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Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3

Updated: May 30, 2023

After some recent stumbles, Marvel regains their footing with the stirring, funny and emotional GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 3.

The Guardians arrived on the scene nine years ago, bringing sarcasm and goofy antiheroes into the Marvel universe. They were unexpected and fresh. I guess it's only fitting that Writer/Director James Gunn keeps the unexpected coming with this third and final chapter.

Opening with a peek at all our Guardians at their GOTG Headquarters, we see Quill (Chris Pratt in his best performance of the series) pining for the Gamora (Zoe Saldana) that he used to know, before she came back from Thanos wholly changed. We barely get to connect with the rest of the team before the action kicks in, with new evildoer Warlock soaring in and causing destruction. Warlock (Will Poulter from "We're the Millers) injures Rocket badly and the team discovers they must learn more about Rocket's beginning in order to save his life.

Gunn makes Rocket the soulful center of the third chapter. We see Rocket from his days as a baby, suffering horrific medical experiments to become the creature we know and love. Rocket was created by The High Evolutionary, a self described God determined to create a perfect world filled with human/animal hybrids. Chukwudi Iwuji is off the rails as our villain. Parents beware. The scenes of animal torment and surgery are intense and some of the animal deaths here may be far too much for younger viewers. I have serious doubts about taking my 9 year old grandson who loves Rocket/Marvel and animals.

Anytime you have a closing chapter in a film series, there's always temptation to kill off main characters, all the way back to Spock in "Star Trek II". Gunn certainly wields that weapon here, but does so with genuine care for the loyal viewer.

The Guardians visit several incredible worlds on the quest for Rocket's cure and unlike those murky, repetitive landscapes from 'Antman/Quantumania" these are wholly created and fascinating universes.

Their first visit is to a giant floating space station that's made of flesh and organic material. It's weird, funny and creative as hell. Drax's scenes in this sequence are some of Dave Bautista's best work in the series, he's hilarious.

Later, they arrive to the High Evolutionary's new "perfect" version of Earth. It's quirky and crazy, with incredible CGI work that makes every detail feel tangible.

There's a scene with Gamora high up in the cockpit of the Guardians ship, watching as Quill and team try to drive a 1970's car down a suburban street very far below. It's a throwaway scene, executed at such a high level of detail that it establishes the credibility of the entire planet.

The Guardians team is the best its ever been on film. Pratt's range here is fantastic, delivering big laughs and gut wrenching despair.

Pom Klementieff is at the top of her game as Mantis. The innocence with which she applies her empathic abilities drives the humor but also gives her a rare instance to be the hero. She's great.

Karen Gillan is flat out funny as Nebula. Her word play with Pratt is rapid patter perfection, like some space-age version of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in "The Philadelphia Story". This is Nebula's finest hour in the series.

Even Groot gets some terrific scenes and the special effects team behind our favorite grown up tree-dude is top of their game. Groot has one special emotional moment at the conclusion that got huge cheers from the premiere night audience in attendance.

Towering above them all is Rocket, the smallest member of the GOTG team. Bradley Cooper is in excellent voice in by far his most emotional role in the series. Gunn made a risky decision putting Rocket and the audience through so much of Rocket's horrific origin story, but by the end of the film, it pays off in style.

The two and a half hour running time seems like less than two, with no filler and no boredom. This feels like an ADVENTURE in all the right ways. What an excellent way to wrap up James Gunn's tenure at Marvel as he heads off to manage the DC universe.

For all the GOTG characters we know and love, this is the perfectly eccentric, emotional sendoff I'd hoped for, set to more great music from Quill's iPod. Earning its laughs and tears honestly, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 3 gets an A+.

Let the summer movie season begin!

(Watch for one mid-credits and one post credits scene that wrap things up nicely.)

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