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Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Gives Rocket a Revenge Arc

"The story has always been yours."


The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in the business of introducing new superheroes and villains to its growing cannon. With several notable icons either dying off or leaving the saving-the-world game altogether, Marvel has had to fill in some gaps by closing out some storylines of its most famous heroes to make room for new ones to emerge. The latest example of this is "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," the third (and likely last) installment of the "Guardians" series starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper.


What was once a ragtag group of castoffs looking to protect the galaxy from those that mean it harm has become a series worth watching for its ultimate humor and heart. The first two installments primarily concentrated on Pratt's Earthling character of Peter Quill/Star-Lord, diving deep into his psyche as a rebel with many delirious causes. This third iteration, however, sets its sights on Cooper's talking raccoon character of Rocket, and it works very well.


"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" could have been renamed "Rocket's Revenge" for its central plot on Rocket's past, akin to how Hugh Jackman often portrayed Wolverine in flashback scenes of the "X-Men" franchise. The film opens with Rocket as a baby raccoon, taken against his will to be experimented on by The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a powerful scientist looking to create a special race of beings. These hybrid beings would inhabit a new world called Counter-Earth, an alternate type of planet similar to Earth in many ways.


Tackling Rocket's past is swiftly chaperoned by The High Evolutionary's plot to kidnap Rocket again in the present. As the audience, we know Rocket fled somehow because we've followed his trajectory for several films as an adult raccoon. Yet, we need to find out how he escaped and what is in store for him in the future. This is complicated by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a mighty being sent by The High Evolutionary to destroy the Guardians and bring Rocket back to be tested some more.


Our fateful Guardians don't take this lying down; their mission is to save Rocket (and the day) once and for all. Any casual observer of the MCU in recent years knows the Guardians have been split by the death of Gamora (Saldańa), but a variant of her exists as a Ravager uninterested in working with the Guardians. This is a complex situation for the perpetually drunk Peter (Pratt), who is still in love with the woman Gamora used to be. Still, the Guardians find Gamora and focus on the job: trying to keep Rocket safe from impending doom.


"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is an emotional rollercoaster of a film that Marvel desperately needed as of late. With other movies since 2019's "Avengers: Endgame" seemingly not up to par with the varying elements that built the franchise, director James Gunn has brought these films back to a baseline of intriguing storylines and fervent cinematic maneuvers worth analyzing. Though we've gotten to know many of these characters for years, this new movie breathes life into a well-worn concept.


The focus on Rocket's journey is initially gripping but not for the faint of heart. Yes, he is a CGI raccoon, and many of the animals shown aren't real, but Gunn is skillful in making his audience believe otherwise. Animal cruelty is an understatement for The High Evolutionary, demonically played to perfection by Nigerian-British actor Chukwudi Iwuji. He is convincing as a sinister villain with whom Rocket must contend to face his past and move on into the future.


Will Poulter does a fine job playing Adam Warlock, although his character isn't needed with all of the backstories of The High Evolutionary and the pivot to Rocket. The same goes for Warlock's mother, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). Both are great characters with interesting pathos, but showing up in another movie might have been better. The film does have a surprising amount of weight behind it for a Marvel film about an engineered Racoon, so bringing back staples of the franchise like Sean Gunn's Kraglin and Cosmo the Spacedog is a no-brainer. Plus, even with little screen time, it's always nice to see Nathan Fillion and Sylvester Stallone appear in Marvel form.


"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" will tug at the heartstrings no matter how much you try to prevent it. Gunn is a gifted storyteller who understands his characters to the point that each Guardian gets their moment to shine unexpectedly. By the time the end credits roll, the cast has prepared its audience to accept fate and head in a direction not seen in recent Marvel movies. It's well executed, semi-expected, and marvelously self-aware.


While the first two "Guardians" films might have been about Peter and the Guardians coming together, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is about the search for one's true identity and contribution to the greater good.


Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟🎟

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