The MCU has taken some exceedingly big swings since 2008. Critics have continued to predict failure. That’s been doubly true when lesser-known characters headline a movie. Time and time again, the MCU has found success in the most unlikely of places. But one of the biggest chances the MCU took was on James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
This 2014 film and its 2017 sequel never should have worked. But thanks to James Gunn and some stellar acting performances, the movies were huge successes. The team and the characters that make it up have become mainstays of the MCU. Now, James Gunn says the 2023 movie will be the last time fans see the Guardians of the Galaxy. But that might not mean what fans think it does.
Calling all Guardians of the Galaxy
When the Guardians made their MCU debut, they were no names to anyone that hadn’t avidly read Marvel Comics. The original comic book team debuted in 1969 and looked a lot different from the modern incarnation. It was set in the future and consisted of four members; Martinex, Charlie-27, Vance Astro, and Yondu. Other characters like Nikki, Aleta, and the always perplexing Starhawk were eventually added.
The modern incarnation of the team that MCU fans are more familiar with popped up in 2008. Most of the characters involved already had long histories in the comics. But assembling them into one cosmic team was a new trick, to say the least. This time, the squad was made up of Gamora, Star-Lord, Drax, Phyla-Vell, Adam Warlock, Rocket Racoon, and Groot.
Several other characters rotated in and out of the group over the next few years. That included Iron Man and Venom. But this new iteration of the team proved to be an effective one. Cosmic stories were big in Marvel for the next decade with the Guardians of the Galaxy at the center of it all. These stories would set the stage for a huge transition to the big screen.
Hollywood comes knocking
The announcement of a live-action Guardians movie was met with two core responses. Comic fans who were familiar with the team were excited but dubious that Marvel could pull it off. And anyone who hadn’t heard of the characters was confused. Marvel was pitching a film starring a tree and a raccoon, after all. It’s hard to blame critics for expecting the worst.
At this point, everyone knows that Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge success. The characters became key MCU players and household names. It was no surprise that they started showing up in other MCU films as well as its own sequels. A third Guardians movie is slated for 2023. On top of that, the team is expected to play a big role in Thor: Love and Thunder, Taika Waitit’s 2022 follow up to Thor: Ragnarok.
While the acting, writing, and everything else was on point, a huge part of the success of this franchise goes to director James Gunn. His vision helped build this team into the juggernaut that it is. He’s also been the person to make it clear that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be the last outing for them. Gunn recently told Deadline’s Hero Nation podcast that this would be it for his team. Bummer.
A new generation of Guardians
At the same time, it’s important to note that he’s been saying this for years. Gunn talked about this whole situation to the Toronto Sun in 2017. He indicated then that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would be the final outing for this incarnation of the team. He even talked about the potential for a fourth film, though he didn’t want to go into any details for obvious reasons.
The 2023 film looks like it might be the end of the line for the Guardians fans have come to know and love. But that doesn’t mean the end of the team. Adam Warlock is set to be introduced in the upcoming sequel. He has been a member of the Guardians as well as a key player in various cosmic comic stories. This character could easily end up being the cornerstone of a new Guardians team. Other new cosmic characters like Pip the Troll and Eros could also join in.
That being said, some of the current team members could also be hanging around. Dave Bautista certainly seems to be indicating that his time as Drax is over. But Andrew Garfield was adamant he wasn’t in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Look how that turned out. While it looks likely that Vol. 3 will be the end of this Guardians roster, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the franchise. The MCU has just started exploring the cosmic side of Marvel and the Guardians will play a big role in that.