There is no questioning that the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is one of the greatest achievements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Prior to the titular group’s big screen debut, general pop culture awareness of their existence was basically zero, and many questioned why Marvel Studios would take such a huge risk on an unknown property. Two blockbusters later, the brand has earned $1.6 billion at the global box office, and the characters have become some of the most popular in the entire comic book movie canon – eventually meeting Earth's Mightiest Heroes in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Because of the team's popularity, fans have spent years both expecting and waiting for the third movie in the series, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and soon enough it will be making its way to a theater near you... though it certainly has taken its sweet time getting here. What do we know about the project? When is it coming out? Who is making it? Who will appear? It’s for addressing all those questions and more that we have written this latest installment of our What We Know So Far series, so read on and find all of the information available about the upcoming space adventure.
What Is The Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Release Date?
For the longest time, and for reasons that will be explored more in depth below, the release date for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 remained a mystery. Originally the movie was going to be one of the first films released as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 4, but behind-the-scenes chaos threw that plan out of whack, and then the COVID-19 pandemic changed things even further. For years, fans were fully aware that the movie was being made, but had no idea when to actually expect it. That finally changed on May 3, 2021.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is no longer one of the three movies kicking off Phase 4 (those duties belong to Cate Shortland's Black Widow, Destin Daniel Cretton's Shang-Chi And The Legend of the Ten Rings, and Chloe Zhao's The Eternals), but instead it will be the tenth movie released in the new era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With its May 5, 2023 release date, it will be the second blockbuster released in that particular year (following Peyton Reed's Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania), and it it is presently the Marvel film furthest out on the franchise calendar. With films like Jon Watts' Fantastic 4, Deadpool 3, and Blade on the horizon, however, we don't expect that to be the case for a super long time.
What Is The Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Rating?
In 2016, Tim Miller’s Deadpool changed the comic book movie world forever. While it had once been thought that superhero features couldn’t be successful without attracting teenage audiences, the Merc With The Mouth put that theory to rest by making a stunning $783.1 million worldwide with an epic number of swear words, a touch of nudity, and quite a bit of ultra-violence. We’ve seen a few more success stories since then as well, including both Deadpool 2, Logan, and Joker, but Marvel Studios has not yet made the plunge when it comes to R-rated blockbusters. That may be something we see eventually, but it is safe to say that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be certified with a PG-13.
As a writer/director, James Gunn does have a number of R-rated credits on his resume – including Slither, Super, and The Suicide Squad – and there are a few adult references to be found in both Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. That being said, the idea that this series will change gears for its third installment is ridiculous. We won’t actually know what Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be rated until the movie is ready to come out, as the MPAA doesn’t do its grading until after a project has been assembled, but you can be certain that this is a blockbuster that will be made with a PG-13 rating in mind.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Writer/Director
This one is a bit of a journey, so strap in.
To the surprise of very, very few, in the weeks leading up to the 2017 release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, James Gunn announced that he had made a deal with Marvel Studios to take the helm of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – confirming that the movie would “conclude the story of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy.” He wrote the script himself, and wheels were clearly in motion to make the blockbuster one of the earliest films released as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four.
But then the troll attack happened. In the days surrounding San Diego Comic-Con 2018, James Gunn found himself at the center of some controversy due to some nearly decade-old Tweets that had been dug up by those who were unhappy with his political stances. The social media messages, which featured extremely distasteful jokes about horrendous subjects, put the family-friendly Walt Disney Company in an awkward situation, and they made the decision to remove Gunn as the director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in response.
Of course, that was only the start of the controversy. In the following days, weeks, and months, it wasn’t only fans who voiced thunderous support for James Gunn (with over 400,000 signing a petition for his reinstatement), but also many of his colleagues. The members of the Guardians of the Galaxy cast – including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Sean Gunn, Pom Klementieff and Michael Rooker – all signed an open letter requesting that Gunn be reinstated, and many fellow directors made their voices heard on the subject as well. When names like Edgar Wright, Taika Waititi, Chris Lord and Phil Miller were proposed as possible replacements at the helm of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the filmmakers let it be known that they stood behind Gunn and had no interest in taking the job.
For more than half a year it was unclear how exactly Marvel Studios would be able to move forward with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but the situation was resolved in mid-March 2019. Following the release of Captain Marvel, the news was made official that a new deal had been made with James Gunn that would see him reinstated as the director of the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy capper. This coincided with a few plan changes for the project in terms of scheduling, as Gunn had spent his months being fired working out a deal with Warner Bros. to both write and direct The Suicide Squad. Following his adventure in the DC Extended Universe, Gunn will make the space opera as his next movie.
The Characters And Cast Of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3
Unlike most Marvel Cinematic Universe series, the Guardians of the Galaxy movies don't just center on one single hero, but instead an entire family of heroes who have been through hell and back together. The whole core team is expected to be back in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, along with some brand new faces.
Star-Lord (Chris Pratt)
The role of Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord completely changed Chris Pratt’s career overnight. One minute he was the goofy, lovable idiot on Parks and Recreation, and the next he was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He is now known in pop culture as one of the “Chrises” (along with Evans, Hemsworth, and Pine), and he will be bringing all of that star power back to reprising his role as Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
It has been confirmed that Star-Lord's next appearance won't be in the James Gunn-directed film, as the character will have some kind of small role to play in Thor: Love And Thunder (you'll remember that the Guardians gave the God of Thunder a ride at the end of Avengers: Endgame), but he will be back with his strange little family again in the 2023 trilogy capper. We don't really know what to expect from his arc in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but one issue that certainly comes to mind is the fact that the woman he loves barely knows who he is and split after the battle against Thanos. On that note...
Gamora (Zoe Saldana)
Time for a hard truth: Gamora as we knew her in Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is dead. In his quest to retrieve the Soul Stone, Thanos made a sacrifice and threw her over a cliff. It was incredibly sad to see play out in Avengers: Infinity War... and then Avengers: Endgame added a whole special twist on top of everything. In the wake of the massive Infinity War capstone blockbuster, Gamora exists on the present timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she is a time-displaced version from 2014 who didn't spend half a decade bonding with her teammates and falling in love with Peter Quill.
So what will Gamora be up to in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? We haven't the foggiest clue. As noted, she didn't stay with the other members of the Guardians when Thanos was defeated, and while one could make a guess that she is spending time trying to create a more sister-like relationship with Nebula, it's worth noting that Nebula was at Tony Stark's funeral and Gamora wasn't. We're sure the character will be back in the James Gunn-directed movie, but we have no idea the capacity.
Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista)
During the whole “James Gunn getting fired” saga, nobody stood up for the writer/director the way that Dave Bautista did. Clearly recognizing and fully acknowledging how Gunn very much changed his career by casting him as Drax, Bautista was extremely vocal about how incredibly pissed off the whole situation made him. Even though it could have potentially hurt his career, he wasn’t at all shy about his fury aimed towards Disney, and he even suggested that he would request a release from his contract with the studio if Gunn’s script for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 wasn’t used.
Now that James Gunn has been rehired, Dave Bautista has fully committed to returning as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3... but it sounds like that will be the character's final appearance. In an exchange with the filmmaker on Twitter in early 2021, the actor confirmed that the upcoming sequel will be the end of his journey playing the part. Obviously that could change, as part of the nice thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is its ability to cycle heroes and villains in and out, but for now we're hoping that the film will be partially a lovely send off for the loveable alien.
Rocket (Bradley Cooper)
Don't you fret: the rodent with the most acerbic wit in the universe will be back in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has experienced a life of real hardship, and it turned him into a real mean sonofabitch, but in the wake of Thanos' snap he really came through to try and help the world. Now he is finally back together with his family, and it could mean that we'll see a wholly different version of the hero than we've seen before.
James Gunn has said many times that Rocket is his favorite character among the Guardians, and the one he most relates to, so it’s pretty easy to imagine that he will have a meaty role to play in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. We can assume that he will once again be brought to life courtesy of performance capture work from Sean Gunn, and with the voice of Bradley Cooper, but beyond that we won’t have any firm expectations for the character. He's grown a hell of a lot since we first met him, and it will be exciting to see where the story takes him.
Groot (Vin Diesel)
Of all the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, weirdly it’s Groot who has the hardest time staying alive. The original version of the living tree sacrificed himself so that the Guardians of the Galaxy could live through their first movie, and while Baby Groot managed to survive Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the slightly older version of himself – Adolescent Groot – was another character turned to dust in Avengers: Infinity War. Rather than needing to regrow, however, Hulk's snap with the Nano Gauntlet brought Groot back to life in Avengers: Endgame, and presumably see him hit another growth stage in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Vin Diesel was the person who confirmed that the Guardians of the Galaxy would next be appearing in Thor: Love And Thunder, but after that we will see the sentient tree back in James Gunn's movie. What kind of personality shift will his next form provide? We're excited to find out.
Nebula (Karen Gillan)
Nebula, played by Karen Gillan, has had a very different trajectory than most in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She started out as a rage-filled antagonist – an ally of Thanos and possessing a true hatred for her sister, Gamora – but her edges definitely softened through the events of both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Avengers: Infinity War. That arc was taken many steps further in Avengers: Endgame, where she had a great opportunity to bond with Tony Stark and the other Avengers, and now it seems she is definitely on the side of the good guys.
As mentioned earlier, Nebula remained on Earth for Tony Stark's funeral, and she was with Star-Lord, Drax, Groot, and Rocket when the Guardians departed the planet with Thor on-board. Whatever she gets up to in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, we're hopeful that she does get the chance to reconnect with her adopted sister and that they can spend significant time fighting side by side for the same cause.
Mantis (Pom Klemtieff)
Brought to the big screen by Pom Klementieff, Mantis became a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy when the team saved her from Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and her special extraterrestrial skills have been put to good use. She is not only a powerful empath, but also can put even the most powerful beings to sleep with her hands – though it takes a good amount of concentration and energy. This was useful for a good minute in the battle against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, and while she turned to dust in the snap, she was part of the frontline assault against Thanos in the third act of Avengers: Endgame.
Given that she was only first introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Mantis hasn't had as much of a presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the rest of her cohorts, but we're hopeful that will change in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and that she'll get a real opportunity to shine. Her relationship with Drax was one of the best parts of the previous film in the series, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll see both that relationship and the character evolve through the next story.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special
While fans have been waiting a very, very long time for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 to come together, the good news is that we're getting set to see a lot of the series main characters in the coming years. Not only are members of the team set to appear in Thor: Love And Thunder, but it has also been officially confirmed that James Gunn is working on a Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special that is being developed simultaneously with the upcoming sequel. While the project doesn't yet have a firm release date, we know that it is going to be shot on the set of Vol. 3, and that it will be out at the end of 2022. It is being planned as a Disney+ exclusive, so you'll definitely want to have a subscription when it becomes available.
Be sure to keep your eye on this guide, as we'll keep it fresh with new details on the development of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 as they become available to us. To preview all of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbusters set to come out in the next few years, be sure to check out our Upcoming Marvel Movies guide.