Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

Director James Gunn commits to a very interesting fear in avoiding the third film curse by shifting a lot of the focus for his odyssey of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Rather than continue on the journey of Peter Quill, Gunn focuses on the more problematic characters that have entered in to the Marvel Universe. Throughout the trilogy we’ve only know a bit about Nebula and Rocket Raccoon. We know that they’re in essence hard heroes to understand and cope with and Gunn gets down to the nitty gritty and give us compelling back stories. Along the way their back stories allow us to garner a further understanding as to why they relate to the other characters as they do.

Still reeling from the loss of Gamora, Peter Quill must rally his team to defend the universe and protect one of their own from a powerful new foe known as Warlock. They race against time to find an important instrument that could help one of their own. If the mission is not completely successful, it could possibly lead to the end of the Guardians as we know them.

While Nebula is thrust more in to a commanding position (what with Gamora now more an adversary), Gunn takes us in to the beginnings of Rocket. Rocket was always a very closed off and rage filled individual, and Gunn shows us why. What we end up with is a charming and utterly heartbreaking tale of a creature forced in to existence that spends his entire life looking for a purpose. While “Vol. 3” does focus a lot on Rocket and his back story, Gunn brings us back to the Guardians in full form, chronicling their efforts to settle down. This is especially true as Peter Quill has spent most of his time devolving in to self pity and grief over Gamora. But the emotional stakes are heightened as the group is faced with a foe that is immensely powerful and has only one real mission.

Gunn and co. are tasked with balancing a lot of sub-plots as “Vol. 3” indefinitely wraps up the storyline of the Guardians, but it’s a masterful end that manages to resolve a lot of sub-plots left dangling from the previous films. Gunn is definitely committed to ending the storyline of these characters that he’s curated, and “Vol. 3” succeeds in giving us not just a sweeping and exciting adventure, but one that helps us fall more in love with these characters. Everyone manages to garner their own spotlight and emotional stakes, from Mantis, and Drax, to Rocket, and even Nebula. The collective cast are dynamite reprising their roles here, even lending new dimensions, developing in to characters we know that have also richly evolved in the process.

Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista are absolutely fantastic, while Karen Gillan manages to steal a lot of the scenes as the hard nosed anti-hero Nebula. Will Poulter is also quite good as the enigmatic Adam Warlock. Bradley Cooper, though, is as good as ever as Rocket, convincingly injecting pathos in to a character that has spent most of his time on screen in the previous films as a reckless, amoral, trigger happy pirate. Thankfully, “Vol. 3” maintains its themes of family paired with some stunning action scenes, and a superb soundtrack. Director Gunn definitely rises to the occasion with a final chapter that is just wonderful from beginning to end.