Ten years ago, no one would have expected a sentient tree and a heavily armed, talking raccoon to become two of Hollywood’s most popular superheroes. Two Guardians of the Galaxy movies later, that’s the world we’re living in. Unfortunately, the third film in the franchise (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, we assume) finds itself without a director following the departure of franchise director and screenwriter James Gunn — although star Chris Pratt seems fairly certain Gunn’s script will still be used for the film.
Marvel’s 2014 cosmic adventure Guardians of the Galaxy and its 2017 sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, outperformed expectations by becoming two of the highest-grossing films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a roster of relatively unknown characters. The two films assembled a colorful cast of reluctant heroes led by actor Chris Pratt’s charismatic thief Peter Quill and featuring Zoe Saldana as the assassin Gamora, Dave Bautista as the warrior Drax, Vin Diesel as the voice of the sentient tree Groot, and Bradley Cooper as the voice of brilliant weaponsmith Rocket Raccoon. The team was later joined by Karen Gillan as Gamora’s adopted sister, Nebula, and Pom Klementieff as the empathic Mantis.
After saving the universe not once but twice, the team of adventuring “a-holes” (their words, not ours) played a big part in Avengers: Infinity War, and are currently scheduled to return to the screen for another adventure in 2020. The abrupt departure of Gunn, however, has complicated matters.
Here’s everything we know about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 so far.
While conducting press interviews for Ant-Man and the Wasp in June 2018, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told Collider that Gunn’s final script was in and filming was set to begin in 2019. Disney’s decision to terminate the studio’s relationship with Gunn the following month put that schedule into question, but in a February 2019 interview with MTV News, Pratt indicated that Marvel is still planning to use Gunn’s script for the film.
— MTV NEWS (@MTVNEWS) February 7, 2019
According to the Hollywood Reporter, production on part three of Guardians of the Galaxy has been delayed following the firing of Gunn. The details surrounding the delay haven’t been announced, but sources close the production state that the move is more in the nature of a reorganization as Disney and Marvel search for a new director.
However, the staff that was in charge of pre-production have been dismissed for the time being and were told that they were free to pursue other projects. While Disney still appears eager to release a third film, it might be some time before we see anything concrete emerge. The 2020 target for the film has yet to be officially confirmed or denied by Disney in the wake of Gunn’s exit.
After directing the first two installments and announcing that he would write and direct the third, Gunn was abruptly fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in July 2018 after political pundits unearthed highly damaging tweets posted by the director almost a decade earlier.
The campaign to convince Disney to remove Gunn — an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump — was led by a controversial right-wing blogger and eventually resulted in just that, with the studio’s chairman, Alan Horn, declaring “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”
Shortly after Gunn’s departure, an open letter was posted on Instagram by Guardians of the Galaxy actor Chris Pratt, beginning with the statement “We fully support James Gunn,” and ending with the signatures of every member of the franchise’s recurring cast. In the letter, the actors express their belief that — as Gunn stated himself — he is a very different person from the man he was when he made the comments more than a decade earlier.
The statement also alludes to the alt-right campaign to paint Gunn as a pedophile due to the content of several jokes he made, with the cast expressing disappointment with “those so easily duped into believing the many outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding him.”
Given the three-year separation between the first Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel, many fans speculated that 2020 would be the most likely year for Vol. 3 to hit theaters. That speculation was eventually confirmed in January 2018 by Gunn himself, who responded to a fan’s question on Twitter with an official date — or rather, a specific year — when audiences can expect to see the third installment of the series.
Coming in 2020. https://t.co/2kQbPHC5gP
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) January 14, 2018
Asked whether there will be a third Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn responded, “Coming in 2020.”
Gunn initially made his return for Vol. 3 official in an April 2017 post on Facebook. The lengthy post was published before the start of the press tour for Vol. 2, and Gunn indicated that he wanted to let fans of the franchise be the first to know, rather than simply announcing the news during a press junket interview.
“Yes, I’m returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” Gunn had written earlier. “In the end, my love for Rocket, Groot, Gamora, Star-Lord, Yondu, Mantis, Drax, and Nebula — and some of the other forthcoming heroes — goes deeper than you guys can possibly imagine, and I feel they have more adventures to go on and things to learn about themselves and the wonderful and sometimes terrifying universe we all inhabit. And, like in both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, we will work on creating the story that goes beyond what you expect.”
An ending and a beginning
In an early post regarding Vol. 3, Gunn hinted that the third installment of the series could bring an end to some key elements of the franchise while kick-starting a new chapter for the ragtag team.
“Much of what’s happened in the MCU for the past 10 or so years has been leading, in a big way, to the Avengers’ Infinity War,” wrote Gunn. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will happen after all that. It will conclude the story of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and help catapult both old and new Marvel characters into the next ten years and beyond.”
Gunn’s cryptic hint at what the future holds for the Guardians of the Galaxy could have a wide range of interpretations, but one thing seems certain: Whatever version of the team continues on after Vol. 3 will be very different from the team that was introduced in the 2014 film.
It’s widely expected that the core team from 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy will return for Vol. 3, but given how many supporting characters have been introduced across the first two films, it’s anyone’s guess as to which cast members will be brought back for another adventure.
One character that does seem to have been confirmed to return, however, is Mantis — the empathic, antenna-sporting alien in Vol. 2. In a May 2017 post on Instagram, Gunn wished Klementieff a happy birthday and looked “forward to spending the next couple of years hanging out with both her and Mantis while making Vol. 3.”
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Please wish @pomin8r a happy birthday below and by following her on IG! Getting to know Pom and working with her on #gotgvol2 has been one of the highlights of the past couple years. I find her portrayal as #Mantis truly magical, and she's one of the most gifted actors I've ever worked with. I'm looking forward to spending the next couple of years hanging out with both her and Mantis while making Vol. 3. Happy Birthday, Pom! ???? ???? ❤️ Too bad this weirdo ruined this awesome picture of us by butting in!
Given the uncertain realities of comic books and the movies inspired by them, even Michael Rooker’s fin-headed mercenary Yondu might return for more action.
Updated on February 7, 2019: Added information about the potential use of James Gunn’s script for the film.
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