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By Chris Dos Santos
24th July 2024

For me, 'Guardians of the Galaxy' has always been an outlier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). If it weren't for that 2014 film, the MCU would just be something of background noise; for better and worse it's the reason that I ever began watching the franchise. I can remember seeing those first trailers and having that feeling of something magical. I went to the re-release of 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' a week out from the release of 'Guardians' where they had a special 9-minute look at the film which contained the opening 'Come and Get Your Love' sequence and basically a supercut extended trailer. From then on, I was in love. This was one of those game-changing moments in my life; it was more than just some film that was part of an extended universe, but something special. Then a week later I saw the film and was captivated beyond belief. The film succeeded on so levels: the space opera epic action adventure, the nostalgic love letter, but more importantly, the themes of family. This was only amplified in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' which explored those themes so much deeper and packed a huge emotional punch. Now almost 10 years after we were first introduced to them, we are bidding farewell - but with the MCU's current track record, how will the over-delayed finale pan out?

After both the events of 'Vol. 2' and 'Avengers: Endgame', the Guardians are all out of whack. They have lost Yondu, Peter's (Chris Pratt, 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie', 'Jurassic World' franchise) father figure, as well as his love Gamora (Zoe Saldaña, 'Avatar: The Way of Water', 'Amsterdam') was thrown off a cliff so her dad could gain an infinity stone, only for an alternate Gamora from before joining the 'Guardians' coming back and existing in the current timeline. After an encounter with Sovereign Adam Warlock (Will Poulter, 'Midsommar', 'We're the Millers'), who has been tasked to bring Rocket (Bradley Cooper, 'Nightmare Alley', 2018's 'A Star is Born') back to the one who made him that way, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji, 'News of the World', 'John Wick: Chapter 2'), Rocket is left injured and the only way to save him is to come face to face with the raccoon's past. Peter, along with Drax (Dave Bautista, 'Dune', 'Knock at the Cabin'), Nebula (Karen Gillan, 'The Bubble', 'Jumanji' franchise), Mantis (Pom Klementieff, 'Thunder Force', 'Uncut Gems') and Groot (Vin Diesel, 'F9', 'Bloodshot') are risking it all across the galaxy to save their friend.


When this film soars is when it focuses on our core group. I love them, and this film really reminds me of the joy they brought me; after their appearances elsewhere in the MCU felt weak, I was brought right back to what made me love them in the first place with 'Vol. 3'. The film doesn't succeed as much as the other films mainly due to the villain, Ego, Peter's dad, who doesn't come across as extremely interesting and because there is already so much at stake he almost feels unneeded. As a farewell to the team the film is quite beautiful and moving, but the story holds it back from being an uproaring success.

Something conflicting that's similar to 'Black Widow' is that this simply feels too late. It's been five years since 'Vol. 2', the gap between the first two films was three years. They want us to fill in the gaps with their appearances elsewhere, but their lacklustre appearances in both 'Avengers' and last year's'Thor: Love and Thunder' only weaken the impact here. You then add the real-world behind-the-scenes firing and re-hiring of director James Gunn, who in that time went to work for DC, which caused further delays and allowed the interest in the Guardians to lessen. Even the marketing compared to this year's 'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania' feels drastically more minimal, and going in I can't say this felt like a big deal. Considering my love for those first two this should have been a very anticipated release, but all of those facts also weigh on my enjoyment, so why isn't this getting much traction? There are clear possibilities: is it a Marvel jab at Gunn working for DC now, or more realistically is the MCU effect simply wearing off?

When this film soars is when it focuses on our core group. I love them, and this film really reminds me of the joy they brought me.

'Vol. 3' may not be as bad as other MCU entries, but the new characters certainly suffer. Adam Warlock (who we will all be drooling over) has very little to do here. Considering his tease in a film released in 2017, his character felt so underwhelming and maybe he should have been the main antagonist over the one we got to flesh his role out more. I'm sure we'll get more of him in the future, but as an introduction it felt lacking.

As it is in the current landscape, 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3' is a very emotional send-off to this team that flies when it's on them, but with some lack of focus narratively and real-world factors, it makes it very interesting to dissect. Having said all that, I loved this movie because of the connection I have to that core team, and their moments together and the ultimate ending make it all worthwhile. I was a mess - that final scene and song choice I can't fault. I cried the whole car ride home to that particular song; it just perfectly encapsulated all those emotions. It's the rare perfect send-off, even if the journey to get there is a little bumpy.

RELEASE DATE: 04/05/2023
CAST: Chris Pratt
Zoe Saldana
Dave Bautista
Karen Gillan
Bradley Cooper
Vin Diesel
Pom Klementieff
Elizabeth Debicki
Sean Gunn
DIRECTOR: James Gunn
PRODUCER: Kevin Feige
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