Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film and the third theatrically released movie featuring these characters. Written and directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 stars Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket Raccoon. Additionally, Will Poulter joins the cast as a new character, Adam Warlock, and Karen Gillan and Pom Klementief return as other Guardians who’ve joined the group during the span of this trilogy.
The film tracks essentially two stories: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 traces the origins of Rocket in flashback sequences as well as the Guardians confronting the villain of this film who is called the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). Those two stories eventually coincide in the kind of third act sequence that Marvel fans have come to expect.
The most interesting and compelling parts of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 deal with animal abuse and animal exploitation in some sequences that challenge the limits of the film’s PG-13 rating (Parents, be warned). Rocket’s origins are heart-breaking, and Gunn exhibits no restraint in depicting the violence and abuse that the High Evolutionary inflicts on thousands of animals in order to create the “perfect” species. It’s all very compelling, and even the most hard-hearted audience member might tear up a few times, especially meeting all of the friends that Rocket makes during his origin story. Cooper’s vocal performance wrings the emotional beats for all their worth, and what might seem melodramatic in a more serious-minded film works in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Additionally, the other characters get room to play; although, there’s not much development and a lot of flat arcs. But because we like these characters so much and because Gunn has such a loving relationship with these characters over the course of the last nine years since the first Guardians of the Galaxy came out, the film is an excuse to enjoy spending time with these characters. Gunn wanted to create a worthy send-off, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 largely works in that vein.
The villain, the High Evolutionary, yells a lot. He’s a spoiled eugenics Nazi who looks and acts like a petulant and ridiculous child. All of that appears by choice and fitting with Gunn’s intention, but there are limits to that creative choice. Ultimately, the villain is not very interesting; the Guardians of the Galaxy are the reason to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, not the villain.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a deeply moving and disturbing film, one that stuffs dramatic and difficult subjects into the same box as some broad humor. While it may not be for all audiences, it worked for me, providing some of the MCU’s most relevant and troubling imagery.