There is no way around reviewing this movie without acknowledging that this critic is a child of adoption. And it could be the strongest reason on the finding so much connection in a franchise that is built on new found family. A story all about the adventures of a group of misfits that have somehow made this critic feel so welcomed even in the most peculiar of homes. Yes the Guardians of the Galaxy are not just a cool playful delight but rather a sanctuary for so many that have been able to call something their home after many years of confusion and misplacement. The MCU may be unstable, but for someone who spent years looking for their forever home, the Guardians became the perfect place to settle down. Even if it is now for a final adventure that only has one song left to play.
The Guardians of the Galaxy have had several rampages through the galactic jungle but they have only begun to find their way. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still grieving over the lost love of his known Gamora (Zoe Saldana) even if a form of her still exists just not the way he wants it. This leads him into a dark booze filled depression that his found family must get him out of. This motely crew consists of enemy turned friend robotic Nebula (Karen Gillan) Groot (Vin Disel) adopted sister Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and of course angsty adopted brother Rocket (Bradley Cooper) who even with all his love for Quill and company still can’t move away from his traumatic past that he never told his guardian’s family about. Director James Gunn has been very vocal about Rocket being the heart and soul of the guardians franchise, and VOL 3. Makes it known early on that this is Rocket’s film. The guardians may have found peace (somewhat) living in Knowhere but even after a quick battle against the ultra man Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) Rocket finds himself incapacitated and relying on the kindness of family. Gunn and the Guardians have been through a lot after nearly ten years, but one thing that is clear is Gunns’s path for these characters and the creation of family they have made forms their philosophy. When Rocket goes down for the count it no longer becomes the space opera we know, but instead the film focuses on on rescuing their brother and the lengths (and universes) each character is willing to go. In a time when Marvel rarely allows a film to focus deeply on character growth it is a welcome invitation when Gunn is fully allowed to take the time needed to show how far his characters have come.
VOL. 3 like most marvel films has a few surprises in store but the biggest may be its dedication to animal right. Even as the film opens up with a shot of adorable animals running around it becomes clear they are far from free. These lost animals are actually prisoners of The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a superior being hellbent on creating a utopian world that he is willing to sacrifice any creature to get the results that he wants. VOL. 3 may not have sought out to be the environmentalist film of the year but it certainly has made its mark. This is a film that will have even the most devoted multiverse viewer wondering “ damn how did Disney let them get away with this?” Now this is not just formed out of angst against a company that neve pushes the boundary but rather a film that chooses to be dark in every corner having us realize that even if Gunn is ready to say goodbye to these characters it is not until he puts them all through the ringer not for cheap emotional manipulation but rather a reminder that these characters have been fighting their whole lives. Rocket’s arc is told mostly through flashback as we learn about his caged life amongst the High Evolutionary. It is here where I must warn any animal lover (minor and I mean minor spoiler alerts) that Rocket’s story is both filled with wonderful friends, Lylla Otter( Linda Cardellini) Floor Bunny (Mikaela Hoover) and Teefs Walrus (Asim Chaudhry) but also complete heartache. They are excruciating scenes, but ones that finally give us insight on the anger that has followed Rocket all along the past two films. GUARDIANS VOL 3. does not require previous viewing on Disney+ shows but it always allows for a proper payoff for both devoted fans and those slightly familiar.
Much happens in this third outing that can leave the viewer perplexed, but even amongst its most peculiar (which doesn’t just include a talking telepathic dog Cosmo voiced by Borat 2 breakout Maria Bakalova) it is the first film of the trilogy that breaks out into what Gunn wanted to make most; a Troma film. Yes a bizarre space opera mixed with weird blood and guts and of course constant humor that never undermines but rather uplifts its silliness. After all that is what the Guardians do best; be silly a-holes. One of its best of these is Mantis who for all her naivety still understands the way the world continues to fail itself when we do not speak our truth. Even after learning in a quick holiday special that Mantis is Quill’s adopted sister Klementieff’s character is never reduced to side joke, but instead gets to stand out and remind others why even the strangest of members make this family whole. It is not hard to see why after several outings that children of adoption (once again myself included) find such relatability to the Guardians. Not just a new family but one that will always fight to keep them safe.
This is usually the time where this critic says that even at its most earnest the film still falls prey to the typical studio MCU behavior, but GUARDIANS VOL 3 and Gunn refuse to do just that. In fact some may even leave the theater confused by all its motions. After all GUARDIANS chooses to utilize every corner of chaos. Whether it be Gamora as a newfound ravager or finally dropping the first MCU f-bomb perfectly placed. It is a wonderfully strange film but if you have been paying attention to its director’s previous work that includes the gross SLITHER and perverse SUPER you realize that it has all been leading to this. The Guardians really do get to go out on their own terms.
Finale isn’t a word known to the MCU dialect but it is hard to watch GUARDIANS VOL 3 and not see everything as an ending. Arcs are finished and even when new stories arise they appear in almost epilogue format but most importantly the Guardians find time to come back together and enjoy one another’s company the only way they know how; a song and dance. And while this critic will not say who gets to show off their moves when the moments arise they are so rightfully earned. But even amongst the celebration their is a profound sadness of conclusion and the clear message that Gunn and company are ready to move on. But they will do so with love and devotion to one another. That is all any adopted child can ask for. To no longer be an experiment but rather a member of the most loving and strange family. Only then can we finally be true guardians of the galaxy ready to fight for those we love all while playing the perfect song.
On a personal note I want to say thank you to James Gunn and his versions of Peter Quill, Rocket, Gamora, Drax, Groot, Mantis, Nebula and anyone they welcomed into their weirdo family. It has been a privilege to join their family. When I first met them I was far from found but several journeys later I finally feel like I discovered my own family. Happiness hit me like a train on a track and I have been dancing ever since and will keep doing so… into the forever, that beautiful sky.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 WILL BE RELEASED IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE MAY 5