarkable, satisfying close with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 while also bowing out of the MCU for the time being.

We find ourselves back on Knowhere, where the Guardians have set up headquarters. But of course, a new enemy is on its way to them and before they know it, our beloved Guardians are pulled into another galaxy-hopping adventure. 

Guardians of the galaxy vol. 3 rocket

Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

Without a doubt, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 arrives with plenty of expectations. Many cast members have already described this as the end for their characters. It’ll be near impossible to meet those expectations, but Vol. 3 exceeds them, in surprising ways. Be warned, this might not be the film you want it to be, but it is most definitely the ending we all needed. 

There’s a lot going on in Vol.3, some might argue too much. It moves almost at a manic pace, however it’s never anything other than compelling, while proving emotionally satisfying as well.

Vol. 3 is darker, more violent and more melancholic than its colourful and cheerful predecessors, but such a shift in tone is appreciated. Don’t worry, there are still jokes about poo in Vol. 3 but there is also a maturity to the film that wasn’t there 6 years ago in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

As we already know from the emotional trailers, Vol. 3 is Rocket’s story really. Gunn has spoken a lot about wanting to cover the gun-happy raccoon’s back story and here, we finally witness how Rocket became… well, Rocket. The flashbacks to Rocket’s origins come often and without warning, but thankfully, Gunn is able to weave them into the narrative without ever making them feel out of place. 

As already mentioned, Vol. 3 is far more violent than previous Marvel offerings. Bones and necks snap and characters are mercilessly beaten. James Gunn’s horror background shows here; there’s more Slither in Vol. 3 than expected with all the goo and mild gore. At times, Vol. 3 is outright scary and John Murphy’s score only ramps up the tension. 

The returning cast are all reliably great. By this point, nothing less would be acceptable but it’s the new recruits who impress the most. Chukwudi Iwuji clearly has a good time as the film’s main villain, The High Evolutionary, but Will Poulter stands out. His Adam Warlock, teased at the end of Vol. 2, is the perfect mix of moody teenager and a killing machine. Poulter’s performance is an electric mix of funny and terrifying. 

At 2 hours and 29 minutes, Vol. 3 is long. It mostly justifies its runtime; Gunn is very good at pacing his films and the time simply flies by. Vol. 3 constantly has so much going on, you’re too busy trying to keep up with the plot to notice how numb your bottom is getting and how badly you need a wee. 

We won’t spoil the ending here, but it’s not a spoiler to say Vol. 3 is a conclusion of sorts. It’s all very bittersweet; Guardians of the Galaxy has been a consistently great franchise on its own and to see it end, at least for now, is sad. The Guardians, a ragtag team of criminals turned into unlikely heroes, has always been so much more compelling than the latest Captain America film, but at least they go out on a high and without succumbing to Marvel’s bigger ambitions. 

Vol. 3 reminds us of Marvel’s potential; part of a bigger universe, but never bogged down by existing, larger storylines. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 reminds us of what Marvel is at its best, what it can be. It’s also a painful reminder of what Marvel hasn’t been for a while; creatively ambitious with great storytelling. 

guardians of the galaxy vol. 3 high evolutionary

Chukwudi Iwuji as The High Evolutionary in Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

Each character is afforded such a compassionate, full arc and a goodbye. You may need tissues; Vol. 3 comes at your emotions like a sledgehammer. If there are tears, though, they’re well earned. Is Vol. 3 perfect? No, but it is a thrilling and impassioned way to say goodbye to these characters. For now, at least. 

Guardians of the Galaxy is a knockout, an impeccable send-off. It’s everything you’d want from such a film; emotional, awe-inspiring, funny and surprisingly life-affirming. DC Studios are lucky to have James Gunn, but seeing him leave Marvel and the Guardians behind comes with a sense of loss. Guardians of the Galaxy is, and might very well always be, Marvel’s best, most consistent and reliably stunning franchise. 

So long, Star-Lord, Gamora, Kraglin, Cosmo, Groot, Rocket, Drax, Nebula and Mantis. You’ve been good to us. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is in UK cinemas May 3.

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