Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
After nine years, the current line-up of the Guardians of the Galaxy team comes to an end with Vol. 3.
The third instalment, once again written and directed by James Gunn, follows our beloved ragtag bunch of heroes - Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) - as they try to save Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) from his old nemesis, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).
This film tells Rocket's traumatic story via flashbacks to his past as a baby raccoon under the watchful eye of the High Evolutionary, an unhinged scientist intent on enhancing the human race.
The present-day story is fine enough, but the heart of the film lies within these emotional flashbacks. Both timelines eventually tie together in a satisfying way and the final act is exciting, heartfelt, gripping and action-packed.
The MCU hasn't been on a great run of late, but thankfully, Guardians doesn't suffer from the common problems that keep arising. The writing is funny, the action sequences are cool to watch, care has been taken with the characters, and the CGI is good. It also feels like its own story rather than a stepping stone to a bigger picture, with no teases or cameos. It is good enough to stand on its own.
This instalment has the perfect balance of comedy and drama and the characters are written well, with excellent familial-style bickering between them.
While Rocket is the focus, it is a true ensemble among the human characters - they all get their chance to shine, deliver a funny line or pull off a cool stunt. The cast members are all on top form and it's clear they know their characters inside out by now.
Zoe Saldana is back as the variant of Gamora, who is feisty and angry and not a member of the Guardians. Despite this, Gunn has found a solid way to involve her in the story and it doesn't feel lazily shoehorned in.
However, some comic book fans may be disappointed with Will Poulter as Adam Warlock. He doesn't have too much to do as one of the minor villains but it was great to see Poulter working his comedy chops again.
The best new additions are Lylla the Otter (adorably voiced by Linda Cardellini) and Iwuji as the big bad. The High Evolutionary is a cruel sociopath and one of the most threatening villains we've seen in the MCU in a while.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a fitting farewell to the franchise and the Guardians team as we know it truly goes out with a bang.
In cinemas from Wednesday 3rd May.