Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, by Albert W. Vogt III

There is nothing new to Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.  At the same time, it had me on the verge of tears more than once while watching it.  Does that mean that I am an emotional sap?  Maybe.  It could also be that there is a little more going on here than your typical Marvel fare.  You can draw your own conclusions as you read the rest of this review.  At this point, I will offer theories.  They mostly have nothing to do with the events contained therein, being triggered for impersonal and personal reasons.  The first hits less close to home, it being the knowledge that this is truly the last ride for one of Marvel’s most successful franchises.  You are talking about a series of films, not to mention appearances in other titles, that have taken up nearly a decade of these actors’ lives.  They have to move on at some point, no matter how bittersweet this is for the fans.  The second is more of a me thing on a couple of levels.  One of the secondary characters in the third of this trilogy is Lylla (voiced by Linda Cardellini), an anthropomorphic otter.  I love otters.  Not to get too far ahead of myself, but she meets her best friend Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) as he is on the verge of death.  It is an experience with the afterlife that I will explore more later, but it had an unexpected depth of feeling that tugged at my heartstrings.  Again, you are not going to find much here that is different from any other Marvel film before it.  Yet, like opening your heart to God, you might find yourself touched to your core in a way you did not think possible.

Speaking of Rocket, he is the first member of the title crew we meet in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.  I hope you remember Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022), not to mention Avengers: Endgame (2019), because events from those titles play an immediate role early on in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.  Their leader, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), also known as Star Lord, is bummed out because their former crewmate Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) is not the woman he once loved (see Avengers: Endgame) and no longer with the Guardians.  So, he turns into a drunkard.  Therefore, it is up to the rest of the team to continue building their new base in the head of a long dead celestial known as Knowhere (see The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special).  This is poor timing because they are attacked by a powerful being called Adam Warlock (Will Poulter).  He is a part of a race of beings known as The Sovereign (see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and he has been sent to capture Rocket.  The person who has assigned him this mission is a scientist called the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).  Though Warlock is unsuccessful in his mission, it takes a combined effort to stop him and results in Rocket being severely injured.  From here, the movie diverges a bit as interspersed with the normal course of the plot are flashbacks to Rocket’s past.  I will describe those first.  Unlike what he had been wanting people to believe until now, Rocket is indeed a raccoon.  He and a litter of kits are taken from earth by the High Evolutionary as part of his desire to create perfect beings.  In between a number of cruel experiments that make Rocket into the highly intelligent anthropomorphic animal he is, he meets Lylla and two other similar creatures.  They form a bond and Rocket’s first friendships.  When he learns that the High Evolutionary plans to murder them all upon discovering the secret to evolution that he had long been seeking, Rocket resolves to escape and take the others with him.  Unfortunately, the High Evolutionary foresees this and ends up killing the other three.  Rocket manages to get away, but not before slicing up the High Evolutionary’s face.  In the present, though, Rocket is dying because there is an implant on his heart preventing him from being treated by the space medicine that easily cures anything.  Thus, the others must go on a fetch quest to find the secret code that will allow them to revive Rocket.  Their first stop is a place called the Orgoscope.  It is basically an organic orifice in space and the lab where the High Evolutionary secrets are tested and stored.  To break in, Nebula (Karen Gillan) contacts her sister Gamora, who is now working with a group of what can best be described as space pirates known as Ravagers.  After your typical adventures, they find the file on Rocket but the code they need is missing.  What they require is in the brain of one of the High Evolutionary’s associates.  He is located on Counter-Earth, a replica of our own planet created by the High Evolutionary to house his experiments.  It is now time to zoom off the Counter Earth where basically the same process is repeated, this time with them ending up with the key.  This would be the end of the movie if not for the fact that Nebula, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) get stuck on the High Evolutionary’s enormous ship as it is taking off from Counter-Earth as the planet is being destroyed.  The predictable rescue effort is mounted by the others, and they end up bring Knowhere into the fray.  This proves handy because the team saves from captivity the High Evolutionary’s next round of experiments.  They have one last confrontation with the High Evolutionary before fleeing.  Peter almost dies as they are fleeing from the dying ship, but is saved by Warlock, who had been sort of hanging around the whole time.  As the dust settles, Peter decides he needs to return to Earth to reconnect with his maternal grandfather, and Mantis declares that she, too, must depart.  Gamora returns to the Ravagers, and everyone else stays on Knowhere.  The end.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is basically a Rocket story, though it does a serviceable job of juggling a number of other character developments.  Heck, they even manage to find time to give some growth to Kraglin Obfonteri (Sean Gunn), whose presence in the film is sort of an afterthought.  It is a challenge to do justice to an ensemble cast in the first place, and it is made much harder by the fact that all these characters have become beloved by the fanbase in their own ways.  It is also a testament to the strength of previous Marvel films, particularly this franchise, though it does not make it any easier.  It is also a weakness.  As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, you have to have aspects of previous films firm in your brain for parts of this film to make any sense.  Marvel trades on the fact that its fans will have this recall ability, so it does not bother to fully explain what the deal is with Gamora and Peter, why Nebula is so crabby, or who is Ego (Kurt Russell).  Because I have seen all these films, and I pay attention, I understand what it happening.  If you are a more casual observer, and reading this review, please comment below if you felt lost as times as to what is going on in the film.  Or does it matter?  More cynical critics assume that big budget motion pictures are simply made for the drooling masses to zone out to pretty colors for a few hours while shoveling popcorn into their faces.  Most of the time, I do not subscribe to this sentiment.  Thus, what makes this particular film stand out is its emotional core.  I would not have thought that I could be on the verge of crying seeing the death of a cartoon otter, or fictional friends exchanging a warm embrace.  It is what made the movie for me more so than any of the all too familiar action.

Speaking of the non-action moments in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, there is the aforementioned afterlife scene.  It is not a very Christian moment as I doubt that this is what it will be like when we die.  Then again, who knows?  At any rate, what I appreciated about it is the fact that Rocket chooses life.  He could have passed on with his friends, but the film suggests that doing so would have been against the higher calling for which Rocket was created.  God does not make mistakes, and there may be some of you out there that need to more clearly understand that message.  Rocket seems to think the opposite because all he can see is what the High Evolutionary has done to him.  On the point of passing on Lylla reminds him that there is a Hand behind the hand that created Rocket, a Hand guiding everything.  It is a testament to the true God, who is everything the High Evolutionary is not.  The High Evolutionary claims to be seeking to perfect the universe.  As Rocket later points out, the mad scientist is actually trying to get rid of things he does not like.  That is not how God operates.  Everything he makes is out of the fullness of His love.  We have a hard time with this concept sometimes because there is so much bad in the world, or the universe as we see in these movies.  The so-called logic goes that if God is love and created everything out of it, how can there be evil?  It is because of the fallen nature of Creation that such things exist.  God gave us free will to choose Him, not to force us to do so.  Some choose to do otherwise, and to harm others in the process.  Combatting such things does not have to involve destruction like you see in these films.  At the same time, they are standing up for the good, and that is worth something.

So, yeah, go ahead and see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.  What I have described is, like most anything I examine, my own, personal reaction.  People appreciate different movies for many different reasons.  For some it is the acting, for others it is the skill of its construction.  There those who just like the excitement of the action.  For me, I need some heart, and this film has it.  This is why I recommend the movie, and at the rest I just shrug my shoulders.


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