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HomeEntertainment‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’: A Marvelous Redemption for the MCU

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’: A Marvelous Redemption for the MCU

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Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”

Renowned director James Gunn’s most recent film, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” was released on May 5. The movie keeps true to the roots of its franchise of the same name, delivering an emotional, heart-tugging yet action-packed spectacle.

The last few years have seen a drastic decline in the quality and appeal of Marvel movies. Films released in 2022 and early 2023, such as “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” have received average critic and audience ratings. People began to complain about superhero fatigue setting in and Marvel turning into a mass-production house focusing on quantity over quality.

However, a handful of fans held out hope for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), believing that Marvel would learn from its mistakes and revert back to making entertaining blockbusters that have heart and bring a rollercoaster of emotions. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” rewards this faith.

Continuing the Guardians’ story from “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) and “Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special” (2022), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a beautiful character-study featuring fan-favorite Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) as its primary motivating character. Gravely injured at the beginning of the movie, Rocket steps out of the limelight as the rest of the Guardians work to acquire a material required for saving his life. During present-day events, the movie showcases glimpses of Rocket’s tortured past that previous installments had alluded to. 

Raised in captivity by a biotechnology company named OrgoCorp, Rocket was an ordinary North American raccoon who was experimented upon with the goal of developing extraordinary intelligence and problem-solving capabilities. The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), the owner and head of OrgoCorp, promised Rocket that he would be a part of a higher order of gifted species and explore the world outside the confines of the company labs. However, Rocket realizes slowly that this promise was only a ruse to manipulate him into helping The High Evolutionary develop more advanced functioning species — trapping him at OrgoCorp for the rest of his life.

Despite sharing these parts of Rocket’s heavy and tragic backstory through flashbacks spaced out in a forward-moving narrative, the movie successfully evokes sadness, empathy and happiness from the audience with light moments through the use of banter and friendly leg-pulling between the Guardians throughout their journey.

The movie also picks up where “Avengers: Endgame” left off in terms of Star Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) romantic relationship that spanned from the 2014 alternate timeline. After losing the love of his life — the original Gamora from his timeline — Star Lord struggles to cement a new relationship with this alternate version of Gamora who does not share the same experiences or feelings as the Gamora from his timeline. In doing so, the movie sheds light on the act of letting go through Star Lord’s narrative arc as he learns to accept the new Gamora for who she is without wishing for her to act like the one he lost. 

The movie also conveys the important message of acceptance and trying not to project one’s expectations of others onto them and instead accepting them for who they are, including recognizing both their strengths and weaknesses. Alongside Star Lord and Gamora’s arc, the group also accepts Drax as someone who might not always say the right thing, but deeply cares for them and tries to keep them safe from danger.

The movie also interacts with and includes the audience through the brilliant use of the character of Groot (Vin Diesel). As fans of the franchise would remember, all of Groot’s interactions with other characters consist of just three words: “I am Groot.” However, at the very end of this movie, Groot finally speaks the new words, “I love you guys,” which signifies that the audience has also developed an emotional bond with Groot. At this point in the series, the audience understands him at such a deep level that they can decipher what he actually means when speaking. 

Most noticeably, what sets this movie apart from recent Marvel works is that this is an individual story. With director James Gunn’s signature flavor of outrageous yet sometimes childlike comedy, over-the-top action and relatable characters with whom the audience connects emotionally, the film is his movie first and a Marvel movie second. Because of this, it succeeds in avoiding the pitfall of existing solely to set up future movies — something that plagued the aforementioned “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.”

This specific distinction helps the movie focus solely on the narrative and character motivations instead of being burdened with setting up new characters or including teasers for upcoming movies. This led to an impactful, emotion-driven story that works well by itself but simultaneously also fits into the bigger MCU, similar to how most Marvel movies up until 2019 used to be. 

Marvel movies seem to be back to their former self with this newest entry and will hopefully continue to create relatable, emotional and action-packed narratives that connect with both fans and newer audiences.

Ishan Varshney is an Arts & Entertainment Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. He can be reached at ivarshne@uci.edu