In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, we talk about themes that help us understand the film.
- Peter Quill (Star-Lord) – Chris Pratt
- Gamora – Zoe Saldana
- Rocket – Bradley Cooper
- Nebula – Karen Gillan
- Drax – Dave Bautista
- Mantis – Pom Klementieff
- Groot – Vin Diesel
- Adam Warlock – Will Poulter
- Kraglin – Sean Gunn
- High Evolutionary – Chukwudi Iwuji
- Lylla – Linda Cardllini
The themes and meaning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Guardians Vol. 3 has two major relationship narratives. The first is between Rocket and High Evolutionary. The second between Peter Quill and Gamora.
Peter and Gamora were, of course, in love. But the Gamora Peter knew passed away in Infinity War. Who we see in Vol. 3 is the same Gamora but from years earlier, prior to ever meeting Peter or being part of the Guardians. So even though this woman Peter loved is right there, it’s not her. And he has to come to terms with letting her go rather than trying to recreate something they never shared. The ability to accept this leads directly to Peter finally having the capacity to confront an even deeper aspect of his past: the death of his mother and the fact he has a grandfather back on Earth who he hasn’t tried to see. By returning to Earth, Peter’s character arc comes full circle.
High Evolutionary was a scientist attempting to create a perfect race. Rocket was one of many animals he experimented on. But Rocket’s intelligence gained him some degree of favor and attention from this man who was essentially Rocket’s maker. The initial tone of these conversations was friendly, simple, almost compassionate. Until Rocket solves an advanced scientific issue that had befuddled High Evolutionary. Then High Evolutionary felt inferior to his own creation. Which caused a lot of jealousy. This resulted in High Evolutionary exterminating Rocket’s collection of modified animal friends. Which caused Rocket to maim High Evolutionary’s face. Each feels wronged. Each wants vengeance.
In previous Guardian films, Rocket had refused to explain his backstory. He had a burden. A terrible secret. Vol. 3 shows us exactly what that was. By having Rocket not only confront High Evolutionary but also discover and accept his raccoon heritage, the burden disappears. This cynical, kind of selfish character transforms into a compassionate leader and takes on Peter’s mantle of leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Life isn’t perfect
High Evolutionary is a maniac who believes he can create a perfect race of people. The planet he’s created, Counter-Earth, is supposed to be this ideal place that improves upon life on normal Earth. Except it’s not perfect. The Guardians see gangs and drugs and violence. But it’s also not awful. There are suburbs with families who are kind and compassionate. Yet as soon as High Evolutionary hears about the negatives, he destroys the planet and everyone on it. He’ll do it all over again. Like he has before.
On the other end of that spectrum, you have the Guardians of the Galaxy and their community on Knowhere. The guardians themselves are a band of misfits. Imperfect people who have learned to be better. Who, every day, redeem one another. And this has carried over to Knowhere. It’s a population of unlikely strays who have formed a bond. Is it perfect? Hell no. But does it work? Absolutely.
Total perfection is a myth. And High Evolutionary embodies what happens when you sacrifice all morality and ethics in pursuit of such a thing. While the Guardians remind us that flaws and scars can be beautiful. That even though we might not be perfect, we can be great, mistakes and all. Adam Warlock’s character arc captures this and is why he goes from being part of team High Evolutionary to ending up as part of the Guardians. He starts a bit more monstrous but finds redemption and a new direction through the help and kindness of imperfect others.
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I love this analysis and the insights here. I feel scolded, in a useful way, by the explanation of the theme of not scrapping everything just because something doesn’t seem to be perfect.
I’d like to add my reflections, which were strongly influenced by my own experience.
I had just seen Fast X, and it seemed like “Family is everything!” was the theme of both movies, even the part about how family is what you make it. No matter. I think there’s plenty of longing for belonging in this isolating world, so that’s totally worth celebrating.
Rocket’s back story was almost too wrenching for me to endure. But it certainly made the victories that followed sweet. Dovetailing with the Closure theme, the motif of choosing to emerge from the cruelest abuse into the desire and strength to save the world was healing to watch.