Sad, Sad, Sad

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. © 2023 MARVEL.

Directed by James Gunn

Starring Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan

Released May 5th, 2023

Rated PG-13

I feel bad for all of the young children who see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. There are many, many scenes of young, child-like, sentient animals being tortured and killed. The villain of the movie, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) is obsessed with building the perfect beast. This leads into a story about eugenics, child trafficking, and genocide.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 could have had the subtitle “Rocket’s story” as it interweaves flashbacks explaining (in horrifying, gratuitous detail) what led a young, timid, sweet-faced racoon cub to become the bi-pedal, wise-cracking, gun-toting creature we know today. Gunn introduces Lylla the otter (Linda Cardellini), Teefs the walrus (Asim Chaudhry), and Floor the rabbit (Mikaela Hoover) who, along with Rocket (Bradley Cooper), have all been the victims of experiments courtesy of the High Evolutionary. Their fate is a foregone conclusion from the outset, and it’s excruciating watching the sad plight of these characters as they long for freedom as they approach impending doom. For the young children who see it, Rocket Racoon’s story could be the new version of “Bambi’s mother.” 

I have not enjoyed any of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but this is the most egregious of them all. It’s a film that could be triggering for those of us who have experienced trauma at a young age. At one point an animal is so frightened it pees on the floor. This is played for laughs. Writer/Director Gunn was fired and then re-hired by Marvel during pre-production of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3, and this turmoil undoubtedly had an impact on the movie. Late in the film, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) says “Everyone deserves a second chance” which is clearly Gunn speaking about his past mistakes. 

(L-R): Teefs (voiced by Asim Chaudry), Lylla (voiced by Linda Cardellini), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Fllor (voiced by Mikela Hoover) in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

The film wants to be a proper send-off for the Guardians, but juggles too many story threads to be fulfilling. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is shown falling down drunk at the start of the film, broken up over his loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Gamora is either back from the dead, or from another timeline, the movie itself doesn’t seem to know. She’s all anger now, and not interested in a romance with Peter. Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) is now a full member of the Guardians, committed to doing the right thing even though she’s going to be grumpy about it. Along for the ride are the aforementioned Drax the Destroyer, the tree-being Groot (Vin Diesel) and Quill’s sister Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who forms a bond with some unlikely friends. Most of the film concerns the crew fighting against the High Evolutionary as they aim to save the life of Rocket Racoon. 

Teased in past installments, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 introduces the character Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a flying, gold-skinned beefcake superhero with a child’s mind. His “mother” Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) says that he hatched from his egg too soon. James Gunn turning a comic book fan-favorite character like Adam Warlock into Rocky from the Rocky Horror Picture Show is certainly a bold choice. Elizabeth Debicki, such a talented actress, continues to be wasted in the thankless role of Ayesha, the leader of The Sovereign, a race apparently created once upon a time by the High Evolutionary.

(L-R): Miriam Shor as Recorder Vim, Chukwudi Iwuji as The High Evolutionary, and Nico Santos as Recorder Theel in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo by Jessica Miglio. © 2023 MARVEL.

If you’ve only seen the previous Guardians of the Galaxy movies, you should know that you’ll need to watch the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (streaming on Disney+) to be fully caught up with what’s going on in Vol. 3. That special is short and fun, capturing the tone of James Gunn’s first Guardians of the Galaxy feature film. Maybe the Guardians are better in small doses. An additional heads up for the parents of young children: be aware that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 features Star-Lord dropping an F-Bomb, not something you’d expect in a PG-13 film from Marvel Studios. 


The wonderful Maria Bakalova voices Cosmo the Spacedog, a canine with telekinetic powers. Thanks to Bakalova’s performance, Cosmo is a highlight. As is the case with his previous two films in this series, Gunn includes some excellent needle drops, including This is the Day by The The and We Care a Lot by Faith No More.