This Awesome Mix-Tape of Characters, like the Zune, will one day be upgraded, but they’ll never be beat!


This is an “After the Show” review where we get into spoilers and discussions for people who have seen the film being reviewed. If you wish to read a spoiler-free review, please read the one at this link.

It all comes down to this last volume. James Gunn had the script for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 all ready to go when he was fired by Disney due to pressure based on his nearly decade old tweets. After a groundswell of support from fans and the cast, Gunn was reinstated and has the chance to close the book on his trilogy of loveable characters, but not before hitting us in the heart one last time.

My initial reaction to this volume was mixed, but mostly positive. The things we love about this group, namely their comradery and quirky personalities, are still front and center as they embark on their final adventure together. There is a darkness that is felt in this final volume that hangs in the air throughout the runtime that changes the mood slightly from previous installments. When we open this film, we immediately start getting our first tastes of Rocket’s dark backstory which involve scientific testing.

It is throughout the film that this story is visited, and as each piece of Rocket’s (Bradley Cooper) backstory is revealed, Gunn effectively leans more and more into his horror background. Not only does it create the desired tension, but it effectively becomes one of the strongest advocates for banning animal testing to hit the culture zeitgeist in ways animal rights organizations have only attempted to convey. When Guardians was first announced, the idea of a racoon and a talking tree being amongst the MCU’s strongest protagonists alongside the likes of Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, was actually laughed at. After Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, besides Rocket and Groot (Vin Diesel) solidifying their place amongst their Avengers peers, it is no longer a laughing matter, but actually a heartfelt one.

Each of these characters that make up this rag-tag group of Guardians is given the chance to shine throughout this 3 volume arc (along with appearances in Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Thor: Love and Thunder, and What If…?) and The Holiday Special. Each finds themselves at a satisfying end, but I found myself wishing that Gunn had more satisfactorily wrapped up Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) arc.

This is not to say that I believe that they should have ended up together. This is, after all, a Gamora who existed prior to meeting Star Lord prior to the events of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1., and has no memory of their adventures, love for one another, etc. The reason it felt unsatisfactory is that in spite of all of that, Nebula explained Quill’s importance to Gamora in Avengers: Endgame, and we have seen Quill pay a heavy emotional price for knowing Gamora is out there, and him looking for her across the end of Endgame, the Holiday Special, Thor: Love and Thunder, and at the beginning of Vol. 3, his is shown to be drunk constantly over this pain.

Once Gamora re-enters the picture here in Volume 3, she is just mean, setting up Quill’s comedy to basically go off on her for it. Remember this should basically be the 2014 Gamora who Quill first met in Volume 1. Yes, she was pretty mean and guarded towards him then, but she was also planning a coup d’état against Thanos then. This Gamora knows Quill loves her, knows Thanos is destroyed, knows she (her other version) and Nebula (Karen Gillian) worked things out, and knows that her other version was a part of this rag-tag group. Why she wasn’t able to be a little softer with this knowledge?

Like I said, she doesn’t have to end up with Quill, or anything, but Gunn waits until the very end to start seeing Gamora grow to respect this group she was once a part of. When Quill nearly dies and comes back, the entire group, including many of the beings just saved, and many from Knowwhere are surrounding Quill in a massive group hug. The only one who does not join in on this is Gamora. She is seen kneeling outside the circle before simply returning to Sylvester Stallone’s Reavers group. Could she not have gotten in on a group hug simply platonically to be a part of this group once again, if only in spirit? She quickly tells Quill, she bets they were a lot of fun, but it still felt heavy, dark, and full of regret, and rushed to tie up the loose thread while providing no real closure for Quill on this front despite teasing this reconciliation across several films. This is especially true knowing that James Gunn, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista’s time in the MCU is over.

Besides this let down, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a film that gets stronger the longer it runs. Its 2 hour and 30 minute run time is barely felt as Gunn keeps things moving effectively. The Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) plot is a little under-baked, but knowing that Adam Warlock will return, and that he is still growing and developing (pulled from the incubator too soon), the childlike zeal and mass destruction without emotional judgement and regulation feels like it fits the rest of the film well enough.

While Rocket’s backstory takes center stage, I hope that audiences don’t miss the strong warning that the High Evolutionary’s (Chukwudi Iwuji) presence means for our world as well. The notion of leaders who in the name of making our world great again actually hasten its destruction, without any regard to the lives being sacrificed as a result of their “vision” has huge implications for us now and the geopolitics we see playing out in Ukraine, the threat of invasion against Taiwan, and other such nations, groups, and radical beliefs.

Rocket himself, we discover, is a casualty to this type of vision, and the trauma he faced explains much of who he is. The power of community around him helped bring him back to the original vision he had for himself when he believed he could be anything he wanted to be. I worry that as a parent, our vision for our children sidetracks their own vision for themselves, in much the same way that Rocket’s potential was thwarted by the fear of the High Evolutionary that Rocket’s abilities rivaled his own.

While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is darker in tone than the previous entries, it is a strong final send-off for one of the most unlikely Marvel properties to get greenlighted to the silver screen. Gunn’s vision for these characters, and his uncompromising belief in their place in the MCU is what makes each and every one of its characters a fully-developed realization of what can be accomplished with a focus on story and relationships over excessive visuals that always accompany these large tent-pole endeavors. And don’t worry…Gunn gives us some of his best created visuals and action scenes yet. Oh, and a fantastic Nathan Fillion. Don’t forget the ghost of Yondu (Michael Rooker).


So much can be discussed about this film, and I encourage you to continue to discuss this film (and others) in your own community of cinephiles. What we can agree on is that Gunn has provided us a satisfying ending to his trilogy. It is an ending that allows for the Guardians to continue to exist. In one end credit scene we see the new version of the Guardian’s headed by Rocket, and in the last post-credit scene we are teased that “Star Lord will return…”.

But it doesn’t change the fact that despite these characters still being out there, ready to reassemble if called upon, we won’t being seeing the likes of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillian, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, and Maria Bakalova, teaming up together again. This awesome mix-tape of characters, like the Zune, will one day be upgraded, but they’ll never be beat.

Long live the Guardians of the Galaxy.