It’s no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) recent productions have grappled with controversy. Their latest release, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” hit theaters on May 5, which is a rare occurrence considering the sheer volume of MCU content released via streaming on Disney Plus. The increasing popularity of streaming platforms has resulted in a surge in the amount of Marvel content, leading many fans to criticize the franchise. According to Business Insider, 36 percent of surveyed Marvel fans said they “felt fatigue from all the releases in 2022.” While the amount of content is not a problem in and of itself, audiences have continued to see quality forsaken for quantity. Marvel’s newest threequel, however, cautiously avoids the past criticisms of MCU content, proving to be a box office success, much like its predecessors.
Regardless of the growing “Marvel fatigue,” many fans were eager to catch up with the Guardians. “Vol. 3” has already made $528 million globally, which comes as a surprise if you look back at the box office performances of other recent Marvel films.
Instead of following the pattern of the previous two movies in the trilogy, the threequel takes a rather unexpected angle, as it focuses more heavily on the backstory of the character “Rocket Racoon,” a cybernetically-enhanced anthropomorphic raccoon who works as a mercenary. This was a refreshing change of pace flagshipped by the director, James Gunn, who claims “Vol. 3” to be the final film of the trilogy with the current cast. Gunn did, however, say, “I would love to see any characters that remain get solo movies, or join the Avengers, or a new version of the Guardians, or whatever.”
While the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films have generally structured their storylines around the same core characters, “Vol. 3” hints at the future for the franchise as a whole. Compared to the previous two “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, “Vol. 3” delves much further into the emotions, backstories and motivations of its characters. At the same time, the film seems to rely on a predictable never-ending stream of chaos, with frequent fights and mile-a-minute comedy feeling forced at times. Despite this, Gunn manages to once again include the distinctive and enjoyable elements of his previous films. With action-packed scenes tucked behind every corner, tasteful choices of ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s music, and the comforting satiric exchanges between characters, “Vol. 3” does not stray far from its beloved predecessors. The end of the film, while saddening, is a heartwarming conclusion that lets viewers see the characters learn more about themselves and address their past mistakes and trauma. The runtime of the film is undeniably long, but the two-and-a-half hours allow the audience to sink into the story, ensuring that each character gets the closure that they deserve.
While “Vol. 3” can’t forecast the future success or decline of the MCU, it does prove that Marvel is still capable of producing satisfying and imaginative stories.