James Gunn is back. Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is back on. In fact, according to Deadline Disney never actually interviewed anyone to replace him. He’s still writing and directing Suicide Squad 2 for Warner Bros., though, and Disney is going to wait until he’s done with that before moving into Guardians 3.
Wow. There’s a lot to unpack there.
There’s the Disney morality of it all, with the Mouse House surprisingly giving a second chance to a start who violated their strict moral code. This is a studio which will soon control 35-40% of theatrical market share. Their way is about to look a lot like the damn highway, yet here they are backing down from a moral stance and conceding, essentially, “It was just a bunch of old tweets. He never actually acted on any of the things he said in them.”
There’s the routine “don’t trust internet rumors” angle since we’d been led to believe both Taika Waititi and Adam McKay had been in the running to replace Gunn.
There’s the fact that a director is now making comic book movies for both Warner Bros. and Disney at the same time, which is a first.
And then there’s this, from THR:
After the [initial] firing, Gunn moved on to Warner Bros. and DC to write and direct The Suicide Squad, which has Idris Elba set to star and an Aug. 6, 2021 release date. Gunn plans on doing both films, with The Suicide Squad coming first, according to sources.
That, to me, is perhaps the biggest takeaway here. Ever since Gunn’s firing last July, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 has been in limbo, with stars and studio fighting in the press. First, they were still going to use Gunn’s script for the movie. Then they weren’t. Then they were. Then we didn’t hear anything about the movie anymore.
So, in the here and now any confirmation that Guardians 3 is still happening is news.
However, try to remember what life looked for the future of MCU before this all went down. Gunn was being groomed to assist Kevin Feige in overseeing the new cosmic side of the MCU, putting him in charge of not just the Guardians franchise but also any other outer space properties they wanted to introduce. The Guardians, of course, would come first, and although never officially confirmed Gunn heavily hinted Guardians 3 would be a May 2020 release…exactly one year after Avengers: Endgame.
Paton, consider yourself passed.
With the OG Avengers term-limited out, these were going to be the future premiere faces of the MCU:
That’s how we ended up with a third Thor movie which was basically Guardians of the Galaxy-lite and a Captain Marvel movie which literally reuses characters and locations from the first GotG. Much as everything which came after Iron Man took their cues from what Jon Favreau did, the newer generation of Marvel movies looked to James Gunn for inspiration.
Now the next Guardians adventure won’t come out until probably 2022. Who knows what the MCU will look like then. Heck, until we see Endgame we won’t even know which Guardians members will even be alive for their next movie. Much as Guardians 2 added Mantis to the group, there had been speculation the next movie would shake-up the roster even more, thus further anointing the Guardians as the outer-space Avengers, right down to the rather fluid make-up of the team.
Maybe this just means the MCU will now refrain from team-up movies for several years to let Endgame’s ramifications sit for a while. Maybe Captain Marvel gets pushed to lead the New Avengers. Either way, they’re going to have to without the Guardians for a couple of years.
At one point, this would have seemed like a colossal problem. Now, however, it’s just a speed bump. While the Guardians movies were financially and creatively on the upswing, they’ve since been eclipsed at the box office by Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Plus, Ragnarok and Marvel have done enough to remind us the cosmic side of the MCU doesn’t always have to include the Guardians. Given how long we’ll have to wait for the next Guardians movie, it’s possible there will be a Captain Marvel sequel out before then or around the same time. Maybe some of the Guardians even end up appearing in her movie to help set up GotG 3.
This surely isn’t how Feige planned it. However, back then he couldn’t have guessed how popular Black Panther and Captain Marvel would become. Now, it looks a lot like Guardians’ story is reaching a natural stopping point with Endgame since the majority of the team has always been on a path toward an ultimate battle against Thanos. Black Panther and Captain Marvel’s stories, on the other hand, have only just begun.
Meanwhile, Marvel is working on new movies for The Eternals (another cosmic-leaning franchise) and Shang-Chi, Spider-Man and Black Panther sequels, a Black Widow solo adventure, and complete reboots of the X-Men and Fantastic Four.
There was once a scenario in which the Guardians would be central to all of that. Now due to all of the delays they might just end up another enjoyable mini-franchise in a sea of many. Maybe that’s for the best, but at least with James Gunn back, the Guardians have a future again. Until recently, that was entirely up in the air.