Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a fittingly nutty final chapter in writer-director James Gunn’s consistently entertaining trilogy.

As Gunn leaves Marvel to head up DC Studios, he turns in one last bizarro blast of sci-fi fun that gives this part of the story a satisfying conclusion. The characters, especially Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord, will likely return, but probably not in the now-familiar lineup.

Maybe it’s because I’ve ridden the Guardians ride a bunch of times at Disneyland, but this installment has a thinner plot that, well, feels appropriate for an amusement-park ride. It’s not a bad plot, but it feels a little stagy.

The Guardians must race against time to save the life of one of their compatriots and battle a universe-threatening force called The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) while doing it. While watching, I semi-expected my theater seat to drop and jarringly rise again like on the tower ride.

A by-the-numbers plot can be OK if the rest of the effort is strong, and all of the cast members are game for one last blast of interplanetary fun. That fun comes with a well-done, darker origin story for Rocket the Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a plot thread that is sure to draw tears from animal lovers.

Production ran into a few roadblocks, including Gunn getting temporarily fired for some crazy tweets from many years ago, his taking time to make The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, and, yes, the pandemic.

It’s been six years since Vol. 2, and much has changed for the motley crew. Most notably, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is a different version of herself after a brush with Thanos in the Avengers movies. Those experiences put her relationship with Star-Lord on ice, which led Star-Lord to alcoholism, because Gamora is totally uninterested in kissing and stuff. Drax (Dave Bautista) remains wonderfully dense, and Groot (the voice of Vin Diesel) is big again.

The action is well-done, if standard-issue, with space battles and explosions aplenty. The soundtrack goes a little more modern this time, with Radiohead’s “Creep” prominently featured.

Overall, Vol. 3 is easily the weakest of the trilogy, still it’s still fun. There have been some diminishing returns, but the Guardians certainly didn’t wear out their welcome during their nine-year run.

Now let’s see what Mr. Gunn does with Superman.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is playing at theaters across the valley.

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