After an emotional encore, the Guardians of the Galaxy are getting off the stage.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 concludes the trilogy that James Gunn began in 2014, though it ends in a way that allows some characters to continue on, while others likely won't. So what future do our beloved space misfits have, if any, in the MCU? Warning: Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will follow.
Is this really the end of 'Guardians of the Galaxy'?
Following years of speculation about who would die in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, director James Gunn shocks the world by killing off … nobody!
Yes, all of our heroes survive the film, which comes as a surprise given Gunn has promised we will never see the original Guardians of the Galaxy lineup again after Vol. 3. "This is the end for us, the last time people will see this team of Guardians," he told Deadline, and when a fan on Instagram insisted Marvel will keep making Guardians films with these characters, Gunn confidently responded, "Not all of them."
Still, Vol. 3's conclusion technically allows for every Guardian to return eventually, even as the original team goes its separate ways. But we know one thing for sure: Gunn is leaving Marvel and jumping over to lead DC, making this a true end of an era considering he won't be involved in the series should it continue. No additional Guardians films have been announced, though Gunn told Yahoo Entertainment he hopes the franchise goes on "in some other iteration" with a new filmmaker. It's possible some stars won't want to reprise their characters without him involved, though. Disney CEO Bob Iger might also rather focus on new franchises, as he questioned earlier this year whether all of Marvel's characters necessarily "need a third and a fourth" sequel.
When, and where, might Star-Lord return?
The only Guardian we're explicitly promised will be back is Chris Pratt's Peter Quill. He ends the film by leaving the Guardians of the Galaxy and reuniting with his grandfather on Earth, and a comedic credits scene shows them eating breakfast together before on-screen text reads, "The legendary Star-Lord will return."
Pratt has already confirmed he would come back even without Gunn being involved, telling Rolling Stone, "I'd be interested in playing the character again." Star-Lord still hasn't totally worked out his issues by the end of Vol. 3, so it's hardly a definitive send-off. The only question is whether he will return in a possible fourth Guardians movie or somewhere else, and so far, nothing has been announced.
In the comics, though, there was a series called Star-Lord: Grounded that followed Peter Quill on Earth, so perhaps Pratt could lead a story like that next, maybe even in his own Disney+ show. "How does a man go from soaring through the stars as the legendary Star-Lord to living with his feet planted firmly on the ground?" read the description for Grounded, which sounds like a perfect logline for a streaming series. Daredevil also appeared in that comic, so whatever's next for Star-Lord, might it connect to 2024's Daredevil: Born Again?
It's also possible Peter will be called back into action in 2025's Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. The Kang Dynasty comic storyline involved Kang conquering Earth, so it seems safe to assume Peter won't sit out that battle. The Kang Dynasty will be followed by 2026's Avengers: Secret Wars, and though the cast of the film hasn't been confirmed, Peter appeared in the 2015 Secret Wars comic event.
Is Gamora leaving for good?
Gunn doesn't take the easy way out in Vol. 3 by having Gamora somehow regain the original character's memories. She instead parts ways with the Guardians, seemingly for good, and joins back up with the Ravagers at the end of the film. Though she has opened herself up to Peter more, it's clear the Gamora he fell in love with is gone.
Zoe Saldaña has confirmed she doesn't plan to play Gamora again, so this is likely our (second) farewell to the character. "I don't think this is the end for the Guardians," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "It is the end for me, for Gamora." Saldaña even suggested to Total Film the role should be recast. Most likely, though, Gamora will simply exist off-screen going on adventures with the Ravagers from now on and won't be a part of any potential fourth Guardians film.
Is Mantis leaving for good?
Like Peter, Mantis also leaves the Guardians, deciding she must figure out who she is after a lifetime of following others, though there's room for an eventual return after some soul-searching. Besides, we know for sure Peter is coming back, and it's hard to imagine his story would continue without him ever seeing his sister again.
Mantis star Pom Klementieff teased on the D23 Inside Disney podcast that Guardians isn't "over, over" after Vol. 3, though "it's gonna be different after, for sure." She also told Variety she has talked with Gunn about jumping over to the DC universe to play "one specific character," though that doesn't necessarily mean she can't also return as Mantis should her schedule permit.
Are Drax and Nebula leaving for good?
It's a bit surprising Drax doesn't bite the dust considering Dave Bautista has repeatedly confirmed he won't return after Vol. 3. "It's the perfect exit," he said on The Tonight Show, adding he "would never sign up for another job as Drax just to get a paycheck." Drax ends the movie by devoting himself to being a father for the children rescued from the High Evolutionary, so he'll be raising them on Knowhere for the foreseeable future.
Nebula is also staying on Knowhere to help raise the kids and build the community she never had growing up. Unlike Bautista, though, Karen Gillan has said she hopes to return as Nebula. "I would love to continue the journey of the character," she told The Hollywood Reporter, adding, "I'm not eager to finish."
So it wouldn't be surprising to see Nebula pop up in the next Avengers film or a fourth Guardians, where she could also provide an update on Drax while he's busy with child care duties off-screen — not that we wouldn't watch Bautista star in a Marvel remake of Daddy Day Care.
What's next for Rocket and the new Guardians?
After all those exits, the new Guardians of the Galaxy team consists of Rocket, Groot, Adam Warlock, Kraglin, Cosmo, and one of the children rescued from the High Evolutionary.
That young girl is the MCU's version of Phyla-Vell, who in the comics is a superhero and the daughter of Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Mar-Vell) with similar energy powers as Brie Larson's Carol Danvers. She also becomes Captain Marvel herself at one point. Adam Warlock, too, is a significant character in the comics who has been a member of the Guardians, so it may be inevitable we'll see him again. Kraglin's presence on the team is a bit surprising considering he's played by James Gunn's brother Sean Gunn, but this suggests at least one Gunn will stay put at Marvel.
So if there is a fourth Guardians film, this could be our cast with Peter Quill potentially added back into the mix, though Vol. 3 can still serve as a finale given two of the five original members, Gamora and Drax, probably won't return. In the comics, the Guardians of the Galaxy team has changed many times, and the original one didn't even have Star-Lord in it. Should no fourth Guardians film be made, it's also possible we could just see the team pop up occasionally in other movies like the Avengers films, sort of like how we kept seeing Iron Man in crossover movies after his trilogy ended. The new Guardians could also appear in a rumored project about Nova, a member of the Nova Corps. police force seen in the first Guardians.
Like Peter, Rocket and Groot appeared in the 2015 Secret Wars comic event, so we could potentially see them again relatively soon in that 2026 movie. Speaking of Groot, he ends the film by saying his first words in normal English, suggesting the audience itself can now translate "I am Groot" like the characters have been doing all along. What better way for a trilogy so obsessed with music to conclude than with a true mic drop moment?