Are you ready for one last ride? “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” gets high marks for diversity and chummy humor and this third volume doesn’t disappoint with a great mix of music to back a heartbreaking story where everyone gets their moment. While not everyone deserves a happy ending, everyone does deserve a second chance.
First, it should be a given that you need to stay for the credits. There is not only a mid-credits scene, but also a post credits scene. To prepare for this volume, you’ll want to see last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.”
If you need a refresher on the first two films, here’s where we are. The first film is the origin of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The second film brings in new characters, including adding Mantis to the Guardians but is mostly about Quill learning who his real father is.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Starting in 1988, the young Peter Quill is abducted from Earth soon after his mother’s death by a group of aliens called the Ravagers. The aliens are a band of thieves and smugglers led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker). Flash forward to 2014, Quill now styles himself as Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Yondu has become a father figure, but is there honor among thieves?
When Quill steps an orb and betrays Yondu. Yondu sets a bounty on Quill while Ronan the Accuser sends his assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) to get the Orb. Quill ends up in a prison with Gamora and two bounty hunters the cybernetically modified raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the tree-humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel) after the four get involved in a fight in the capital of the Nova Empire. In prison, Drax the Destroyer tries to kill Gamora because Ronan (Lee Pace), killed his wife and daughter. Quill, Rocket, Groot, Drax (Dave Bautista) and Gamora escape from prison and go to Knowhere, an outpost built on the giant severed head of a Celestial.
Knowing that Gamora has betrayed him, Ronan meets with Thanos (Josh Brolin), Gamora’s adoptive father. Thanos adopted another girl, Nebula (Karen Gillan), and she and Ronan pursue Quill, Rocket, Groot, Drax and Gamora. The Orb is a Power Stone that destroys all but the most powerful. Ronan eventually acquires the Power Stone (Infinity), but the Ravagers and Quills group join forces with the Nova Corps. During the battle Groot sacrifices himself to protect the group, Quill gets the Infinity Stone back and the group use it to vaporize Ronan. Quill’s group becomes the Guardians of the Galaxy and as a reward their criminal records are expunged.
In the end, Quill learns his father was not human and finally opens the last present from his mother, a mix-tape of her favorite songs. Groot is re-brown from a potted cutting.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The 2017 film takes Peter Quill on a journey to find his real father. Starting just a few months after the first film, Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Baby Groot protect some valuable batteries from the Abilisk monsters for the Sovereign race. In exchange the Sovereign race leader, Ayesha, gives them Nebula who was caught trying to steal them. Unfortunately, Rocket steps the batteries and the Sovereign send drones to attack and destroy the Guardian’s ship. While the Guardians crash on a nearby planet, the drones are destroyed by Ego, Quill’s father. While Rocket and Groot repair the ship and guard Nebula, Quill, Gamora and Drax go to Ego’s planet.
Ayesha hires Yondu Udonta to capture the Guardians, but Yondu had years earlier been hired to kidnap Peter Quill by Ego and never delivered him. Ego is a god-like Celestial who fell in love with Quill’s mother Meredith. Ego lives with Mantis (Pom Klementieff ), his empath servant. Ego teaches the adult Quill to manipulate the Celestial power, but he reveals that he impregnated women in many galaxies in order to produce a Celestial. Two Celestials can use their power to activate or germinate the seedlings he has planted in thousands of worlds. Yondu collected the children, but Ego killed the ones who didn’t have the ability to manifest the Celestial power.
And Ego gave Meredith brain cancer. Learning this, Quill fights his father, but there’s also the Sovereign’s drones attacking. The Guardians kill Ego, Quill loses all his powers and Yondu sacrifices himself to save his adoptive son Quill. During Yondu’s funeral, Ravagers from all over the galaxy attend to honor him. Gamora admits she loves Quill, but her sister Nebula leaves, determined to kill Thanos.
In the post-credits scenes, Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Yondu’s lieutenant, takes up Yondu’s telekinetic arrow and control-fin. Sovereign leader Ayesha creates Adam in her quest to destroy the Guardians.
This film also introduces Ravager leader Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) as the leader who exiles Yondu because Yondu was involved in child trafficking, but also returns to honor Yondu at this funeral. Yondu has been saved from slavery by Stakar and adopted into the Ravagers.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
The Guardians are in Knowhere, but Quill is depressed. In the alternate 2014 (“Avengers: Endgame”) , Gamora was killed by the current Nebula when she refused to abandon Thanos. Gamora was brought through the Quantum Realm to the current timeline and joined Nebula, but this Gamora doesn’t know Quill.
Now a heartbroken Quill spends his days in a drunken stupor on Knowhere, now the headquarters of the Guardians of the Galaxy. When Knowhere comes under attack by the Sovereign, the Guardians are in a state of chaos. Besides the hole left by Quill’s dereliction of leadership, the Ravagers on Knowhere are not entirely unified under Kraglin who lacks the confidence to use Yondu’s telekinetic arrow. During the attack, Rocket is injured and the Guardians discover that the regular (and very magical) med packs won’t work because Rocket is a hybrid cybernetic being who has a kills switch. The coding to de-program the kill switch must be found in 48 hours or Rocket will die.
But by now, you must be thinking: Is anyone really dead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Don’t worry. There is dead and director/writer James Gunn keeps us emotionally connected. There’s also a visceral feel to this Marvel Cinematic Universe entry with plenty of slime and goo along with a few crispy carcasses.
The Sovereign leader (Elizabeth Debicki) and her creation Adam (Will Poulter) are under threat by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), an intelligent being obsessed with creating the perfect society through various experiments. Rocket was the result of one of those experimental batches. As Rocket is under life support, the film flashes back to Rocket’s memories, taking us from when he was a kit, chosen from amongst a wire cage full of kits for a bloody surgery that would give him a voice.
The High Evolutionary is seeking Rocket, hoping to get a hold of the brain. The Guardians ask Gamora to join them. Quill knows they are being set up, but he reminds us that if you know it’s an ambush, then it is a face off.
The face off takes us to Counter Earth which is a world of creatures that were transformed into humanoid form. Think of it as a galactic version of H.G. Wells’ 1896 science fiction novel, “The Island of Doctor Moreau.” The High Evolutionary tells Quill, “I’m not conquering the Earth, I’m perfecting it.” The Beast Folk for Counter Earth aren’t just taken from mammals, either, and they do display some unfortunate predatory instincts.
The High Evolutionary’s stretched and smooth-skinned face might remind you of Katherine Helmond’s Mrs. Ida Lowry from Terry Gilliam’s 1985 dystopian black comedy “Brazil.” Aging is pointedly joked about in Gunn’s script. The 43-year-old Pratt’s Quill says, “People on Earth die when they’re 50.” To which the 36-year-old Pom Klementieff’s Mantis replies, “Why ever be born?”
Another point of humor, besides those suits worn by the security forces (orgosentries) that resemble many loafs and baguettes of crusty French bread formed into a human sandwich-like armor, is all groups having one lovable numbskull. For the Guardians of the Galaxy, that’s Drax. For the Sovereigns, it is Adam, who, to be fair, is a newborn who doesn’t really understand life well and hasn’t fully formed his moral compass.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is a Rocket origin story with an appearance by our favorite Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). The film is about finding one’s moral compass, second chances and learning the difference between raccoons, badgers and squirrels, and if “only idiots dance” we also need to embrace our inner idiot and love the idiots around us for the positive qualities they have.
“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3” opens in the US on 5 May 2023.