Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Review: Rocket’s Greatest Hits

"This was always your story. You just didn't know it."

I’ll never forget when Marvel revealed the first concept art for Guardians of the Galaxy in 2012. At the front of the page were a walking tree, two green warriors, a masked man, and feral looking raccoon with a gun. I was sure this movie would be a huge mistake, especially when the director, James Gunn, put so much emphasis on a walking, talking trash panda.

Almost 12 years later, I can’t imagine Marvel without this loveable bunch of assholes. They’re what elevated the MCU to my favorite movie series of all time. Since the first Guardians film dropped in 2014, this has been my favorite pocket of the ever-expanding universe. And that gun-toting raccoon? He’s one of if not my favorite characters in all of Marvel today and easily my favorite team member.

Guardians of the galaxy concept art 2012
Image via Marvel Studios

That trend continues with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, a heartfelt and lovingly crafted sendoff for Gunn and his take on this band of misfits. This is the Guardians at their best, and with a story centered around Rocket Raccoon’s tragic origin, it’s easily the most emotional entry in the trilogy. Gunn and the Guardians masterfully blend humor, heartbreak, and harrowing stakes to create an incredible sendoff for this take on the team.

Related: The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review: Hooked on the Brothers

Hooked on a Feeling

My outlook on the Guardians started to shift after the legendary first trailer dropped a week after my birthday in 2014. To my surprise, the filmmakers knew how these characters would come off. The narrative leaned into how stupid, annoying, and pathetic this crew can be. With ridiculous rap sheets, goofy codenames, and almost nothing in common, I couldn’t help but laugh at them and their pitiful predicaments.

Guardians of the Galaxy trailer 1
Image via Marvel Studios

And it was all uphill from there. I decided to go to theaters on release day and gave the team a shot. From the moment Star-Lord danced into action to the tune of Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love,’ I was Hooked on a Feeling.

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 1 come and get your love
Image via Marvel Studios

It’s no exaggeration to say that 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy changed my outlook on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I love the Avengers and their earthbound allies, there’s something special about the space odysseys that the Guardians of the Galaxy series brought to the table. For the first time in the franchise, we see entire planets and civilizations outside of Earth. The universe was bigger than the Avengers. We just didn’t know it.

Since the Guardians kicked off the galaxy fairing aspect of the MCU, they’ve never been far from the action. Whether it’s their films or guest showings in other comic characters, they’re a group of idiots that are hard to hate.

Fast forward to 2023, when few Marvel fans don’t know this team. These screw-ups are household names. Beloved icons. Avengers. That’s all thanks to Gunn and the team that crafted the team over the last decade. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, we get that same Guardians group with evolution that makes sense. Vol. 3 pays homage to this decade-long franchise by giving each cast member believable growth and tying up their stories nicely.

Since You Been Gone

After the events of Avengers: Endgame and the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Peter Quill’s still shattered over losing Gamora. Star-Lord’s so out of it that he stays drunk almost all day every day, and only an attack from Adam Warlock snaps him out of that stupor.

The Golden god-child wreaks havoc on Knowhere, harming more than just the space station. After Rocket takes a fatal blow from the Sovereign superbeing, the team has to band together to save their friend. To do that, they’ll need to find his creator and dive into a past he’s never shared.

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3 since you been gone
Image via Marvel Studios

While this is a Guardians of the Galaxy film in name, it’s really Rocket’s movie. The movie extensively explores how Rocket became the vulgar, vicious, and tragic character he is today.

Though there are plenty of jokes and laughs throughout this story, it’s a somber narrative that doesn’t shy away from the poignant origin of Rocket Raccoon and the strife he’s endured. I cried during several scenes, grieving for this founding Guardians member.

It’s sometimes hard to watch, but Vol. 3 does Rocket’s character justice. I’d even go so far as to say that Rocket’s backstory is one of, if not the best, in the entire MCU. It’s that good. If you weren’t a fan of Rocket before this movie, you should be by the time the credits roll.

Guardians Inferno

Even though Rocket takes center stage in Vol. 3, every Guardian gets time to shine. No primary cast member feels wasted or out of place. That’s mainly due in part to the excellent performances of the main crew. For example, Chris Pratt has his best Star-Lord performance yet, with moments that genuinely made me feel for the depressed space pirate. This is Peter Quill at his lowest point, and while the charismatic charm of this hero is still there, it’s buried under mountains of grief.

Outside of Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon, my favorite performance is Karen Gillan as Nebula. Seeing her shift from the furious secondary antagonist in the first film to the begrudging pseudo-mother of the Guardians has been one of the best character arcs in the franchise. Nebula’s change has been monumental, but the rate at which she grows feels so natural. She’s still an angry and somewhat impulsive cyborg, but there’s a heart of gold under all that iron. I especially like the touch of her being so close to Rocket, as they were the only Guardians to survive the snap and bond in that five-year gap.

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3 nebula
Image via Marvel Studios

Other standouts include Drax and Mantis, who carry over their sibling-like bond from the Holiday Special. Dave Batista and Pom Klementieff play so well off one another, and I couldn’t fight a smile whenever they shared the screen. Their chemistry is palpable. While Drax and Mantis are often relegated to comic relief, Vol. 3 takes the time to expand upon their characters in meaningful ways that will impact both of them in the future.

Groot maintains the same goofy demeanor that made him a fan favorite years ago, and while he’s changed the least on a character depth level, he’s still just as loveable as he’s always been. Fans of the talking tree can also look forward to several silly moments this time.

New Guardians Kraglin and Cosmo are a lovely addition to the main roster, and I’m sure the latter will be a fan favorite in no time. Who doesn’t love a telekinetic talking lab?

Guardians of the galaxy vol 3 cosmo
Image via Marvel Studios

Unfortunately, these two get far less screen time than the other team members. This is likely because their time on the team is just starting, but it would’ve been nice to get a bit more time with the recruits.

Crazy on You

This time, the antagonist is the High Evolutionary, the man who created Rocket. He’s a wretch obsessed with creating the perfect race. This fixation has consumed him, driving him to insanity, and he’ll do anything to conjure what he deems immaculate, no matter what or who he destroys in the process.

Chukwudi Iwuji performs incredibly as this morally bereft bastard and quickly became my favorite Guardians antagonist. He’s far better than Ronan and elicits more emotion from me than Ego. I wanted to reach into the screen and wring his neck for all he’d done. I can’t remember the last time a bad guy made me as livid as the High Evolutionary.

Guardians of the Galaxy crazy on you high evolutionary
Image via Marvel Studios

The High Evolutionary feels like the first genuinely great villain in the MCU in quite some time. That’s mainly because the movie doesn’t try to make him a sympathetic character. He’s not a tortured soul like Thanos or a playful trickster like Loki. He’s just an unrelenting asswipe, and I love him for it. His goal is all that matters to him, and the ends justify the means, no matter the cost. This baddie is an excellent example of why not all antagonists need to try and emulate the morally grey villains we’ve seen before.

Despite the High Evolutionary being an incredible opposing force, Adam Warlock is a far cry from greatness in this film. He serves as the driving force that kicks off the movie’s plot. After that, though? He’s an aimless character that feels like an afterthought. I can’t help but wonder if Marvel made James Gunn toss him in the movie to set up future projects because he rarely contributes to the narrative at all.

guardians of the galaxy adam warlock
Image via Marvel Studios

That’s not to say Adam doesn’t work as a character. He was literally born yesterday and shows the ignorance that comes with no understanding of how anything works outside of fighting. The humor plays off that trope, and Will Poulter plays the mighty toddler well. Outside of a handful of jokes, however, he rarely offers more than a distraction in Vol. 3. Guardians of the Galaxy also sets him up for some fun in later Marvel movies, but it’s not something that pays off very much here.

Moonage Daydream

One of the main draws of the Guardians of the Galaxy is the incredible soundtrack, and James Gunn delivers here once again. Not only are the tunes top-tier, but they add a level of emotion and weight the movie couldn’t provide without it. No song is used without purpose, and each works to elevate the scene it inhabits.

One of the best moments in the film sees the Guardians kicking ass in a hallway to the beat of ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn,’ and while that song would annoy me in any other instance, it works incredibly here.

Guardians of the Galaxy rocket
Image via Marvel Studios

One of the most remarkable details is how the characters canonically play the music. The Guardians, primarily Star-Lord, are sharing their favorite songs with us. That dynamic slightly shifts from Star-Lord choosing the tracks in Vol. 1 to Rocket picking the setlist in Vol. 3. It is such a great way to show the change in protagonists, and I can’t believe Gunn executed this so smoothly.

It always amazes me how James Gunn can choose a set list that makes me love the Guardians movies even more. Whether it’s the score or Awesome Mix Vol. 3, I get the chills when a song kicks in. It remains one of the best movie soundtracks of the past decade.

Apart from the music, the incredible visual effects and action sequences deliver in spades. I can only imagine the countless hours VFX artists put into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Their work doesn’t go unnoticed. It truly makes the films feel like a scene from my wildest dreams come to life as a space-loving super nerd.

Dog Days are Over

Despite all the praise I’ve lopped on Guardians, I still felt I was missing something. It took me days to grasp, but I finally understand What makes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 feel so rewarding. Guardians is one of few Marvel movies post-Endgame with a self-contained story. There’s no focus on Kang the Conqueror or the Multiverse. It’s the Guardians working to save a friend. I can’t remember the last time Marvel focused on telling a story about characters and leaving the expanded universe alone.

Guardians of the Galaxy dog days are over
Image via Marvel Studios

Sometimes it feels like Marvel forgot that telling these isolated stories first is what built their entertainment empire in the first place. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here. Thor won’t pop up to talk about what’s going on in New Asgard, and there’s no hint of the upcoming Mutants. What’s better still is that this movie gives a conclusion that makes sense and lets its characters progress naturally. That commitment to a rational and rewarding payoff is a constant that makes the film a better experience.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the perfect sendoff for the James Gunn trilogy. Fans of the series will leave teary-eyed and satisfied by the Rocket-centric final film. Thanks to its powerful narrative, painstaking respect and attention to its characters, unrivaled soundtrack, and incredible action, Guardians cement itself as one of the best series in the MCU. While this isn’t the end for every Guardian, Vol. 3 is a perfect conclusion for each team member and one I walked away loving more than any other entry.

Press SPACE to Jump Review score 9


A poignant narrative that highlights Rocket and his originAdam Warlock feels like an afterthought
Another iconic soundtrackKraglin and Cosmo get less screen time than the other Guardians
The High-Evolutionary is a delightfully detestable antagonist
Every Guardian shines and gains depth
Creative action scenes, especially the hallway sequence
A satisfying conclusion to Gunn’s Guardians Trilogy

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Tai Hofmann
Tai Hofmann

I'm Tai, the New Games lead, Writer, and Editor for Press SPACE to Jump. My first memory is forcing my parents to play 50-round games of Mario Party on the N64. Now I love games on all platforms and hone in on new releases. Some of my favorite titles include Final Fantasy XIV, Cuphead, God of War 2018, Persona 5, and Smash Bros.

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