Dave Bautista, left, and Pom Klementieff in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”

Let’s run the numbers: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is the third movie in a trilogy (duh), the second Marvel movie to be released this year (yawn), the 32nd movie in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe (sigh) and, as hyper-aware fans doubtless already know, the first of those 32 MCU movies to feature an uncensored F-bomb (about time).

And hilariously well deployed, I must say. I won’t spoil the context — I couldn’t anyway, since the scene is already online — except to note that it feels like a nicely profane parting shot for the writer-director James Gunn, resident mischief maker among superhero auteurs, as he makes his way out of Disney/MCU headquarters. (Gunn, who also wrote and directed the first two “Guardians” movies, is now creative mastermind over at the rival DC Studios.) More to the point, the F-bomb lands in the middle of an enjoyably eccentric jumble of an entertainment that plays like a sincerely moving farewell to some of the more likable rogues and motley misfits in the Marvel cosmos.

They’re pretty much all back. There’s Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), the Guardians’ goofily intrepid, ‘70s rock-loving captain, who’s been drinking himself into a stupor ever since losing his bad-ass beloved, Gamora (Zoe Saldaña). Gamora isn’t dead; she’s just testy and amnesia-stricken, with no memory of her past adventures with Peter or his antennae-sporting empath sister, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), or the lovably dim-witted Drax (Dave Bautista), or the sharp-clawed, sharper-tongued Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). Gamora can no longer even understand Groot, the gnarly tree-man with the expressive three-word language and the voice of Vin Diesel; even her heated longtime rivalry with her perpetually snarling sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), seems to have gone cold.

One newcomer is Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a callow fighter who enters the movie with a violent whoosh, launching an ambush on the Guardians that ends with Rocket unconscious and gravely wounded.

Rocket proves troublingly resistant to medical treatment, sending his friends on a valiant, sometimes bumbling journey for answers and antidotes. And so they journey far and wide, visiting distant planets and breaking into top-secret filing cabinets, bragging and bickering at every turn. The comic patter is familiar but effective, much of it swirling around Peter’s efforts to charm his way past Gamora’s hostile eye rolls.

Meanwhile, Rocket spends his coma reliving his own harrowing origin story in flashback — a development that gutsily repositions this reliable second banana as the hero of the story and perhaps of this mini-franchise as a whole.

Rocket’s story also ushers in some unusually grave and, depending on your tolerance for CGI animal cruelty, potentially objectionable scenes of a grievously abused young raccoon, stuck in a cage with three other friendly, furry captives who have been and will be subjected to all manner of mistreatment. Their tormenter is a uniquely sadistic villain (played by Chukwudi Iwuji) who calls himself the High Evolutionary but is basically a veterinarian Dr. Mengele. He plans to populate a new planet with a master race of genetically engineered human-critter combos, purging as many innocent, imperfect prototypes along the way as he needs to.

At one point, Peter snarlingly dismisses the High Evolutionary as just another “impotent wackjob whose mother didn’t love him trying to rationalize why he’s conquering the universe.” It’s a pretty good line.

Gunn managed the flow of action, comedy, music, character setup and forward momentum more or less seamlessly in the first “Guardians,” and to serviceable if diminished effect in “Vol. 2.” He was famously fired from “Vol. 3” for a spell, and I can’t help but wonder if that short-lived brush with career death spurred him to pull out most of the stops here and emerge with by far the messiest, unruliest and most interesting “Guardians” movie of the three.

End-credits teasers aside, the story here feels appreciably and even radically self-enclosed, and if its sense of finality turns out to be an illusion, it feels real and moving enough in the moment. It’s a pleasure to see a superhero movie that actually puts a priority on aesthetics and, in one gleefully orchestrated single-take sequence, reminds us how more of the action in these movies should be: nasty, Grootish and short.

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