Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 First Reviews: A Satisfying Finale for Gunn and the Gang

Critics say the presumably final outing for the Guardians packs an emotional punch, enhanced by dazzling visuals and wild set pieces, even if its villains don't quite hit the mark.

by | April 28, 2023 | Comments


Director James Gunn finishes out his time at Marvel with the trilogy-capping Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and he apparently is going out with a bang. Initial reviews of the latest installment of the MCU show a huge improvement on the previous piece of the franchise (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) and other Marvel movies in recent years, even if it isn’t quite as impressive as the first two Guardians of the Galaxy volumes. Most of the praise is directed at the sequel’s emotional narrative and wild set pieces, but criticisms are also heavy against the villain characters and darker tone.

Here’s what critics are saying about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3:

Does it live up to expectations?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has everything you would expect from James Gunn and Marvel Studios.
– Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 achieves what it sets out to do, which is provide a stirring and audience-pleasing finale.
– Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 offers a rare thing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: a satisfying ending to a trilogy.
– Joshua Yehl, IGN Movies

I didn’t expect to feel so sad while watching this movie.
– Mike Ryan, Uproxx

How does it compare to the first two Guardians movies?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the weirdest, grimmest, most emotional entry in Gunn’s MCU franchise, but it’s also the strongest.
– Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

This edition largely succeeds like the other ones, thanks to the chemistry of the main ensemble.
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

Like its two predecessors, the film is refreshing in the context of its own cinematic universe.
– Greg Nussen, Slant Magazine

Given how almost the entirety of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 feels like a superficial, snarky, and sarcastic deviation, Vol. 3 will evoke similar frustrations.
– Patrick Cavanagh,

Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Dave Bautista as Drax, Rocket (voice: Bradley Cooper), Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Groot (voice: Vin Diesel), Karen Gillan as Nebula, Pom Klementieff as Mantis in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Where does it fit in the MCU?

Leave it to James Gunn to rescue Marvel from its self-inflicted woes with the best MCU film since 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
– David Gonzalez, The Cinematic Reel

It’s the best MCU film in years, and a reminder of how much fun and moving the Marvel Cinematic Universe can actually be.
– Ross Bonaime, Collider

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 feels ripped out of an older phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe… a return to form.
– Sheraz Farooqi, Cinema Debate

A blockbuster that is perfectly suited to its time, and offers a much-needed win for the MCU.
Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

The impact of Rocket’s emotional arc is one of the most powerful we’ve seen in the entire MCU.
Patrick Cavanagh,

James Gunn’s soulful style remain unlike anything else in the MCU.
Joshua Yehl, IGN Movies

In a funny way, it makes sense that Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 is more grounded than the other Phase Four movies.
William Bibbiani, The Wrap

Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Dave Bautista as Drax, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Karen Gillan as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

How are the visuals?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has some of the most stunning visuals of any Marvel Studios film.
– Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

So bizarrely trippy at times it’s as if Gunn is aiming to create a midnight cult classic rather than a blockbuster superhero film.
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

Gunn ushers us into uncharted new realms of wackadoo production design and outlandish costumes, reminding us that he’s never been shy about letting his stylistic freak flag fly.
– Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

This insane adventure looks so good… Gunn and his team deliver a real sense of place to his various environments.
– Kate Erbland, IndieWire

A breath of fresh air following multiple MCU productions full of muted tones.
Patrick Cavanagh,

One major aspect where Guardians 3 sets itself apart from Quantumania is the visual effects, which are vivid and spectacular.
Joshua Yehl, IGN Movies

Gunn’s preferred aesthetic is stomach-churning.
– Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

What about the action?

The action sequences are also stunners, especially an epic climactic battle accompanied by the propulsive Beastie Boys classic “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.”
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

The action sequences feel experimental but never showy, as Gunn aimed to showcase these characters in new and compelling ways.
Patrick Cavanagh,

Unlike many contemporary action films… [it] allows audiences to take in the fight choreography in all its glory.
– Caitlin Chappell,

There is a hallway fight scene that will no doubt wow audiences.
Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

Maria Bakalova as Cosmo the Spacedog in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Is it funny?

Often funny… The scene stealer turns out to be the good-natured, beefy Drax, with Bautista showing us his comedy chops.
– Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

I’m still chuckling at the ridiculous exchange among the Guardians over which buttons to press on their spacesuits to properly communicate with each other.
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

The misfit team’s constant punchlines and I’m-just-busting-your-chops dynamic have grown exhausting.
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

Is it also kind of dark?

Vol. 3 is perhaps also the darkest Marvel Studios has gone… There are some moments that are not for the faint of heart.
– Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

The darkest contained MCU entry, Gunn’s examination of exploration, PTSD, and family bonds is fully engaging and tear-inducing.
David Gonzalez, The Cinematic Reel

At times, Vol. 3 can be unsettling… Abounds in intense depictions of animal torture.
Greg Nussen, Slant Magazine

This will be a difficult watch for some viewers.
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

This is a movie that will probably traumatize some kids and maybe a few adults.
William Bibbiani, The Wrap

Baby Rocket (voice: Bradley Cooper) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

How is the soundtrack?

The soundtrack is once again top-notch.
– Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

Gunn, who might be the master of the needle drop for his perfect soundtracks, is at the top of his game here… His use of songs from Radiohead, Earth Wind & Fire, Rainbow, and The Beastie Boys creates a beautiful goodbye anthem.
– Travis Hopson, Punch Drunk Critics

Songs like The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize?” and Faith No More’s “We Care a Lot” feel more like an opportunity for Gunn to showcase his own musical taste than elevating a sequence.
Patrick Cavanagh,

What about the villain?

One of the MCU’s most memorable and twisted villains.
Caitlin Chappell,

Chukwudi Iwuji is great as the High Evolutionary… His outbursts are terrifying, and Iwuji wonderfully captures the ferocity and anger of a man who is committed to his beliefs.
– Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

It is refreshing to face off with a Marvel villain whose existence doesn’t threaten literally every other being in the MCU.
Kate Erbland, IndieWire

Iwuji is also perhaps the strongest of the Guardians movie villains, turning in a multifaceted performance as the High Evolutionary.
Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

The High Evolutionary is an especially effective villain during the flashbacks… but he feels far less threatening in the present.
Joshua Yehl, IGN Movies

The High Evolutionary’s machinations, despite an intense, shout-to-the-sky performance of the old school from Iwuji, are all extremely melodramatic and Iowa-flat.
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

Iwuji bellows in a performance of Al Pacino-level over-the-top-itude.
– Peter Debruge, Variety

The High Evolutionary’s inclusion is as forgettable as a majority of other Marvel villains.
Patrick Cavanagh,

Chukwudi Iwuji as The High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

How is the introduction of Adam Warlock?

Poulter is extremely funny as the character.
Kate Erbland, IndieWire

Poulter does a good job with the material he is given, but it isn’t much, unfortunately.
– Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

He ultimately fails to make a lasting impression.
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

He never quite meshes with the rest of the narrative in a practical way.
Ross Bonaime, Collider

His scenes regularly grind the narrative momentum to a halt, and we can’t help but wish his entire plot was excised.
Patrick Cavanagh,

Unfortunately, he feels like he’s only in this film out of obligation, and it’s sad to say Volume 3 wouldn’t have been much different if he were cut out.
Joshua Yehl, IGN Movies

Is the movie too long?

It’s wildly self-indulgent.
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

At a jam-packed, planet-hopping 150 minutes, it also feels less like a conventional moviegoing experience than the endorphin rush that comes from waiting years for the next season of your favorite TV series, then binge-watching all the new episodes in a single sitting.
Peter Debruge, Variety

This one is too damn long — but I’ll confess you likely won’t notice the bloated runtime simply because Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 almost never slows down.
– Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Chris Pratt as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Is there too much going on?

Gunn has to juggle a lot with this finale, but once again, he shows he’s a master at knowing exactly how to work with a large ensemble.
Ross Bonaime, Collider

The story is a bit messy, though. Gunn has a lot of story he wants to tell and he tells every bit of it.
Travis Hopson, Punch Drunk Critics

There are simply too many characters here, and while they all get their own mini-arcs, most of them feel hollow.
Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

How does it leave us feeling about the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

The success of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 proves that it’s still possible for Marvel movies to hit and hit hard after more than 30 films.
– William Bibbiani, The Wrap

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a reminder that with the right cast, crew, and story, superheroes can still deliver.
– Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

When I think of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the MCU, I think of Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
David Gonzalez, The Cinematic Reel

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 opens in theaters everywhere on May 5, 2023.

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