‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3’ is ‘Paw Patrol ’ for adults – a good thing

Friendship, fearlessness and a super-cool soundtrack power latest and last in this MCU series

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3
Where: In theatres
What: Movie. 150 mins.
When: Fri., May 5
Genre: MCU
Rating: NNN (out of 5)
Why you should watch: The last instalment of the funniest and hippest part of the MCU waves a satisfying goodbye.

It’s ironic that a film franchise that slavishly celebrates teamwork and loyalty is expertly helmed by a man who is switching sides and joining the “Bad Guys.”

The highly entertaining and franchise-true Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, is writer-director James Gunn’s swan song in the MCU as he ditches the House of Marvel to co-take over the less-successful DC Studios galaxy.

This final Gunn-powered instalment delivers on all levels; still the funniest and most self-aware of the MCU films, its collection of wise-cracking weirdos has survived two films’ worth of trials, tragedies and tribulations, and in Vol. 3, they all reunite once again for a common cause.

The Guardians series is basically Paw Patrol for adults. Like any one of dozens of little-kid shows, Guardians brings together a motley collection of differing personalities, each with their own special talent or power, who learn — over and over again, despite many frustrations with each other — that they are truly stronger together.

I lost track of the number of soft-focus shots of the team walking purposefully, side by side, in slow motion as an awesome musical soundtrack rose and washed over the scene. Battered and beaten, but buddies!

And friendship, as well as cool tunes and spectacular effects, power this film. The Guardians re-assemble to help their pal as everybody’s favourite raccoon, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) — who talks trash instead of eating it — suffers a life-threatening injury, and only his friends, at great risk to themselves and various universes, can save him.

The entire gang of Guardians is back, even Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) who kinda died in Avengers: Infinity War, but viewers will happily accept the explanation offered for her “return.” Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is back as the rough-edged leader of the crew, as well as wise and witless muscleman Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and the somewhat irritating dialogue-challenged tree creature Groot (minimally voiced by Vin Diesel). This crew is supplemented by enough awesome additional beasts to power a dozen cosplay conventions. Included is a wise-cracking and sensitive Russian hound (based on Laika) who was fired into space in the early days of the space race as an interplanetary rescue dog.

As the gang tries to save Rocket, a parallel tale unfolds as the raccoon’s origin story is shared and we learn how he was one of many “lab rats” mutilated and tortured by a “mad scientist” in his quest to create a utopian world.

The stories meet as the Guardians’ current foe, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) turns out to also be Rocket’s original tormentor, and he’s determined to re-capture the raunchy raccoon.

The art direction is superb, borrowing heavily from retro influences, including 1968’s Barbarella, which presented its own vision of twisted, soft-focus and sexy utopias.

The soundtrack is as important as the sets in the Guardians films and Vol. 3 is no exception, with expertly selected tracks elevating already-exciting scenes. Shots of spacecraft blasting through pastel-plastered settings reach heart-pounding pleasure with the perfect track propelling the ride, like Radiohead’s Creep, The Replacements’ I Will Dare or The Flaming Lips’s Do You Realize?

Well-scored space rides aren’t the only reason to smile watching Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3; there are also plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, from sight gag slapstick to cleverly cracked asides. Freed from the oppressive, self-important, self-proclaimed gravitas of superhero flicks that take themselves too seriously, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, can concentrate on delivering audiences a good time. That’s a superpower we can get behind.