The Guardians of the Galaxy are back for the third and final time, with James Gunn again writing and directing. While it isn't quite as good as the first two, it is still a solid entry in the series and the Marvel universes. This, and a few surprises along the way, make for an enjoyable, if sometimes dark, film.
The Guardians are in the middle of establishing a home base on Knowhere while Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) mopes in a drunken stupor over not getting his version of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) back. They're interrupted by an attack from the hyper-powered being Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), genetically engineered by Sovereign leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) to hunt the Guardians for revenge. But there is a deeper plot behind this vengeance now because The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) has charged Ayesha with capturing Rocket (Bradley Cooper), who turns out to be his most valuable experiment gone rogue. Rocket is the key to The High Evolutionary finally completing his quest for the perfect species, but the Guardians have a few opinions about what he can do with that plan.
The script starts considerably darker than the previous entries, and during this part, when they try to keep the humor the same, it falls flat. This clears up by the second hour, with the story returning to the fun romp audiences are used to with these characters. However, old-school fans will likely have an issue with Adam. The problem isn't the portrayal as much as how he's written. Instead of being introduced, he's thrown into the fray without any more direction than "bad guy says do." The High Evolutionary says ‘do’ a lot in this movie, while droves blindly follow to an unrealistic point.
Marvel, as a whole, doesn't have a franchise issue so much as it has a two-dimensional villain issue. Villains aside, Gunn does an admirable job of fleshing out most of the Guardians, especially Rocket. By the film's end, the scripting issues become mostly forgettable, added by earnest performances by the entire cast.
Fans of alien races and creatures are in for a treat with this movie. There are dozens, if not hundreds, throughout, adding to the fun aspect that this series is known for. The other thing Guardians fans expect is an excellent soundtrack, and there is no disappointment. Thanks to Quill replacing his cassette player with an iPod, the music runs from the 70s tunes viewers are used to right through to the 2000s, and the choices, from Radiohead to The Beastie Boys, are spot on.
Overall, it is the weakest film of the trilogy due to some uncharacteristically sloppy writing by Gunn, but it does have big shoes to walk in. Even with this, it fills some holes, provides a lot of closure, and opens up several promising new directions. That is a pretty awesome mix.