Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Review - The warm feeling of closure

Marvel Studios has been coasting on our goodwill these past few movies of theirs, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 finally feels like a return to form, as director James Gunn carries the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise not just to the finish line, but to all new heights.

After cultivating this little corner of the MCU, Gunn brings it all to a close with an emotional, albeit a tad manipulative, send-off to one of its most defiant franchises. Here, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is a mess, humbled by the events of Avengers: Endgame and still mourning for his love, Gamora. Together with Mantis, Drax, Nebula, Groot, and Rocket, they have established a home in Knowhere, though each of them still feel lost, directionless. When a specter from Rocket's mysterious past comes violently knocking, the team is on a race against time to save their friend...or die trying.

The Avengers wish they were this close. Gunn just gave us one of the most cohesive units in Marvel. This motley crew aren't just friends, they're family. And that word is a powerful through line that provides much of the movie's emotional — and oftentimes comedic — beats. It also gives them some newfound strength, as we're given the most competent version of Star-Lord, the most heroic Nebula, and the most confident Mantis we've seen so far. It makes for very satisfying viewing, and you'll find the 2 hour, 30-minute runtime blast through in a haze of frenetic action and gorgeous alien worlds seen through the eyes of the best version of this team we've had.

It's not often that a movie makes full use of its ensemble cast, but you can definitely say that in Volume 3. Hulk wishes he had as much breathing room for his character journey as Drax, Mantis, or even freaking Kraglin (Sean Gunn in a defining role). Everyone had a role to play, everyone had a catharsis that resulted in full circle moment, that the satisfying feeling of closure drips consistently throughout the movie.

Everyone pulls their share of acting weight, but it all pales to Chukwudi Iwuji's performance as the High Evolutionary. He acts circles around the ensemble cast (fitting for a man who works for the Royal Shakespeare Company), gleefully playing an unhinged madman whose genetic genius is matched only by his insanity. High Evolutionary may not be as flashy as some of the more iconic Marvel movie villains, but he is so chilling in his malevolence that to see his downfall is downright cathartic.

Unfortunately, this is still a James Gunn movie, with all the baggage that goes with it. The man still just can't help himself. Though the jokes land better than his previous efforts, they still overstay their welcome, padding the already laborious runtime with bickering and banter. Sure, banter that serves its purpose to nail the themes of this dysfunctional family home, but there is a point when the nail is already hammered in deep that you're just damaging the surface.

There's also the matter of Adam, dubbed the "Warlock". Teased at the end of GotG Vol. 2 as the apex of Sovereign perfection, Adam is scary powerful for all 5 minutes...and then spends the rest of the movie as a painfully naive himbo extraordinaire. Will Poulter tries his best to make it endearing, yet one can't help but be disappointed by Gunn's treatment of one of Marvel Comics' most iconic cosmic characters, reduced to trivia fodder in your next Marvel pub quiz (the High Evolutionary gave Adam the name "Warlock" and gifted him with the Soul Gem in the comics).

Still, underneath this gooey mess is a lot of heart that's missing in even the most critically acclaimed of MCU movies. For all its faults, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 did what it set out to do, which is end this little cosmic corner of the MCU on one of the highest notes it could possibly have. Highly recommended!

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