Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Review: An Emotional Send-off

The Guardians of the Galaxy series could be the MCU’s version of The Office. There’s a plot, sure. But what people most enjoy about the series is stepping back inside the world and spending time with characters they love. 

Marvel could churn out a new Guardians flick every year, and folks would continue showing up, having a good time, and looking forward to the next installment. Despite working inside the Marvel Studios machine, Guardians series writer-director James Gunn is a maverick filmmaker at heart.  

Throughout his career, Gunn has often gone out of his way to push boundaries and subvert expectations. So how do you expect him to handle the closing film in the MCU’s feel-good series? 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the MCU’s darkest film since Avengers: Infinity War. That’s not to say it’s a joyless slog that takes itself too seriously. Just prepare yourself to step onboard an emotional rollercoaster hellbent on making you experience laughter, tears, and every feeling in between. 


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

When the film begins, life is as uneventful as it gets for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his crew. We find Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and the rest of the Guardians are working to transform their home base Knowhere into a safe haven for intergalactic refugees.  

Everyone seems to have found their groove, except for Peter, who hasn’t recovered from losing his true love Gamora (Zoe Saldana), during the Infinity War. So instead of guarding the galaxy, Peter spends his days alone, getting blackout drunk in a dive bar. 

When the Guardians aren’t out looking for trouble, trouble has a way of finding them. They’re forced into action when The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) (a mad scientist with a god complex) sets his sights on one of the Guardians.  

The High Evolutionary sends his bio-engineered superweapon Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), to Knowhere to hunt down his target. The ensuing battle pushes the Guardians to the brink of defeat. Although they win the fight, the skirmish leaves a team member wounded and at death’s door.  


If Peter and the gang have any hope of saving their dying friend, they must end The High Evolutionary’s ruthless quest for power. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

The latest crop of MCU films and TV series have caught flack for their subpar visuals. (Here’s looking at you Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania). Guardians Vol 3. bucks that trend, delivering a gorgeous sci-fi epic that looks phenomenal (especially when presented in IMAX). The film’s cinematography, makeup, costumes, and special effects aren’t just technically impressive; they’re also creatively ambitious. 

The Guardians’ cosmic corner of the MCU remains as captivating and bizarre as ever. Watching a Guardians film feels like staring through a window at an actual living, breathing place, and I love soaking up every exotic detail.  

One standout sequence takes place on a space station made entirely from organic matter (yeah, it’s as gross as you imagine). What ultimately unfolds is like watching Jack Kirby’s fever dreams in 4k.    


Gunn creates a sense of cosmic wonder evocative of silver age comics while poking fun at sci-fi cliches. Factor in John Murphy’s spirited score and Gunn’s signature needle drops, and Guardians Vol. 3 is a visual and sonic feast. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3-space-walk

On the surface, Guardians Vol. 3 is a wacky space odyssey featuring a sentient tree and a talking raccoon. But at its core, this is a story about kindness, forgiveness, and empathy. It’s unapologetically earnest, and although these themes resonated with me, Gunn’s brand of raw, unfiltered sincerity won’t work for everyone.  

In true Guardians of the Galaxy fashion, the film’s high point isn’t a perfectly scored space battle or shocking post-credits sequence; it’s a hug.   

Each of the primary Guardians characters is emotionally stunted in some way. They hold themselves accountable for the tragedies they’ve endured, which leads to self-loathing. Peter has abandonment issues, Drax (Dave Bautista) failed to protect his family, and Gamora’s view of the world was shaped by a genocidal warlord.  


Fueled by their mutual self-loathing, they teamed up to battle the galaxy’s most dangerous threats because it was easier than conquering their inner demons. 

But in Guardians Vol. 3, the characters have mostly transcended their hangups. They’ve gone from fighting with each other to fighting for each other, and now they’re not ashamed to show one another love and respect.  

Guardians Vol. 3 shares a lot of thematic DNA with Everything Everywhere All at Once and Spider-Man: No Way Home. All three films showcase heroes resolving conflicts by speaking to the better angels of our nature.  

Each film features major characters struggling to find meaning in a world where they believe they don’t belong. They also emphasize the importance of characters finding common ground with people who don’t see the world as they do. 


However, the aspect that really yanked at my heartstrings was watching characters learn to love the people around them for who they are and not who they prefer them to be.  

It’s impossible to get into specifics without spoiling the story, but these character revelations are so cogent and illuminating that I definitely need to drop an essay on the subject once everyone has caught the film. 

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol. 3

I understand why people will complain this film is too schmaltzy. The Guardians’ vibe shifted from Han Solo to Ted Lasso. Where you sit on the sentimentality spectrum boils down to taste.  

The Guardians movies have always held a special place in my heart because it’s a story about lost and broken people who believe they’re unlovable. And when the film debuted in 2014, I was at an all-time mental and physical low point, feeling lost, broken, and unlovable. 

The Guardians’ nine-year journeys towards self-acceptance mirror my own. Since 2014, I’ve relied on therapy and anti-depressants to put those harrowing thoughts and feelings to rest. I’ve learned to appreciate myself and welcome love from the special people in my life. But getting to that place was a long and winding journey, and I’ve turned to the Guardians films more than a few times to uplift my spirit.  

I was genuinely moved watching the Guardians reach the finish line of their emotional journeys. Gunn refuses to give his characters the type of obvious resolutions fandom pines for. Instead, he’s crafted the bitter-sweet ending his characters deserve. 

Call Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s closing moments schmaltz. Or call them heartfelt. Regardless of how you feel, the series remains true to its defining message: You’re not beautiful despite your imperfections; you’re beautiful because of them. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is out in theatres now.