Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 movie review (2023)

“Flight. 3” opens with Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) listening to “Creep” by Radiohead. In another film filled with clever needle drops, it’s a tone-setter. Rocket sees himself as the weirdo, the creep, but the movie will teach him that he’s so f-ing special, of course.

It all starts with an attack. The golden-hued Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) comes speeding into Knowhere, pummeling everything in sight with strength that would impress Superman. Rocket takes the worst beating and hovers near death for most of the movie, putting the film on two tracks—a flashback to Rocket’s origin story and the present-day tale of the Guardians trying to save him. The mission leads them to the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a mad scientist who tried to speed up the evolutionary process for a utopia called Counter-Earth and created Rocket all those years ago.

Of course, the Guardians bring baggage on their quest. Peter (Chris Pratt) is emotionally unstable over what happened with Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), who was killed by Thanos but has returned as an alternate timeline version of the character who doesn’t remember her time with the GotG. Gamora gets involved with the Rocket mission, but the love story between her and Star-Lord doesn’t drive the narrative like the first two. Many filmmakers would have made “Vol. 3” about reuniting Peter and Gamora, but it’s more about a background to Rocket’s story, which allows for different chemistry between Pratt and Saldaña. She’s particularly good here, looking at the rest of the Guardians skeptically, especially the one who claims to love a different version of her.

As for the rest of the gang, it’s gotten a little too big for one movie to hold. Dave Bautista is fun again, but Drax has little to do. Same with Karen Gillan as Nebula, who has become a functional part of the team but lacks actual development. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is back for comic relief, and Groot (Vin Diesel) does his thing, but it’s hard to shake how this “Guardians” is overcrowded. I didn’t even mention the talking dog (voiced by Maria Bakalova), Elizabeth Debicki as Adam’s creator Ayesha, or Sylvester Stallone’s return.