Marvel has mostly stayed tight-lipped about its plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Avengers 4, (though we still have Captain Marvel to come before it) but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is one of the few films that it has confirmed is on the way.
Of course, now that the team has crossed paths with Thor and the other Avengers in Infinity War, things could look very different for the Guardians going forward. Here's what we think you should expect from the film whenever it arrives.
While Marvel has confirmed that Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is on the way, it hasn't yet announced a specific release date for the film. The company was aiming for a 2020 release, but that now looks unlikely to happen. In the wake of the firing of original writer/director James Gunn - more on that below - Disney has officially put the production on hold, meaning it's now unlikely to make that 2020 window.
Cast and crew
No cast members have been officially confirmed for the film yet, but it's a safe bet that most of the cast of the first two movies will be returning - including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel.
Now, anyone who's seen Infinity War will know that not every Guardian makes it through unscathed - without being too specific. Still, there's enough speculation about how various characters will be brought back in the second part of the Thanos story that right now we're not ruling any Guardians cast members out of return appearances.
Things behind the camera are a bit less certain. In a shock turn of events, in July 2018 Disney fired series writer and director James Gunn from Guardians 3 after offensive tweets of his from a decade prior resurfaced, as part of a targeted campaign by alt-right groups.
Disney was quick to condemn the tweets, and Gunn, despite the fact that the writer/director had already apologised for the old jokes, which referred to rape and paedophilia. The company hasn't announced if it still plans to use Gunn's script, which was apparently written already:
Every bit of my heart. pic.twitter.com/hSxnbLpdn6— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) June 25, 2018
Not all fans are happy about the decision though, and there was a quick campaign to persuade Marvel to re-hire Gunn, arguing that he's a changed man, no longer trading on the sort of offensive and provocative humour behind the original tweets. Over 350,000 people signed a Change.org petition to have Gunn reinstated, while the core Guardians cast members signed a joint statement defending Gunn and urging Disney to re-hire him:
In the wake of the open letter things got even more heated. In the face of a wall of silence from Disney, Bautista took to Twitter to declare that it would be "pretty nauseating" working for Disney in the wake of the incident. He took an even stronger tone in an interview with ShortList, claiming that he's even willing to walk away from the film if it doesn't at least use Gunn's script - which has already been turned in.
“Where I’m at right now is that if [Marvel] don’t use that script, then I’m going to ask them to release me from my contract, cut me out or recast me," Bautista said. “I’d be doing James a disservice if I didn’t.”
It now looks like Disney will indeed use Gunn's script, but won't bring him back as director. Variety reports that Gunn had a one-on-one meeting with Disney chairman Alan Horn to "clear the air," in which Horn stuck with the decision to fire Gunn. Despite rumours that Marvel studio head Kevin Feige wanted Gunn back, Feige didn't attend the meeting and reportedly "stands by" the decision.
This appears to be pretty final, with word that Marvel is now on the hunt for a replacement director who will shoot from Gunn's script - no doubt with a few tweaks. In the meantime the production has been put on hold, almost certainly delaying the film's planned 2020 release. It hasn't been cancelled, but "the timeline has been pushed out" according to a source, while Disney regroups and finds a new director.
Even if the franchise does return, it's not certain that Bautista will be back with it though. Appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show to promote Final Score, the actor wasn't afraid to share his feelings about Disney:
"There’s a bit of an issue. It’s a bittersweet conversation. No - it’s a bitter, bitter conversation, because I’m not really happy with what they’ve done with James Gunn. They’re putting the movie off. It’s on hold indefinitely. To be honest with you, I don’t know if I want to work for Disney... I’ve been very vocal about the way I feel. I’m not afraid to admit the way I feel."
We know very little about what to expect from Guardians 3 right now, but here's what we have so far - bearing in mind that we'll have to discuss Avengers: Infinity War spoilers.
If you've seen the last Avengers movie you'll know that not all of the Guardians survived the Thanos snap at the end of the movie. In fact, only one of them did, Rocket Raccoon, who wouldn't make up much of a team on his own. So it's a safe bet that the other Guardians will be resurrected somehow - with the possible exception of Gamora, who was murdered by Thanos long before the snap (though some fan theories suggest she may live on in the Soul Stone, so even she might return).
Without knowing any more about Avengers 4, it's hard to know which Guardians will feature in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, or what they'll be up to now that Thanos is (presumably) defeated.
From previous Marvel comments we know that Guardians 3 will serve as a sort of bridge between all of the MCU movies that have happened so far and what is to come next, closing up some story threads for the current Guardians team and likely setting up a new group going forward.
One of the new characters likely to play a major part is Adam Warlock, who was teased at the end of the previous Guardians movie as the 'next evolution' of the Sovereign race. For those who don't know their comics, Warlock is a super-powered space Messiah figure who has at times controlled the Infinity Gauntlet, and has a dark side known as the Magus.
It seems pretty plausible that the third Guardians film will introduce him as a villainous figure fighting for the Sovereign one way or another, before bringing him round and setting him up as a Guardian going forward, as he has been in the comics - but we'll have to wait and see for now.