WHAT I LIKED: James Gunn's first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies were all about a bunch of misfits and rejects escaping their pasts with a new found family, but 'Vol. 3,' is all about that team growing and moving forwards by confronting their traumas head on.
Mostly that centres around Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper), as we learn from various flashbacks throughout the film that he was born a lab subject for the "High Evolutionary," (Chukwudi Iwuii) a mad scientist trying to create the perfect evolved society. When Rocket is injured in the opening act, the Guardians realise they can't save him without retrieving some tech from his evil creator's company "OrgoCorp," and as they try to get hold of it we not only learn more about Rocket's past, but the film also inevitably becomes about the Guardians righting the High Evolutionary's wrongs and facing him head-on.
The plot that facilitates that may be pretty thin, but it makes for a moving story partly about animal exploitation, but mostly about the importance of embracing "the hands that guide you," rather than those that made you. By the end it inspires all the Guardians to change and shape their own destinies in some way, and that thread gives the film a surprisingly solemn finality.
That's not to say however that the series has lost its cheeky irreverence and humour, as this is just as silly as any other Guardians movie. Drax (Dave Bautista) remains particularly hilarious taking everything literally, whilst Peter (Chris Pratt)'s constant need for love and approval is equally funny when his affections are aimed at Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who brings a new meaning to the term "ex girlfriend," having come back as the cold-hearted, "2014 version," of herself following the events of 'Avengers: Endgame.'
The world-building is also brilliantly weird (if less grubby and tangible than the first film), with the Guardians travelling to an OrgoCorp lab and then one of their failed utopias which looks like some strange Edward Scissorhands style suburbia inhabited by animals in dresses and prams.
Together that makes for another amusing, irreverent film, but one that crucially has the heart to riff off.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The plot really is just a couple of very simple heists, and though it facilitates some interesting character stuff, it also makes for plenty of scenes that feel completely tangential and unnecessary.
VERDICT: Though thinly drawn, 'Vol. 3,' has James Gunn's Guardians trilogy bow out with all the heart and humour that have made the previous films so good.