It’s been a long and emotional road over the past decade for fans of the galaxy’s misfit heroes, but it sure seems like this journey has finally come to an end. Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 hit theaters this past week and gave audiences another two-hour action-packed adventure ride that is being praised as arguably the best MCU movie since Endgame. The Guardians movies have always been beloved by MCU fans and critics alike and the third is no different, with director James Gunn serving a standing ovation for his MCU encore.
However, despite the film being Gunn’s last turn behind the camera for the MCU, and the added confirmation from the director that Volume 3 would be the Guardians last outing, the film itself left several loose-ends and countless possibilities for where the fan-favorite characters could return in the future. So, with all of the Guardians split up and taking separate journeys to find themselves, it begs the question – where exactly could the Guardians go from here in the MCU’s future?
New Guardians Team
Volume 3 was rumored to bring the end of many of the Guardians of the Galaxy (with Rocket and Drax being at the forefront of that list) but fortunately everybody made it out with their lives. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to keep the Guardians together and the mid-credit scene gave fans a glimpse of the brand new Guardians of the Galaxy team that will (hopefully) be appearing in the MCU in the future. The team consisted of Rocket (as the new captain) along with Groot, Cosmo, Kraglin, Adam Warlock, and a child rescued from the High Evolutionary’s batch-91 that was identified in the credits as Phyla.
Now, where exactly could this new ragtag crew of heroes show up in the future? Smart money is one the next Avengers movie, The Kang Dynasty, or at the very least the following Avengers movie, Secret Wars, since nothing about the Guardians is currently in Marvel’s slated schedule. That said, there are possibilities even as early as The Marvels which will be debuting this November. After all (there have been no confirmations) but Phyla is rumored to be the character Phyla-Vell from the Marvel Comics and her powers/origins have her being connected to Captain Marvel, and we know from The Marvel’s trailer that the movie will definitely be going cosmic and beyond the reaches of just Earth.
All of this being said, there is an added speed-bump in the fact that Bradley Cooper has claimed that he won’t be returning the voice of Rocket. With the character being the new leader of the Guardians, it will certainly leave a large hole in fans hearts knowing that they won’t get to hear Cooper voice the character any longer. But it’s nothing the MCU hasn’t had to handle before and whoever is recast as Rocket will assuredly do their best to win MCU fans over.
Despite the new Guardians team being led by Rocket and having a surplus of new faces that didn’t include Peter Quills, it was confirmed following the end-credits scene that Star-Lord would undeniably be returning to the MCU. Fans of the character can rejoice knowing that Chris Pratt will continue the Star-Lord legacy, but it undeniably left questions about where Quill would show up in the future.
Again, nothing has been confirmed in the MCU’s slated schedule about anything Guardians related leading up to the next Avengers movies, so it can pretty much be assumed that that’s where Star Lord will be making his return appearance. The next Avengers movie is titled The Kang Dynasty, and despite the current legal accusations raised against Jonathan Majors, it’s unquestionable that the character of Kang is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the MCU and it will require all hands on deck to defeat him. Star Lord concluded Volume 3 by returning to Earth and taking a little time off from the hero gig in order to get to know his grandfather a little better, but fans of the MCU know from experience that you can’t keep a hero out of the fight forever.
Mantis & Her Abilisks
Always the odd one out in the group, Mantis is still no exception when it comes to where she could fit in the MCU’s future. Volume 3 (as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special) really saw the spotlight fall on Mantis much more than it had in Volume 2 or Infinity War. Her character blossomed into a true fan-favorite and was given an arc that audiences could relate and empathize with. Not only that, but Mantis became much more than just comedic relief and proved to be one of the most valuable assets to the Guardians team.
With her concluding Volume 3 by riding off into the unknown to find herself with her three new Abilisk pets, it easily leaves the door open for the character to return in a future Avengers movie. Again, Kang is going to be a powerful enemy and Mantis has more than proven her worth. Not to mention, her Abilisk pets are probably going to be incredibly well-trained by the next time we see them and could prove very useful for the Avengers in any future fights.
Now we start to get further into the gray area about whether or not we’ll be seeing these characters in the MCU’s future. Again, it had been rumored that since Volume 3 was to be the Guardians last outing that several characters would meet their end. Since this wasn’t the case in terms of killing the characters off, they all just decided to go on their separate ways instead. One of the groups that stuck together was Nebula and Drax and their apparent mission to rebuild Knowhere and make it a prosperous place to live.
The reason this gets tricky is because actor Dave Bautista has confirmed that he will never be returning to the MCU as he feels his character arc as Drax has been completed. That may in fact be true, but it also left a very fan-favorable character alive and well in the MCU and would lead to questions as to why he wouldn’t appear to help against a foe as monumental as Kang (or perhaps even worse ). Karen Gillan (the actress who plays Nebula) stated back in 2021 that she wanted to continue playing the character after Volume 3, however she said several goodbyes to the character on social media in 2022 following the conclusion of filming the third movie. With no concrete plans for even the new Guardians team in the MCU’s future, it’s hard to see where they could squeeze Nebula or Drax back in other than an Avengers film.
Gamora & the Ravagers
The original Gamora may have met her ultimate end in Infinity War, but that didn’t stop the MCU from bringing her back for Volume 3. The alternate universe Gamora was vastly different than the ones that fans had already fallen in love with, but actress Zoe Saldana did an incredible job of making audiences fall in love with the character all over again. After the character already dying and being brought back, Gamora was one that fans actually didn’t expect to die in Volume 3 and their assumptions were correct as the movie concluded with Gamora returning to the Ravagers.
This seems like an easy way for Gamora to return in future projects for the MCU (possibly even a standalone Ravager project somewhere down the line). However, even if that happens, Gamora is going to be different than what fans have come to know and love as Zoe Saldana has confirmed that (just like Dave Bautista) she will never be returning to the MCU or play the beloved green heroine again. It should be noted that Saldana’s reasons are the same as Bautista’s and she feels that she has done the character justice, however she has given her blessing to the MCU to recast the character and let a new generation of actresses take their turn.
Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special: Part 2
The elephant in the room that nobody seems to remember. While fans have spent the past weekend in emotional tears thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3, many people have already forgotten that they got a brief one-hour holiday glimpse into the Guardians lives back in December thanks to the GotG Holiday Special. Not only have fans forgotten about the special itself, but in particular about the end credit scene that featured Rocket, Groot, and Cosmo.
Initially, this scene might not have been interpreted as much of anything. It shows Rocket and Cosmo decorating Groot as a Christmas tree, ultimately messing up and Rocket half-heartedly and sarcastically stating that they’ll have to do another Christmas special to sluggish for their mistakes. However, after the conclusion of Volume 3, this scene might have more weight to it than fans realize.
With Rocket, Groot, and Cosmo all surviving and staying together at the conclusion of Volume 3, it could very easily be plausible that Marvel decides to add another Guardians Christmas special to their slate (probably in 2024 instead of this year) in order to revisit the Guardians and catch up on where they’ve been before they hop back into the madness during Avengers: Kang Dynasty. This is all speculation as nothing has been confirmed, but it makes sense in the grand-scheme of what the MCU has scheduled over the next several years and fans certainly wouldn’t complain about getting to see their favorite Galactic Guardians again.