Say it with me folks…James Gunn does not miss! Not only has he made another great superhero movie, but it’s made a movie everyone can love, laugh, and cry to in the theatres. That movie is, of course, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. This film is an absolute triumph and James Gunn’s writing and directing is some of the strongest of his entire career. If this is how James Gunn ends his time at Marvel Studios, he couldn’t have done any better.
If a comic-book movie is solely judged on the quality of its villain, then there’s never an been antagonist I’ve hated more or wanted dead as much as the villain in this movie. The High Evolutionary, played brilliantly by Chukwudi Iwuji, is a villain that you hate so much that, if you could, you’d jump at the chance to leap through the screen and throw a couple of punches at him. This is largely due to Iwuji’s performance, which I cannot stress enough, is fantastic. Gunn didn’t pick some big-name star for this role, deciding instead to go with an actor who he believed was best suited for the part. Iwuji is a classically trained actor and his presence on screen is gripping. Gunn has a habit of taking actors and bolstering them into leading actors and actresses (Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, etc.) and this is another one you won’t be able to take your eyes off of. Unlike other great MCU villains like Thanos, Killmonger, or Wenwu, whose actions you could somewhat sympathize with, there is nothing redeemable about the High Evolutionary. This character is despicable and pure evil. After two mediocre villains in Ronan the Accuser and Ego the Living Planet, Gunn and crew finally hit the nail on the head with the High Evolutionary and delivered a top-tier MCU villain.
In this film, Gunn wisely gives every character their time in the spotlight and allows the characters, and the audience, to get the closure they need. Having said that, this is Rocket Racoon’s film first and foremost. Rocket’s backstory is explored in an unnerving and heartbreaking way and Bradley Cooper’s voice performance matches this level of emotion to a tee. Other standouts in the cast include Dave Bautista’s Drax, who is the funniest he’s ever been during the series, and Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock, who will be divisive among fans but a character I absolutely adored watching. Overall, Gunn knows this is the last dance and everyone gets their time on the dance floor.
James Gunn’s music selections for his films are always fantastic and he does it again this time around. Gunn uses a perfect blend of A-list songs and lesser-known B or C-list songs that come together for a heart-pumping, emotional, adrenaline-fuelled soundtrack. My two favorites, used to perfection in the film, are Radiohead’s acoustic version of ‘Creep’ and the Beastie Boys’ ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’. While maybe not as iconic as Awesome Mix Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Vol. 3 is nonetheless an excellent addition to the Gunn soundtrack library.
Vol. 3 might be Marvel’s most emotional film yet. I found myself asking, more than once, “Am I really crying over this damn raccoon?” and the answer was yes, I was. Gunn knows how to pull at your heartstrings and in this film, there’s a lot of that. From the tearful opening to Rocket’s backstory in the middle and all the way to the credits rolling, there’s never a dry eye in the house with this film.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 brilliantly ends James Gunn’s tenure in the MCU and solidifies the Guardians trilogy as the MCU’s best from start to finish. If this is the last time we see some, or all of these characters, then they went out in a blaze of glory.