‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ concludes the story of Marvel’s oddest family.
In retrospect, the most unexpected of Marvel’s hits was all about the most unlikely of families. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” emphasizes this point, with a rowdy and often emotional sequel that seems like a true finale, fuelled in no little part by writer-director James Gunn’s departure from rival DC.
Building franchises around lesser-known heroes has always been the most risky aspect of Marvel’s movie plans, making the success of “Guardians” in 2014 and its less-satisfying sequel a minor miracle. Look no further than the “Eternals,” another super-team that (while deserving of an asterisk due to the pandemic) did not fare as well.
The key to Gunn’s previous films was a combination of rich visual energy, distinct characters, ingeniously interwoven tunes, and a healthy dose of outright silliness. All of this is on full display in “Vol. 3,” along with a darker thread that dives heavily into the past of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), the freakishly clever and ruthless anthropomorphic raccoon, while also communicating an unexpectedly profound animal-rights message.
This installment of “Guardians” begins with Quill (Chris Pratt) becoming an emotional mess as a result of his estrangement from Gamora (Zoe Saldaa), who returned post-blip with no memory of their romance. He’s shocked out of his funk, though, by a threat that causes the team to spring into action to save one of their own, including a showdown with one of the more visually striking comics characters, Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a creature with great strength but an almost infantile mind.