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What Rotten Tomatoes Reviews Are Saying About Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3

As reviews flood in for James Gunn's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," the one thing everyone agrees on is that it's been a long time coming. Six years since the second installment in the series, to be precise, and nine since the first. Now that Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) are pop cultural fixtures that make Lego sets and plushies fly off the shelves at Target, it's hard to recall how risky the prospect of the Guardians seemed in 2014. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had been terrestrially bound, save for the "Thor" films, and it was unclear whether a comedy-forward space adventure would play with the franchise's demographic. But it was a smash hit, as was its sequel, both receiving rave reviews. So how does "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" stack up according to critics?

A lot has changed in those years since a movie ran under the "Guardians" banner, to put it mildly, and we're not just talking about Gamora's (Zoe Saldana) death in "Avengers: Infinity War." Development of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" was hamstrung by Gunn's temporary firing from Disney in 2018, then by a global pandemic that sent the entire movie industry into a multi-year tailspin. Gunn himself is now the head of Marvel's erstwhile rival, DC Films, and this third outing represents his MCU swan song.

Critics who recently got to see the film are now weighing in en masse, and their opinions have been aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes, giving prospective moviegoers a sense of what to expect from Marvel's latest fare. And while some critics are soured on "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," others hail it as one of the MCU's crown jewels.

Gunn's MCU swan song bows to mostly magical reviews, a blaze of glory

Many critics are thrilled with what James Gunn has delivered to MCU fans in his last movie for the franchise, praising its pathos and passion, with some even calling it a new high water mark. As "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" kicks off, the titular space squad is attacked by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), and Rocket realizes he's being pursued by his creator, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji, who previously appeared on Gunn's "Peacemaker"), a mad scientist whose cruel animal experiments made Rocket the self-loathing furball we know and love.

Writing for The Atlantic, David Sims found heart and wonder aplenty amid this deeply personal journey through the cosmos. "'Guardians 3' is a cheerful goodbye to many of the studio's best heroes," he writes. At AV Club, Matthew Jackson praises "a cast and a crew who are ready to throw everything they have at us one last time," and bombastically declares, "It's not just a film, it's a blaze of glory, and that sense of daring is both the best thing about 'Vol. 3' and, occasionally, the worst."

Critics who loved the film found it full of creativity, proudly wearing a wounded heart on its sleeve, and a fitting farewell for the MCU's most lovable band of outcasts. As Looper's Audrey Fox tells it, "'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3' delivers on almost every front, and should be a satisfying conclusion for fans of the trilogy."

Rocket and the High Evolutionary steal the show

Other critics praise the payoff to Rocket's story, as the talking critter's backstory is the focus of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" And with the trash-talking trash panda facing off against the terrifying High Evolutionary, many critics are declaring Iwuji one of the most disturbing and dark MCU villains yet. Gunn's proclivity toward body horror has been present since his days as a Troma provocateur — 2006's "Slither" imagines toxic masculinity as a parasitic organism that devours men from the inside — but few thought those sensibilities would enter so prominently into his final Disney outing.

As Rocket's sickening backstory with the Evolutionary unfolds, critics seem to find themselves locked to the screen. Per Kate Erbland, writing for IndieWire, "Gunn's film seems poised to radicalize a new generation of animal rights activists, an entire audience irrevocably changed by scenes in which a tiny baby Rocket is ... experimented on, opened up, chopped up, screwed up." For Roger Ebert, Brian Tallerico writes of the Evolutionary, "In a sense, this is the story of a vengeful God, someone who lashes out when his creation not only proves independent but arguably more intelligent than its creator," noting that Gunn is the perfect director to tell such a story.

Even some of the film's harshest denigrators agree that Rocket's backstory is heart-rending, evocative stuff, but their criticisms lie elsewhere.

Some critics think Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is confusing and bloated

It's not all high praise for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," with some reviewers lambasting what they see as bloated, indulgent storytelling. Much (though not all) of the malaise seems deeply connected to a growing displeasure with the MCU as a whole, summed up best by Rolling Stone's David Fear, who writes, "This last gasp of Guardianship isn't any more lost in space than so many of the recent late additions to Marvel's inter-universe franchises. There seems to be an existential crisis going on at the studio."

When it comes to more specific complaints, Richard Lawson for Vanity Fair is among the chorus of naysayers who have found themselves disappointed by "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," complaining that Gunn's attention seems pulled in too many directions and finding scant attention paid to developing the character of Adam Warlock. "It's an odd, lumbering patchwork of a film, occasionally fascinating but otherwise bloated and aimless," he writes.

Is "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" the triumphant conclusion to the story of Peter Quill and his ragtag band of misfits, or a misfire of galactic proportions? There's only one way to be sure how you'll feel, and that's to catch it blasting into theaters on May 5.