“Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3” takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster


Courtesy of Marvel Studios

While the final film of the Guardians trilogy is more somber, it still retains the key qualities that made the series so special to many fans: humor.

This review contains minor spoilers.


If you had told me that I would be crying because of an anthropomorphic raccoon, I would have never believed you. But last week in the Bishop Ranch movie theater, I wept while watching scenes of a Marvel superhero film from a trilogy mostly known for its comedy. 

Released on May 5, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a final hurrah for the beloved Guardians squad, striking a delicate balance between the emotional punch and the lighthearted comedy that the trilogy is known for. 

The Guardians team, originally consisting of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, motion capture by Sean Gunn), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) has always been known for being misfits since their introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the team dynamics between the characters fractured after the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” as Thanos killed the original version of Gamora. While an alternative version of Gamora traveled to present time, the “new” Gamora has no memories of the Guardians and lives a completely separate life from Peter Quill, her former lover. 

The bittersweet atmosphere of the film leads to a different tone in “Vol. 3” compared to the past iterations of the trilogy. While “Vol. 1” and “Vol. 2” established the Guardians as a humorous squad that fights against intergalactic villains, “Vol. 3” has a darker mood and tackles heavier themes, such as animal cruelty. This is immediately evident in the first five minutes of the movie, in which Rocket plays the acoustic version of Radiohead’s “Creep” on their planet’s speaker system. The song is noticeably a more somber pick from “Come and Get Your Love” or “Mr. Blue Sky,” the opening songs of “Vol. 1” and “Vol. 2,” respectively. 

Released on May 5, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a final hurrah for the beloved Guardians squad, striking a delicate balance between the emotional punch and the lighthearted comedy that the trilogy is known for. 

The opening scene of “Vol. 3” not only foreshadows the film’s mood but also its focus on Rocket’s tragic backstory. In many ways, Rocket’s life echoes the lyrics of the song, as Rocket is a genetically engineered raccoon who was brutally experimented on by the film’s main antagonist, the High Evolutionary. While many correctly predicted that the last film would describe Rocket’s past, “Vol. 3” exceeds expectations in its heartbreaking flashbacks of Rocket’s experiences. The animal cruelty that Rocket endures may be triggering for some animal lovers, but the execution of these sentimental scenes never feels cheap or heavy-handed. Instead, they provide context to Rocket’s guarded personality, as he is no longer a mere comic relief side character. Rocket is the true heart of the Guardians squad, as he brings the team together to protect the galaxy. 

While the film is has noticeably heavier themes than other Guardians movies, “Vol. 3” still retains the light-heartedness that made the Guardians so beloved. Drax the Destroyer and his close friend Mantis continue from the previous movies as a comedic duo with their lively banter and jokes. The film has a single-shot action sequence full of hype and swagger, with booming Beastie Boys music playing in the background. Peter Quill still has heartfelt interactions with Gamora, even though Gamora considers Quill to be more of a hooligan than a romantic partner. 

The film is also visually stunning with CGI that enhances the sentimental scenes of the movie. While CGI often looks cheap or overused in some of Marvel’s other productions, the visual effects used in “Vol. 3” transport viewers to the galaxy that the Guardians defend, creating a compelling depiction of the planets that the Guardians explore and the aliens they meet. 

Throughout the film, viewers are constantly on-edge with the fate of the ensemble, with each character going through near-death experiences. Yet, these challenges expose the vulnerabilities of each character and their yearnings in the midst of intergalactic chaos. For example, Peter Quill realizes his lack of connections with his surviving family members on Earth, as he has always been running away in space from planet to planet. Additionally, Drax, who is often considered to be an airhead by both characters and fans, finds his own true calling in being a father figure to others. These poignant scenes highlight the dramatic chops of the cast, while also providing more depth to the characters. 

Ultimately, the film ends on an optimistic note, with characters receiving some form of closure with their plotlines. The final moments of the movie serve as a fitting conclusion to the Guardians trilogy as they showcase the growth that each member of the team has experienced over the past few films. The ending music reflects this as well, with the joyous and recently-released track “Dog Days are Over” by Florence & the Machine. 

Although filled with jokes and fun callbacks to previous films in the series, the movie replaces the usual irreverence of the Guardians with a more somber tone. Fans can bid farewell to the popular Guardians of the Galaxy saga with satisfaction with the growth of the characters, while still enjoying the film’s characteristic classic rock music and humor.