Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

The Redemption of Rocket

Reviewed by: Alicia Glass
Published on: May 8, 2023

Reviewed by Steve McGowan

If you ask me what my favorite Marvel film series is, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy. What started off as a very off-the-wall, obscure, bizarre risk of a film helmed by James Gunn turned out to produce some of the most beloved characters in pop culture, and certainly some of the most memorable in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’, Gunn’s highly anticipated conclusion to his trilogy, we can safely say that they stuck the landing; it’s a fantastic ending to the series.

Some light spoilers follow, so stop reading right now if you don’t want to be spoiled.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ picks up some time after the events of the Christmas special, with our heroes living on Knowhere, the decapitated head of a Celestial which is now converted into their base. The Guardians’ roster is now quite large: Peter, Rocket, Groot, Drax, Nebula, Mantis, Kraglin, and Cosmo the Spacedog. However, Gamora is absent from this list, as she died during the events of Avengers: Infinity War. However, another version of Gamora from an earlier timeline exists somewhere out in the cosmos, but because she never experienced going on adventures with Peter and the gang, she is not the same person. Peter is understandably depressed about the whole thing, as he loved his Gamora, the one who is now dead, and the other one from another timeline just couldn’t care less about him.

So a typical day in Knowhere is interrupted by an abrupt attack by Adam Warlock, a being created by the Sovereign (the gold people) in the end-credits scene of the previous Guardians movie. The Guardians manage to fend him off, but Rocket is critically injured and they can’t help him medically because he has a cybernetic kill-switch inside him that prevents tampering, put there by the people who experimented on him. Turns out the man responsible for enhancing Rocket’s intelligence was an evil eugenicist named The High Evolutionary, who wants to create a perfect society of genetically engineered beings. Rocket was just a failed experiment in the process, and we get to see glimpses of his origin story through flashbacks.

During the flashbacks that Rocket has of his early life, we see him in the High Evolutionary’s lab, together with other animals that have been experimented on. They are tagged with numbers, but they each choose names for themselves during the time they are in captivity. There’s an otter named Lylla, whom Rocket forms a loving bond with, a walrus named Teefs, and a rabbit named Floor. These scenes of Rocket’s time in captivity are incredibly heart-wrenching, but ultimately necessary to see him fulfill his character’s arc.

Needless to say Peter and the gang just weren’t going to let Rocket die, so they set off to find the people responsible for installing the kill-switch inside him, and find a way to disable it so they can save their friend. The Guardians go on a romp through space, but the High Evolutionary has plans of his own for Rocket, and the two sides ultimately head toward a face-off.

The movie takes us to various fantastical locations, from the gritty alien world of Knowhere to a weird organic space station made entirely of living tissue, to an Earth-like world inhabited by humanoid animals. The imaginative set design is as off the wall as one would expect from a James Gunn Guardians movie, as we follow our heroes for what is possibly their last adventure together.

The themes of this film is letting go of your pain, working through your grief and trauma, growing up, appreciating your family, found or otherwise. Ultimately, what we get is a sense of closure. Every character gets a satisfactory ending to their arc, and they’re not the same people they were at the beginning of the series. They’ve grown up, they helped each other become better versions of themselves, and better than what the universe tried to force them to be. They started off as misfits and outcasts but ultimately became saviors of entire worlds, heroes for the oppressed, and guardians of the galaxy.

While this was a truly excellent film, it wasn’t perfect. As with all Marvel movies, we have jokes sprinkled throughout, and unfortunately many of them feel juvenile, out of place, and break the narrative flow. However, the brilliantly done emotional journey of the main characters, especially Rocket, make up for it.

I give ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ four out of five mixtapes.