This Rocket’s story. Perhaps the Guardians of the Galaxy movies have always been mostly about this small, weapon-obsessed raccoon with a confidence problem. But never before has it been as clear as in this latest and final installment of the trilogy. In my book, that’s absolutely fantastic!
The story of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is undeniably influenced by James Gunn’s unique directorial style. Known for infusing his work with edgy humor and personal perspectives, Gunn’s creative voice is unmistakable in this film.
Before we dive into the protagonist’s story, let’s take a moment to distinguish between Marvel and DC Comics. When asked about these two superhero universes, I typically explain that DC Comics focuses on powerful or supernatural characters attempting to live ordinary lives, while Marvel centers around ordinary characters grappling with newfound superpowers. However, during a discussion with Norwegian actor Rune Temte, who played a role in the 2019 movie Captain Marvel, he offered a different and, in my opinion, more insightful perspective: «Marvel has heart.»
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 stands out among all other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of its abundant heart and soul.
This time, the story starts shortly after the brilliant Disney+ film Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, where Drax (played by Dave Bautista) and Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff) go to Earth to kidnap Kevin Bacon as a Christmas present for Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt), who is depressed after Gamora (played by Zoë Saldaña) died in a previous film, but returned as a complete jerk.
Well, Peter Quill is still fed up with everything and spends his days in Knowhere (the severed head of a Celestial, or some kind of «god» for those who don’t speak MCU) drunk and depressed. He’s also angry when Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper and «performance capture» by Sean Gunn) borrows his music player. Drax and Mantis are there too, and have apparently returned Kevin Bacon. And Groot (played by Vin Diesel) has come out of puberty, or whatever you call it when you’re a tree. Gamora is grumpy, mean, and not at all the Peter Quill remembers. And out in the street, Kraglin (played by Sean Gunn) and the Russian space dog Cosmo (played by Maria Bakalova) are arguing because Kraglin called Cosmo a «bad dog» – a deadly insult… if you’re a dog! Together, they are a tired, traumatized, and dysfunctional family. Nothing unusual, in other words.
So all hell breaks loose when a golden superhero comes flying through space and crashes straight into Knowhere. I’m not entirely sure which side he’s on, as I don’t know this character very well from the comics. His name is Adam Warlock (played by Will Poulter), and he is far from friendly. Adam is there to kidnap Rocket, and this leads to an intense and violent battle. Our heroes manage to drive away Adam Warlock, but Rocket is mortally wounded. Thus begins the hunt to find a way to save him.
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, it is revealed that Rocket’s past is tied to the megalomaniacal High Evolutionary (played by Chukwudi Iwuji), who had ambitions to create the perfect society inhabited by the perfect race, where he played god. This leads our heroes to confront Rocket’s enemy and his dark past, and a violent confrontation arises that challenges them on all levels.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a film that tackles strong and clear themes, which is recognizable from the two previous films in the series. The movie focuses on family and celebrates it no matter how unconventional or dysfunctional it may be. It celebrates what is different, strange, and imperfect, and the ability to accept and even love it. The director’s love and care for animals are also prominent in this film, more than in any other film James Gunn has made. In other words, this is a movie that is full of idealism and love. If you are an animal lover like me and easily get emotional, there is a high chance that you will cry your way through much of the movie.
Especially touching were the scenes from Rocket’s past, where he meets his best friends – other failed experiments in High Evolutionary’s megalomaniacal plan. These scenes, a crushing critique of animal abuse and experimentation, show us more soul and heart than any other Marvel Cinematic Universe film has achieved, and James Gunn himself has said that he made the film for them: Rocket, the otter Lylla (played by Linda Cardellini), the rabbit Floor (played by Mikaela Hoover), and the walrus Teefs (played by Asim Chaudhry).
Is this a good movie? Yes, it definitely is. How one perceives superhero movies depends a lot on their personal preferences for the genre and whether they have a favorite hero or not. However, I would argue that all the modern and «official» movies and series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are well-crafted. True, some of them can be messier than others, and some try to push different messages too hard. But for every fan who loves Rocket, Doctor Strange, and Captain America (I raise my hand here), there are always some who have Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and Iron Man as their favorites. And that is one of the fantastic aspects of fandom.
I never thought I would write this after the fantastic Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but this is probably the most satisfying and heartwarming film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. It made me feel something so incredibly genuine!
If we are to believe James Gunn, this is the end of the road for Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora, Drax, Mantis, Nebula, Cosmo, Kraglin, and the others. And what an end it was!