Everything We Know

Everything We Know About Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3

We look at the crew, characters, call-backs, and comic origins of James Gunn's final Marvel movie (at least for a long while).

by | May 3, 2023 | Comments

TAGGED AS: , , ,

The story behind the making of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is worthy of a film all its own. Originally meant to be an early entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4 – and reportedly planned to establish a larger space-set story for the upcoming phases – fate intervened in 2018, when former Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn fired director James Gunn after a number of ill-advised tweets from years earlier resurfaced. And in a strange mirroring of the old crosstown rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics, Warner Bros. Pictures quickly offered Gunn the chance to write and direct The Suicide Squad, which, in the fullness of time, also led to his ultimate destiny as the co-CEO of DC Studios and the director of the next Superman film.

The third Guardians film, meanwhile, seemed to languish, as it was pulled off the schedule and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige halfheartedly attempted to find a replacement for Gunn. Horn reportedly reversed his decision to remove Gunn after news broke of the DC film deal, although his return would not become public until March of 2019. And though the script existed before the unpleasantness began, Marvel revealed Gunn would return to the project after his duties to The Suicide Squad (and the subsequent Peacemaker spin-off series) concluded for a February 2021 production start date. Filming ultimately began that November.

That more or less brings us back to the present. The film was shot in 2021 and part of 2022 without incident, and it made a marketing debut at that year’s San Diego Comic-Con, where fans got their first glimpse of what Gunn and Feige promised will be a conclusion to the story the director began with the first film.

But how can a story in the MCU really end? Using some selections from Gunn’s official Meredith Quill playlist, let’s take a look at what we know about Vol. 3 so far and see if we can’t determine how and why this is the last ride for your Guardians of the Galaxy.

Cruel To Be Kind

Chukwudi Iwuji as the High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

From the trailers and an appearance by Chukwudi Iwuji in full costume at Marvel Studio’s SDCC presentation, it is clear the film will concern a conflict between the Guardians and the High Evolutionary – the entity seemingly responsible for augmenting Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) into his current form. Back in the comics, the High Evolutionary is a human man from Manchester, UK whose academic interest in genetics and evolution went too far. A chance meeting with an incognito Eternal led to the creation of Isotope A – a substance capable of his fondest wish: the forced rapid evolution of species.

Creating animal-human hybrids he dubbed the “New Men,” he soon accepted a title from his creations: “Lord High Evolutionary.” His mad experiments led him to battle with Thor and any number of Marvel heroes. Those fights, in turn, saw him flee planet Earth for a place he could do his research in peace.

In terms of the film, it is unclear if he is a lad from Manchester or an alien, but his aim to evolve all species to his specifications and build a perfect society remains the same. And if the trailers are anything to go by, his return will lead to Rocket finally reckoning with his past and encountering someone he left behind.

Zoe Saldana as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

But even with that, other plotlines from the previous films – or stinger scenes – will also reach their conclusion. Despite dying in Avengers: Infinity War, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) still roams the galaxy thanks to time travel shenanigans in Avengers: Endgame producing a second Gamora who never lived the events of the first Guardians or Vol. 2. For Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), it means a second chance at a life with her, even if we doubt Gamora feels the same way. In fact, it is possible this version of her will be able to resist Star-Lord’s pelvic sorcery.

Meanwhile, the egg featured in one of Vol. 2‘s stinger scenes will hatch, producing Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a character who nearly debuted in both Vol. 2 and Infinity War. His mission in Vol. 3 may simply be revenge on behalf of the Sovereign people Peter wronged at the beginning of Vol. 2, but if this Adam is anything like his comics counterpart, he will absolutely have an agenda of his own.

And despite all of this looking like another Guardians adventure on paper, the trailers released for the film so far have a funereal quality to them – from Peter begging the others for one last ride to Drax (Dave Bautista) saying it’s been an honor to work beside his friends. Even if the film doesn’t end with the death of multiple Guardians, it is possible the conclusion will come down to the characters realizing the time has come to move on.

Also revealing the passage of time as a theme, the Guardians will have a new ship: the Bowie.

Satellite Of Love

Knowhere in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

While a Guardians adventure can span the breadth of Nova Corps Space and the Kree Empire, we have a pretty good guess where the story will begin: Knowhere. As stated in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, the Collector (Benicio del Toro) sold the inhabited skull of a dead Celestial to the Guardians following the events of Endgame. The special also established the team is trying to make it more of a home for displaced people than the ore mine/den of iniquity glimpsed in the first film.

Other locations glimpsed in the trailers include the High Evolutionary’s research facility – whether it is a spaceship or a building on an unidentified world remains to be seen – a world comparable to modern day Earth that may be where the High Evolutionary deposits his New Men, a new prison world (although it could be another part of the High Evolutionary’s lab), and the remains of another Celestial. Also, Earth is never completely off the table – particularly after Drax and Mantis’s (Pom Klementieff) meeting with Kevin Bacon (as himself) in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.

Children Of The Revolution

Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The returning cast includes Pratt, Saldana, Bautista, and Cooper, plus Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot and Karen Gillan as Nebula from the previous two films. Vol. 2‘s Klementieff and Elizabeth Debicki also return.

Thanks to the Guardians holiday special, we now know Mantis is Peter’s half-sister – a revelation Klementieff told us was established in the Vol. 2 script, but cut, leaving her, Gunn, and the rest of the cast to hold the secret for five years. Deblicki, meanwhile, debuted in Vol. 2 as Ayesha, the leader of the golden-hued Sovereign species the Guardians did a job for at the start of that film, but also managed to steal from, leading to the infamous Adam Warlock stinger.

Speaking of Adam, Poulter assumed the role in October of 2021. Described as both “newly born” and a more traditional superhero type despite not necessarily being heroic, it appears the character will share some of his comic book counterpart’s complexity. Gunn also said the character provides an “interesting juxtaposition” to the Guardians and how far they’ve come since that fight on Xandar all those years ago.

Sean Gunn as Kraglin in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

An additional handful of actors return from the previous films. Sean Gunn returns as Kraglin, now wearing Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) techno-mohawk and appearing more comfortable with his deceased boss’s  Yaka Arrow. He may be the leader of the Ravagers this time around, or he may have Guardian status at this point. Then again, leadership of the Ravagers may have been assumed by Sylvester Stallone‘s Stakar Ogord, who also returns for this adventure, though it’s unclear if it will be larger role than his handful of scenes in Vol. 2. Back in the comics, Yondu and Ogord were part of the original Guardians lineup, as was Martinex, the android voiced by Michael Rosenbaum in Vol. 2 (he also returns for Vol. 3).

Other new performers to the series include Maria Bakalova, Daniela Melchior, Nico Santos, and Asim Chaudhry. Bakalova voices Cosmo the Spacedog – a beloved Marvel cosmic character glimpsed in the original Guardians as part of the Collector’s menagerie. The roles of the other actors are unknown.

I Just Want To Be Your Everything

James Gunn on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

(Photo by Jay Maidment/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

As mentioned above, Gunn makes a triumphant return as writer and director. Granted, that sense of victory is somewhat bittersweet as Vol. 3 will be his Guardians swan song. Joining him behind the lens are director of photography Henry Braham, returning from Vol.2, production designer Beth Mickle (of The Suicide Squad and the Holiday Special), costume designer Judianna Makovsky (from Vol. 2 and the Holiday Special) and editors Fred Raskin (the previous two Guardians films) and Greg D’Auria (Peacemaker and the Holiday Special).

While it is clear Gunn likes to work with a recurring company of crew and department heads, John Murphy replaces Tyler Bates as composer – a switch that occurred during the production of The Suicide Squad.

On the production side, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige returns as producer. The executive producer team include Louis D’Esposito, Simon Hatt, Nikolas Korda, Sara Smith, and Victoria Alonso, who recently departed Marvel Studios.

Isn’t It Time?

Although Disney and Marvel Studios’ release schedule has been quite malleable across the pandemic years, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has always maintained a May 2023 release date window – or, at least, since both entities were ready to discuss the film’s release. It did make a slight one-week change, though. Thus, it will usher in a summer of superheroics from the crosstown rival and the next chapter of the MCU’s Phase 5 on May 5.

As for the future of the Guardians, Gunn has made it clear this is his last story with the team, and his commitment to the new DC Cinematic Universe, which he abbreviates as “DCU,” will keep him away from Marvel for at least a decade. Meanwhile, the characters – and the actors who play them – can always resurface in other film series should they survive the events of Vol. 3.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 opens in theaters on May 5, 2023. Get your tickets now

Thumbnail image by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.