Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a standalone story that doesn’t require extensive knowledge of other MCU projects, making it more accessible to viewers. The emotional investment in the characters is a major factor in the success of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, with an exploration of Rocket Raccoon’s dark backstory adding depth to the film. The film showcases the distinctive filmmaking style of James Gunn, with visual boldness, raunchy humor, and a great soundtrack that delights fans of his previous work.

It’s no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not what it once was. The first three phases of the franchise that kicked off with 2008’s Iron Manmaintained a consistent level of quality; while there were occasional missteps like 2010’s Iron Man 2and 2019’s Captain Marvel, they were certainly not disasters and did not represent any sort of major creative misstep on the part of the creative leadership. That being said, the decline in the series’ quality following the conclusion of the “Infinity Saga” in Avengers: Endgamehas been significant. Not only has the franchise managed to confuse audiences with its confusing “Multiverse” storyline, but the ramifications are starting to be felt at the box office due to the significant underperformance of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Black Widow, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever among other films did not do justice to the exciting prospects that were set up for the characters in the wake of Avengers: Endgame’s ending. The Marvel universe also lost one of its main collaborators in James Gunn, who ditched the MCU following his initial firing in order to serve as the new creative overseer of the DC universe at Warner Brothers. However, that doesn’t mean that Gunn left the MCU without bidding farewell to the characters that he had created in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 managed to pay respect to the characters in a way that Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called “an exhilarating, consistently funny, big-hearted adventure that packs a surprising emotional wallop.” The film is also a financial success; it is currently the second-highest grossing film of the year at the worldwide box office behind The Super Mario Brothers Movie. Here’s why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the best Marvel project since Avengers: Endgame.

Standalone Story

Marvel Studios

One of the ongoing issues with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as of late has been that the films are so closely interconnected that they no longer work as standalone stories. Phases four and five are so packed with ongoing storylines related to setting up installments that it’s hard to watch just one individual project. Audiences may have been confused at the new characters popping up in Black Widow if they hadn’t seen The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and the post-credit scene to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania does nothing more than set up the next season of Loki.

Comparatively, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 operates like a classic trilogy caper. The only knowledge that is required of the viewer is the story beats and character elements that were established in the first two installments in the series, and there’s never a bad reason to rewatch Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2! While events from Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame are referenced, they are explained in a way that doesn’t ward off those that have only watched the Guardians of the Galaxy films.

Related: Guardians of the Galaxy: 8 Major Differences Between the MCU Franchise and the Comics

The only MCU project outside the previous two Guardians of the Galaxy films that has a significant bearing on the plot of the third film is the Disney+ television film The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which reveals that Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) are actually siblings. While this is treated as a major twist in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, it is a fact at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 that doesn’t require too much of an adjustment for audiences that haven’t caught up.

Emotional Investment

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The reason that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is successful is the same reason that Avengers: Endgame was also singled out as a major achievement in the franchise; the viewers have taken the time to know these characters, and they are invested in seeing how their stories conclude. While the ending of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hints at a different iteration of the Guardians lineup that could lead to another solo film in the future, it feels like it’s part of an established storyline and not just setting up another spinoff.

One of the most surprising aspects of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is how deeply it delved into the backstory of Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), whose abuse bears a resemblance to real animal rights violations. While every film in the MCU thus far has received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 feels like one of the darker installments. However, this tone is not unearned, as there is still a balance of tone and appropriate amount of humor. It also makes it more rewarding when Rocket emerges as the new leader of the Guardians at the end of the film after Peter names him as the new Captain in his place.

Related: Why Guardians of the Galaxy Is the Most Underrated MCU Trilogy

The Quality of Filmmaking

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

One of the biggest issues with the MCU is that the distinctive quality of the individual filmmakers becomes steadily eroded as they conform to the preexisting tone. It’s sad to see great directors like Captain Marvel’s Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck make a film that is completely devoid of personality, as anyone who has seen Mississippi Grind or Half Nelson knows that it does not represent their best work. Even though Ryan Coogler felt like he had a clear grasp on style with 2018’s Black Panther, 2022’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever feels like just another formless product meant to occupy a title on Disney’s streaming library.

This is not the case with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which features all the visual boldness and raunchy humor that any Gunn fan would expect to see. As is perusal, the film has a great soundtrack that includes a particularly rousing rendition of “Dog Days Are Over.”

 Now available on digital, here’s why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the best Marvel project since Avengers: Endgame.  Read More