Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 review: A fond and fitting finale

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 review — the final outing aims straight for our heartstrings.

Chris Pratt, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3
(Image: © Marvel Studios)

What to Watch Verdict

This third instalment shows Marvel can still make great superhero movies, packed with action and heart.


  • +

    Irreverent humour coupled with powerful emotions

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    A reminder that we genuinely care for this bunch of misfits

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    Exciting action with special effects to match


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    Soundtrack is the weakest in the trilogy

They were the superheroes that came out of nowhere, a rag-tag bunch of misfits from a lesser-known Marvel comic. Expectations for their arrival on screen were zilch but Guardians Of The Galaxy was the surprise hit of 2014. 

With its irreverent humour, awesomely nostalgic soundtrack and characters including a mutant tree man with a limited vocabulary, a vicious mercenary racoon and two daughters of a certain Titan, it brought a whole new attitude to the MCU. Such overnight success demanded a sequel and the gang returned, as promised, three years later.

And now it’s time for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 which, as we’ve been told repeatedly, is also their final outing. 

We know from Volume 2 they can do sad as well as flippant, so we know what’s coming. Don’t we? Up to a point but, once again, Quill and co have proved they still have the ability to surprise as well as ramping up the action and tugging on our heart strings to produce a fitting finale.

The saga’s moved on since the events of the sequel. Yondu (Michael Rooker) is no longer around, and Kraglin (Sean Gunn) is struggling to fill his boots. He’s none-too-hot at defending the Guardian’s home of Knowhere, leaving it wide open to an attack that puts the lives of one of them in danger. 

The rest of the crew set off on an epic journey to save their friend’s life and, as it turns out, to protect the galaxy from a would-be tyrant – or “wannabe Skeletor”, as Quill (Chris Pratt) describes him. As the stakes get increasingly higher, this is a mission that will test their friendships and endurance to the absolute limit.

While there’s much about the film that’s comfortingly familiar, there’s a distinct shift in tone to something more melancholic and wistful. It’s there in the opening seconds and becomes more insistent as the film moves along in customary propulsive fashion. 

It’s an unexpectedly emotional film and, while we had a taste of James Gunn’s motley crew getting in touch with their softer sides in the previous instalment, this time the director is aiming straight for the tear ducts, producing some genuinely lump-in-the-throat moments. But he never abandons one of the secrets of the franchise’s success — the ability to flip the mood back to humour and silliness in a twitch of Mantis’ antennae. And, given the heart on show this time round, it works better than ever.

At the same time, the audience realizes something they may have forgotten: that over the previous two films — and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney Plus at the end of last year – they’ve come to genuinely care about the characters on screen. More recent outings from both Marvel and DC have undermined this but here we know exactly where our hearts lie, making the prospect of saying goodbye harder and, strangely, even more inevitable. In fact, this final episode is a timely reminder that Marvel is still more than capable of making great superhero movies which hit the emotional beats, deliver exciting action and top special effects, but which are still grounded in very human emotions and attitudes. In other words, everything we expect from them. Except now, as the Guardians leave, Gunn departs to mastermind another universe, and we can only wait with bated breath to see what that brings. 

There’s much to love in Volume 3. The characters are all still on their own personal voyages of self-discovery: Nebula (Karen Gillan) continues to break free of the damage inflicted by her father, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) has grown up — again! — although his vocabulary hasn’t changed and Drax’s (Dave Bautista) soft heart is increasingly to the fore, once you get past his tactless sense of humour. Smiles, giggles and out-loud laughs are never far away and the action escalates to a spectacular climax.

For all its two and a half hours running time, you don’t want it to end. But that’s the point. In the good old showbusiness tradition, we’re left wanting more, so that our memories of the self-proclaimed a-holes will always be warm. They’ll never outstay their welcome in our minds and their finale is fond and fitting.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 3 is released in cinemas on 3 May 2023.

Freda Cooper

Freda can't remember a time when she didn't love films, so it's no surprise that her natural habitat is a darkened room in front of a big screen. She started writing about all things movies about eight years ago and, as well as being a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic, is a regular voice on local radio on her favorite subject. 

While she finds time to watch TV as well — her tastes range from Bake Off to Ozark — films always come first. Favourite film? The Third Man. Top ten? That's a big and complicated question .....!