Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 review: An MCU supernova

Cameron Frew
Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 isn’t so much an MCU faith restorer as a glorious, soulful ember burning above the cinders of a cinematic universe – it’s nice to remember how it felt being hooked on a feeling.

Some would argue, fairly, that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s greatest accomplishment is its ever-sprouting, intricately drawn overall story, earlier coalescing in the ultimate blockbuster two-hander. That high, as impressive as it was, will prove to be inimitable; it was a cultural endgame for the franchise, left desperately rummaging for a new hype-worthy era in its multiversal toy box.

Since the end of the Infinity Saga, we’ve limped from film to film, rarely feeling anything beyond that front-loaded excitement and curiosity. At its worst, we’ve had pure slop with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and at its best, there’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, an inarguable superhero event that, while deftly juggled, cruised on years-old nostalgia.

This week, the franchise is parting ways with its Guardians, literally and figuratively. James Gunn’s scrappy space bandits are the last bastion of what these movies could achieve: originality, heart, and uncynical entertainment. To call him a visionary is no exaggeration.

This review is spoiler-free, don’t worry.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 starts with chaos in Knowhere

Very brief recap: after Endgame, the Guardians bought Knowhere from the Collector. Kraglin (Sean Gunn) has been training Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova) while practicing with Yondu’s whistling arrow. Nebula (Karen Gillan), Groot (Vin Diesel), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) – revealed to be Peter’s half-sister in the Holiday Special – have been carrying out renovations, while Peter (Chris Pratt) spends his days listening to music and drowning his sorrows, still mourning the loss of Gamora. Yes, she’s still alive thanks to past time-travel shenanigans, but she’s not the woman he loved.

In a charming opening sequence, Rocket strolls around the city listening to Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ – a song with poignant, albeit obvious links to his character with lyrics like, ‘I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul.’ Suddenly, he’s speared by a Super-Saiyan blur: it’s Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), an ultra-powerful “effigy” of the Sovereign ordered to recover the “squirrel” for the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a super-powered madman hellbent on creating the “perfect species.”

Suffice to say, things don’t go to plan for Adam or the Guardians, and it puts them on a collision course with the High Evolutionary in order to save Rocket’s life. Of course, they’ll need Gamora’s help along the way.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 deserves its exception

Marvel movies have been rightfully slapped with memes and mockery about their tropes, like undercutting emotional moments with feeble, “so, that just happened” attempts at humor – but Guardians 3 is an exception, mostly on account of it actually being funny. The laughs don’t feel cheap, and quips that don’t connect aren’t left to linger. Gunn also indulges his more macabre sensibilities, mining giggles from all sorts of wanton carnage.

The High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

The cast has never been better: Pratt and Saldana’s chemistry is sparkly and moving, Klementieff and Bautista remain the trilogy’s best pairing, and Gillan’s Nebula is perfectly pitched, especially after rocky beginnings. Cooper, once again, completely disappears into Rocket, and in years to come it’ll be revered as one of the best voice performances we’ve ever had.

Iwuji is a hissable, nasty b*stard – what a breath of fresh air to have a villain that isn’t bogged down by a trite, tedious backstory. Do you know why he’s horrible? Because he just is. The star plays him with frightening rage and majesty – at one point, he brilliantly yells, “There is no god, that’s where I stepped in.” He’s a true baddie – more of this, please.

Rocket’s story is heartbreaking

Rocket has been at the forefront of the marketing, for good reason. We won’t spoil anything, but we’ll say this: he may have the most heartbreaking origin story in the MCU – as Nebula says, it’s “worse than what Thanos did to her.” Any and all scenes that flashback to his past are among the most emotionally potent, overwhelming moments in the film; there’s cruelty on display, but the brutality isn’t manipulative.

Some may feel the rest of the movie is a bit messy. It’s the longest movie in the trilogy at two-and-a-half hours, but for my money, there wasn’t a single bum note, thanks to character being at the core of all of Gunn’s storytelling. The runtime and narrative hopscotching are clearly structured to give everyone their moment to shine, but they all work. It’s all satisfying and, importantly, true to who they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going.

The cast of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

John Murphy is on composer duties this time, taking over from Tyler Bates. While there’s nothing quite on the same goosebump-raising caliber as ‘Groot Spores’, ‘Dad’, or even their main theme, it’s a strong score that compliments another impeccable soundtrack. We’ll be humming to ‘Dog Days Are Over’ all day.

Gunn… the man just gets it. He knows that taking a workmanlike approach to this stuff might allow you to squeeze by, but he’s got a unique skillset: whole-hearted affection for these characters, “emotionalistic” screenwriting chops, and stylish direction in and away from action. There’s a one-take scene in here that’s irresistibly fun and doesn’t come across like a needless, awkwardly-stitched flex, and one moment feels like a nod to The Matrix Revolutions – need I go on?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 review score: 5/5

A triumphant, beautiful closer for a team we’re devastated to lose, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is one of the best MCU movies ever made.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is in UK cinemas now, and it’ll arrive on May 5 in the US. Check out our other coverage here.

About The Author

Cameron is Deputy TV and Movies Editor at Dexerto. He's an action movie aficionado, '80s obsessive, and Oscars enthusiast. He loves Invincible, but he's also a fan of The Boys, the MCU, The Chosen, and much more. You can contact him at