Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those Marvel properties that most moviegoers did not even know existed prior to 2014, including myself. Despite that, the ragtag team of space heroes cemented themselves as one of the most popular characters in the MCU. And after two solo films, as well as cameos in multiple Marvel stories, the first official trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was released and immediately, the storyline speculation began.

In traditional James Gunn style, it showed just enough to cause rumors, hunches and fears to run rampant. From barely four minutes of scenes, the deaths of major characters Peter Quill and Rocket Racoon began swirling. Even some of the large YouTube channels predicted the demise of Drax the Destroyer, as well as the dissolution of the entire team. With nothing but milliseconds of footage to go on, even fans like me started to fear the upcoming movie.

I didn’t want to see the end of the movie franchise that many feel is the heart and soul of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe the speculators would be wrong on this one. Maybe, just maybe, these scenes were put in to throw everyone off as to what will really happen when the movie hits theaters.

I was invited to a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and it was time to face the cause of my angst.

In the film, the Guardians have begun setting up Knowhere as their new base of operations. Everything seems good for the gang when they are attacked by a golden warrior calling himself Adam Warlock (Will Poulter). Warlock goes directly for Rocket (Bradley Cooper), seriously injuring him and Groot (Vin Diesel) before Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) hurt Adam enough to escape. While Groot is able to recover, Rocket is left with a mortal wound.

Unable to save Rocket without removing a device attached to his heart, the band of compadres searches the universe for the key to saving their beloved friend. However, the task will not be easy, as a mysterious being from Rocket’s past, known as The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), holds not only his salvation, but the secrets to his past.

(L-R): Dave Bautista as Drax, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, and Karen Gillan as Nebula in Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo by Jessica Miglio. © 2022 MARVEL.

I must say that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a rollercoaster ride. It has everything you’d come to expect from a band of misfit heroes, such as great over-the-top action and some of the funniest moments in any superhero film, but James Gunn takes us on an emotional ride, as well. With Rocket mortally wounded, every member of the team is rocked to their very core, devastated by the thought of losing their friend.

Peter Quill is still dealing with the loss of his beloved Gamora, as well as remembering the family he lost so many years ago. Drax and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) have a budding friendship that borders on love, but they are too awkward to act upon those feelings. And to finish the thrill ride, we end with utter hatred for the villain, as his obsession with Rocket is taken to a level where he will sacrifice everything to reacquire his possession. All of these feelings meld together for the audience, as you feel the team’s grief and the adrenaline rush when the group finally takes the battle to The High Evolutionary. I don’t think I have felt more pumped in a film since the final battle with Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.

If you are looking for a great, family-friendly (mostly) action film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is it, even though there’s some crude language in parts, and some scenes show violence toward animals. There is also a reveal near the end of the film that features some surprisingly grotesque facial mutilation, which kinda shocked me. But, as a whole, the film is worthy of its PG-13 rating. Parents should weigh whether their child is ready for some intense battles. With the exception of the facial scene, the film is on par with the previous Guardians of the Galaxy films.

I give Vol. 3 five out of five stars. James Gunn continues his brand of action and emotions that made the Guardians of the Galaxy films the true heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If this is the last ride, it definitely earns its retirement into MCU history. You will laugh. You will cry. But you will love every minute of this possible final goodbye. So, strap in, play your favorite ’80s music and hit up your local theater to see this film.