It’s time to say see you later, not goodbye, to the MCU Guardians of the Galaxy with “Vol. 3” on home video.

“Ain’t no thing like me, except me.”

Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in Guardians of the Galaxy

When Marvel Studios first started, rather than jumping to the characters of Fantastic Four or even Captain America, they began with Tony Stark, a character well-known within the Marvel fandom thanks to decades in comics and appearances in various animated adventures, but not yet adorning lunchboxes to the scale he is in 2023. They followed that introduction with other characters, some more well-known than others, as they built toward a seemingly impossible task: the Infinity Saga. Rather than using Chris Hemsworth’s Thor to do all the galactic heavy lifting in the newly-formed Marvel Cinematic Universe, producer Kevin Feige tapped James Gunn, writer of Tromeo and Juliet (1996) and both live-action Scooby-Doo films and writer/director of Slither (2006) and Super (2010), to take audiences to parts of the galaxy heretofore yet explored with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. None who purchased their tickets in 2014 could’ve imagined bawling their eyes out when Gunn’s Vol. 3 (2023), the final film in Gunn’s trilogy, released and, yet, here we are. With the film now available for purchase, home viewing audiences can explore this final journey to the stars with these Guardians, replete with featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and feature-length commentary from Gunn himself.

If you’d like to learn about the final film in the James Gunn Guardians trilogy in a spoiler-free context, head over to the initial theatrical release review. Moving forward, all aspects of the film and the trilogy are fair game for discussion.


L-R: Karen Gillan, James Gunn, and Chris Pratt on the set of Marvel Studios’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3. Photo by Jessica Miglio. © 2023 MARVEL.

They’ve stopped Ronin the Accuser (Lee Pace) from obtaining the Power Infinity Stone. They’ve stopped Ego (Kurt Russell) from completing his plan to turn the galaxy into copies of himself. They worked together with the Avengers to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin) from using all six of the Infinity Stones to eradicate all life in the known universe and put an end to the Mad Titan. Now, however, they face a threat from Rocket’s (voiced by Bradley Cooper) past in the form of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a being of incredible intelligence who’s responsible for Rocket’s trauma and has long been searching to reclaim from Rocket what he believes is his. To do so, he sends Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a creation of Sovereign Queen Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), to retrieve Rocket, both of whom are injured in the process. Unlike Adam, Rocket’s wounds can’t be healed with regular means, requiring the remaining Guardians to head straight for the High Evolutionary, determined to help their friend or die trying.

As I wrote in the initial review, Vol. 3 is as much a third film in a trilogy as it is a concluding act of one long story. The way into these films was through the lens of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord, the child abducted by Yondu (Michael Rooker) to be delivered to his father, Ego, upon the death of his mother, Meredith (Laura Haddock). But there’s another character with a similar past introduced, the difference being that we don’t learn the full breadth of his past until this release. Rocket is like Quill, singular in nature, ripped from his home, changed immeasurably, seemingly doomed to travel the universe with a gaping hole in his center. Over the course of the prior two Guardians films, both Avengers films (Infinity War (2018) and Endgame (2019)), and the 2022 Holiday Special, Gunn has, quite slowly, informed us that Rocket was the heart of the story all along, not Quill. He was our entry point, but not its core. Without Rocket, there’s no getting out of the Kyln prison. Without Rocket, there was no tech to stop Ronin. Without Rocket, there’s no easy way to help Yondu during the Ravager mutiny, thereby creating an opportunity to save the other Guardians and foil Ego’s plot. Without Rocket, there’s no easy way to get Thor to Nidavellir to build a new weapon, Stormbreaker, which is instrumental is preventing the destruction of Wakanda and, ultimately, defeating Thanos. Quill is important to the story, critical even, but it’s Rocket who shares the burden of importance, which is why Quill so frequently goes head-to-head with him, even so far as that being a significant plot point of Vol. 2 (2017). Now, in this concluding story, we fully realize just what Gunn’s been putting before us since 2014: even the most broken of us deserve second chances, even the biggest bastards are not born this way.


Chukwudi Iwuji as The High Evolutionary in Marvel Studios’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

Rocket’s whole thing in the MCU is being a bastard of one kind or another. His mentality of stealing that which he believes he wants more than the person who has it is frequently quoted in my house in response to whatever object my young children are fighting over. Him seeing the hilarity in the discomfort of others by taking removable limbs is not the mark of an empathetic individual. Rather, across the films, that part of him has softened, making him ready to embrace himself, scars and all, so that he can be the leader of the new Guardians of the Galaxy, protecting those, like who he once was, who cannot protect themselves. This film makes plain what was only hinted before: Rocket was an innocent, ripped from his home planet which we now have confirmed as Earth, and transformed via surgery into a unique figure. What the new film does is make it so that the person who did this wasn’t something benevolent force who bestowed higher intelligence upon Rocket, but a cruel paternal figure who couldn’t love Rocket out of jealousy and only saw him as a stepping stone to a greater success. This is, in a way, what makes Rocket similar to Quill, as they’re both children of deceptive, egotistical, and cruel fathers. But what makes Rocket different is that Quill knew who he was prior to being kidnapped and came to accept that part of himself that he might never fill via the formation of the Guardians. Of course, there would always be a part of him missing as he refused to return to Earth (battling Thanos in Endgame aside), until the experience of this story pushed him to face his fears. In that same vein, Rocket could no longer run either, accepting that his singularly of existence doesn’t mean that he’s not connected to other beings in the universe and that connection doesn’t make him weak, it’s makes him soulful, loved, and supported.

To convey the connection, the dialogue of Vol. 3 is shifted compared to the prior outings. Beginning with the holiday special, the other Guardians refrain from referring to Rocket by any animal nicknames (badger, trash panda, etc.), whereas those who disregard his sentience do. After the battle against Ego, this group is truly a family, one made closer after the Blip, evidenced by Nebula’s (Karen Gillan) Christmas gift of Bucky’s (Sebastian Stan) arm to Rocket. Of course, one can also infer that Nebula and he grew closer over the five year period where they were the only two Guardians remaining, and, by doing so, it does enhance the idea that Nebula has one of the greatest character arcs in the MCU. One does not go to Earth, presumably fight the Winter Soldier, steal his arm, and head back to the Guardians’s HQ at Knowhere for someone you don’t care for. It’s a heck of a call-back to Infinity War, but it speaks volumes as to the version of Nebula who exists now, willing to risk her own life for each of these A-holes versus the damaged warrior trying to impress Thanos. Is it possible that Nebula and Bucky met during Tony’s funeral thereby making it a request versus forcibly removed? Yeah, but it’s less fun to envision in my head cannon. Wayward as all the above may seem, the point is that Gunn has clearly plotted out who these characters are and knew from the start where he wanted to take them, making his trilogy the most cohesive of all the solo-outing stories in the MCU. The one commonality in each of the three being that abusive parental figures may create broken children, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of or any less worthy of love and kindness.


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.

The included bonus features are a mixed bag with opportunities to learn about the making of the film with emphasis of what didn’t make it into the film. Like other MCU home releases, there’re a limited number of featurettes (here there’re two totaling roughly 20 minutes) that explore both the cast/crew as they examine what these films means to them and provide a deeper dive into the cinematic version of Rocket. Considering this is the final film of a trilogy and Gunn’s last film with Marvel Studios for the foreseeable future given his responsibilities with DC, I, for one, would’ve loved to have more included to cap this extraordinary journey. Instead, we get these two featurettes, a lengthy six-minute gag reel including a number of amusing outtakes, eight minutes of deleted scenes including confirmation that the High Evolutionary is alive, and a feature-length commentary from Gunn. Unfortunately, the things that didn’t work for me as well in my viewing of the film don’t get addressed in the portions of the commentary I was able to watch (more on that below), so I hold on to my gripes regarding how the Orgosphere was supposed to be this highly-protected station yet the Ravagers could just hang out inside the third shield without issue waiting for the Guardians, a decision that feels more about getting the characters to a point in the story and creating tension than sense, as well as the unbearable amount of bickering among the group, even with the stakes so high. Within the context of the situation, their in-fighting seemed poorly timed in comparison to when they fought among themselves in the prior films (in safe situations versus a ticking clock).

Be advised that the review copy provided by Marvel Studios for the purposes of this home release review is a digital edition, so there comes certain issues specific to that format. In this case, in trying to explore the commentary, only my 4K UHD Apple TV would play audio and video, whereas my iPad tablet and older Apple TV would provide audio and no video. Strangely, if I attempted to fast-forward to a specific scene in the film while using the 4K UHD Apply TV, the image would freeze while the audio played, leading to more than one moment of the screensaver kicking in. Oddly, the featurettes and gag reel were less consistent in this regard, where I could explore this material depending on how the tech felt that day. As mentioned in my recent 4K UHD digital release review of Avatar, there’s a reason I prefer physical media and the inconsistency in playback with digital content is one of many considering this almost never happens when I make an on-disc selection versus digital.


Zoe Saldaña as Gamora in Marvel Studios’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

As expected with most home releases these days, the format you choose can come in a variety of visual flavors. The Blu-ray/digital combo versus the 4K UHD/Bluray/digital combo have their own unique covers, while Wal-Mart and Best Buy have retailer-specific 4K UHD/Bluray/digital combo steelbook editions. Most of these are variations on one of the official release posters. As I prefer to have DVDs in my collection as back-ups (the most versatile disc for the players in my house), I snagged the Disney Movie Club edition which is a Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo and has one of the initial teaser posters as its cover.

As more Avengers films are slated to come down, I sincerely believe that we’ll see the new roster of Guardians again and I, for one, am excited at the prospect. They won’t have the same feel as Gunn’s stories, to be sure, but it’ll be nice to check in with them to see how leadership looks on Rocket. Until then, at least we have this trilogy and the two Avengers films to fall back on. Perhaps, if we get lucky, one day even a physical release of the Holiday Special to join them on our shelves. Until then, I caution you to pick your format wisely if easy access to bonus features is of major interest.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Special Features

  • The Imperfect, Perfect Family – View the evolution of the Guardians through the cast and crew’s passion for each other and the entire franchise. Join this tight knit “found family” as they leave behind a legacy and recount their best memories wrapping up this epic trilogy’s final film. (11:08)
  • Creating Rocket Raccoon – Director James Gunn talks about bringing Rocket to life and how personal the character is to him. Uncover BTS footage, the research and development of the visual effects process, and the inspiration for Rocket through conversations with cast and crew. (9:26)
  • Gag Reel (6:00)
  • Eight (8) deleted scenes (8:28)
  • Director’s commentary with James Gunn (2:30:03)

Available on digital July 7th, 2023.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD August 1st, 2023.

For more information, head to the official Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. webpage.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Recommendation

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