In 2014, the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced a game-changing film directed by James Gunn. Almost a decade later, this story is coming to a close with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The latest installment in the MCU is a beautiful send-off to many of the creatives who have been with this team since the beginning and a welcomed reminder of what makes the Guardians so beloved in the first place.
Directed and written by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 sees the team desperately trying to save a loved one while protecting the universe along the way, this time taking on the likes of The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) and Adam Warlock (Will Poulter). On top of that, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is finally dealing with all the loss in his life in light of Gamora's (Zoe Saldaña) return.
Gunn continues to push boundaries in multiple areas, most notably in the violence department -- at least by MCU standards. The Guardians are not afraid to get their hands dirty, and when Peter and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) give in to their rage, it is shocking and satisfying. This also humanizes the morally gray Guardians as imperfect beings who will do anything for those they love. The idea of imperfection is such an important aspect of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
The Guardians of the Galaxy have always been a chosen family of misfits, and that family has never felt stronger than it does here. Where the Guardians -- specifically the ever delightful, emotionally driven Mantis portrayed by Pom Klementieff -- love one another, quirks and all. The High Evolutionary is trying to perfect life through horrific experiments and a grand plan that make him one of the MCU's most memorable and twisted villains.
Gunn is willing to deliver a story with high stakes and real weight by showing the horrors of eugenics in multiple ways. Along with that, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3's script fully explores how flawed this idea is, while Iwuji delivers an unrestrained and intimidating performance that captures the frightening and delusional nature of a character looking to eradicate any life they deem "imperfect."
The love the Guardians of the Galaxy have for each other and their willingness to give others a second chance is a beautiful contrast against The High Evolutionary's dangerous way of thinking. It's not just the script that emphasizes this love, as it's clear all the cast members have a deep love for the characters they've been portraying for years. Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, and Bradley Cooper stand out as audiences get to see more vulnerable sides of their characters. This final movie ties up each of their emotional arcs perfectly.
While there is a lot of heart to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, there is also a lot of action. Each Guardian gets a moment to shine, both emotionally and in battle. Bouncing off of The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, fans get to see Mantis use her powers in more unique ways while fighting hand-to-hand with multiple bad guys. Meanwhile, Drax is not holding back any punches, and Groot's abilities expand to new heights.
One of the best displays of action in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 features the whole team together for what appears to be a long take. None of them are holding back, and audiences see a wide range of attacks from each of them. Unlike many contemporary action films, which rely on too many fast cuts, Gunn, cinematographer Henry Brahm, and editors Greg D'Auria and Fred Raskin allow audiences to take in the fight choreography in all its glory.
One of the few criticisms of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the use of flashbacks. While the flashbacks are emotionally necessary, they tend to throw off the pacing. Instead of having a couple of longer, more concise flashbacks, these memories sporadically pop up throughout Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, making it difficult for the audience to immerse themselves in the film's rhythm.
As a whole, Gunn has spearheaded a franchise with an incredible setup and payoff for each character on the team. It's almost impossible not to watch those final moments without a huge smile. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a heartfelt celebration of imperfection that welcomes everyone into the film's titular found family. Gunn continues to be a director to keep an eye on thanks to his heartfelt storytelling and unique vision, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 leaves audiences excited to see what's next.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits theaters May 5.