Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Wacky space romp with a solid emotional core

I remember saying the first GotG movie was a pleasant surprise for being truer in spirit to the first Star Wars flick than any of the hundreds of knockoff space operas over the decades. It was fresh, fun, more than a little goofy, and carried a message about the importance of family – even this gathering of multicolored misfits, mutants, aliens, a raccoon, and a tree.

Vol. 2 carried on in this vein despite being a little forced, but contained a tad too many ho-hum space battles and other violence. Now, James Gunn, with the third and final entry in his trilogy (more on that in a bit), brings things around to an appropriate (if maybe overstuffed) finish with a moving backstory for Rocket the wisecracking raccoon. There’s still too much fighting (the 3D guys have to have something to do), but it’s filled with surprises, lots of laughs, and it’s grounded with a solid emotional story that even had me misting up a few times. I’ll deny this later.

Chris “Star Lord” Pratt headlines, backed up again by Zoe Saldana, Chukwudi Iwuji, Dave Batista and Will Poulter, with creature voices supplied by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.

Will there be more Guardian movies? Well, Gunn is moving over to an executive position at DC Studios, and none of the principal actors have expressed a desire to drag out the story. But Marvel, being Marvel, a studio currently bogged down in Avengers drivel and desperately needing a franchise that isn’t disappointing, we can probably expect a next-gen reboot. But it will lack Gunn’s heart and humor. Sigh. P.S.: too dark and violent in spots for little kids. (150 min)