I know, you’re all here to read what we thought of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. And that’s absolutely coming up next. But first, let me just say one thing to Marvel. I haven’t forgotten about the possibility of a team up between Thor and the Guardians after the Infinity War movies. And no, their brief cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder doesn’t count. Somehow that comedy gold movie event still needs to happen. Okay, now I’ll get off my fanboy soapbox and talk about the latest Guardians movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is ultimately Rocket’s story. Granted, all the other members of the team get plenty of well deserved screen time and development, but the emotional arc of the movie is all about the furriest Guardian (other than Cosmo, a very bad dog). As someone that read the comics first, I had an inkling what to expect from Rocket’s backstory, but it really hit me hard regardless. It took all my willpower not to ugly cry more than once in the theater.
We learn that Rocket was one of many experiments of the High Evolutionary. He gave Rocket the capacity for speech and enhanced his cognition. But those are the only happy parts of that story, other than Rocket’s cell mates, a group of other enhanced animals – a walrus, otter and terrifying yet sweet spider-bunny. The rest of his history is drenched in horror and darkness. And unfortunately for our Guardians, Rocket’s past has returned to hunt them all.
Each of the Guardians movies features exquisite musical choices representing different periods of time. Here, we get late 80s and early 90’s music. The first track is Radiohead’s Creep, but there’s also timely use of No Sleep Till Brooklyn in an incredible late movie fight sequence. The songs all do a good job of suiting the action, and highlighting the theme of being perfect because of our imperfections, not despite them.
The movie starts with our band of misfits putting up roots in Knowhere, the repurposed Celestial head turned space colony. Though they’re fitting in well enough, there’s trouble. Peter Quill is still mourning the loss of his Gamora to Thanos, despite her time lost doppleganger walking around in the present. He’s doing plenty of drinking to dull the pain. And then at one of his lowest moments, the team is suddenly attacked out of the blue by none other than Adam Warlock. He’s hatched from his cocoon early so that the Sovereign can keep the High Evolutionary off their backs. His goal is to bring back Rocket so that the High Evolutionary can use him to perfect his latest creation.
In the comics, Warlock has been a lot of things. Here, he’s very much a child in a man’s body armed with the powers of a god. He can survive the vacuum of space, can fly and fire laser blasts. Or as the Guardians refer to him, he’s “a douchebag with laser hands”. Despite his youth, Warlock nearly takes the entire team out singlehandedly, and does serious damage to poor Rocket. They try and fix him with a med pack, only for it to not work. Some sleuthing by Nebula reveals Rocket has a kill switch built into his body, and any attempt to fix the damage done will kill him immediately. So the Guardians have all of 48 hours to find a way to turn the kill switch off so they can save Rocket before he expires.
Their first mission is a biologically grown corporate colony called OrgoCorp, and forces the team to work with the Ravagers to gain access. The small problem is that Gamora is now a Ravager, and she’s only helping because she’s getting paid. Peter throws tons of passive aggressive barbs her way, but she’s just not interested in his nonsense. There’s also a great moment where they all board the colony wearing what can only be described as Teletubby chic spacesuits. Once there, things get complicated by Gamora’s killer instinct, and there’s a fantastic cameo by the one and only Nathan Fillion. A highlight is a fight scene where Gamora and Drax are tag teaming foes, alternately beating them senseless and compelling them to dance like idiots.
Later on, the Guardians make their way to Counter-Earth, a twisted replica populated by the Evolutionary’s animal men. There we learn Drax cannot be trusted with dodgeballs or couches, and Nebula gets a sweet blue drink. We also learn that despite the Evolutionary’s seeming obsession with weeding violence out of his creations, these people are still prone to throwing rocks, dealing drugs and being idiots. We also discover that he’s made some creations just for the purpose of enforcing his violent will, such a cybernetically enhanced War Pig.
Just when half the team finally gets what they need to save Rocket, the other half get stranded on the High Evolutionary’s massive spaceship, moments before it crosses the threshold into space. Armed with a rejuvenated racoon, they have to meet up and fight on the terms of the villain. Let’s just say he has an army of horrific creations ready to defend him, as well as some nightmarish monstrosities straight out of one of Lovecraft’s wet dreams. Lucky for the Guardians, they have a lot of found friends willing to help them save the day, including Yondu’s would be apprentice, Kraglin.
Ultimately, I’m not sure if this was my favorite of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. But I also have yet to find a Guardians movie I didn’t like. There’s a lot to love in Vol. 3, including Nebula finally becoming part of the team, and armed with a nanite limb that can transform into any weapon she needs. I also appreciated how Saldana brought a lot of nuance to her portrayal of this new Gamora. She’s different and hard edged, but still hides a core of sweetness and kindness deep within. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a little more about Chukwudi Iwuji’s High Evolutionary. He’s as committed as Thanos, and just as manipulative as Kang, but somehow comes across as a villain all his own. He’s a man whose hubris is ultimately the source of madness, and who thinks that everything can be made better under his twisted guidance.
So there you have it. Marvel hit another one out of the park in what is perhaps the most Marvel movie I’ve ever seen. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll be angry this is the last movie with this team of Guardians. But if they’re anything like the comics, we might just see another incarnation (or two) in the years to come. It would be a much poorer MCU without them.