Spoiler Alert: This article discusses significant plot developments and post-credits scenes in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which is currently showing in theaters.
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It’s become evident that Marvel Studios has experienced a decline in its appeal during the post-“Avengers: Endgame” era. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has rapidly expanded through Disney+, while key stars like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and the late Chadwick Boseman have bid farewell. Consequently, the Marvel narrative has felt simultaneously overwhelming and lacking a central focus, resembling sprawling growth without a clear center.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” faces a unique challenge in addressing this issue. Firstly, the film stands entirely apart from the developments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that have unfolded since “Endgame.” There’s no mention of Kang, the multiverse, incursions, Talokan, or even Thor, despite the Guardians making a notable appearance in “Thor: Love and Thunder” last summer. Furthermore, the Guardians themselves, as audiences have come to know and adore them, are departing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Zoe Saldaña and Dave Bautista have made it clear that they’re concluding their respective roles, and writer-director James Gunn is leaving Marvel to co-lead DC Studios alongside Peter Safran.
To clarify, these developments are significant assets for the movie itself, infusing “Vol. 3” with a refreshing sense of creative freedom and melancholy that Marvel titles have seldom explored. It’s worth noting that the film doesn’t sever all ties with the Guardians either. In the initial post-credits scene, viewers witness Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) stepping into the role of the new leader for a reconfigured Guardians team. This lineup includes Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova), and the latest addition, Phyla (Kai Zen). Phyla shares a name with a Marvel comics character who was part of the Guardians, although her backstory significantly diverges from the character depicted in the film.
Even Peter Quill receives his own laid-back post-credits scene after reuniting with his human grandfather (Gregg Henry) back on Earth. They engage in casual banter over cereal and discuss why a neighbor’s adult son refuses to mow her lawn, followed by a hint that “the Legendary Star-Lord will return.”
As delightful as these scenes are, they inadvertently contribute to a mounting challenge for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the past 21 months, Marvel has utilized its signature post-credits scenes to tease as many as six – or possibly more – upcoming movies. These include:
- Follow-up installments – or perhaps multiple sequels – to “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” that delve into the journey of the titular hero, played by Simu Liu. This could explore the extraterrestrial origins of the mysterious rings and/or the transformation of the outlaw organization, the Ten Rings, under the leadership of Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing, portrayed by Meng’er Zhang.
- An upcoming sequel for “Eternals” that centers on Starfox, portrayed by Harry Styles, teaming up with Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Druig (Barry Keoghan), and Thena (Angelina Jolie) as they strive to rescue their fellow Eternals from facing judgment at the hands of the Celestial Arishem.
- An anticipated sequel to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” that follows the adventures of Doctor Strange, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. In this new chapter, he joins forces with the sorcerer Clea, played by Charlize Theron, in an effort to mend a rift within the Dark Dimension.
- A sequel to “Thor: Love and Thunder” that explores the storyline of Zeus, played by Russell Crowe, sending his son Hercules, portrayed by Brett Goldstein, on a mission to confront and potentially eliminate Thor, portrayed by Chris Hemsworth.
- A follow-up to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” that delves into the challenges faced by Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, and Nakia, portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o, as they grapple with the revelation of T’Challa’s posthumous revelation of a son who could be the rightful heir to the throne of Wakanda.
- Additionally, prospective sequels – or potentially multiple sequels – to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” that continue the adventures of the reassembled Guardians or explore the endeavors of Star-Lord after his return to his family on Earth.
It’s important to note that Marvel Studios has not officially confirmed any of these potential feature films, and there have been no substantial reports regarding their development progress. Nevertheless, Marvel has a history of fulfilling its promises, evidenced by their discreet casting choices, hints about various storylines, and enticing post-credits teasers. They wouldn’t go to the lengths of secretly enlisting stars like Styles, Theron, and Goldstein for brief cameos or dropping intriguing narrative hints if they didn’t intend to follow through. And why conclude “Guardians Vol. 3” with the tagline “the Legendary Star-Lord will return” if it wasn’t going to happen?
Here’s where the situation becomes intricate: Marvel’s chief, Kevin Feige, has emphasized that “Avengers: Secret Wars” will serve as the concluding chapter of the Multiverse Saga, much in the same way “Avengers: Endgame” marked the conclusion of the Infinity Saga. Presently, there are only three available release dates for Marvel projects ahead of “Secret Wars,” which is scheduled to premiere on May 1, 2026. These dates are July 25, 2025, Nov. 26, 2025, and Feb 13, 2026.
It’s possible that some of the previously mentioned “sequels” could become entwined with the narrative of “Secret Wars” or its precursor, “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty,” slated for 2025. Others might find their place in a Disney+ series instead. However, the overall outcome appears to be an abundance of content, akin to a child piling up toy blocks without considering the risk of them eventually toppling over. With “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” facing the likelihood of financial losses and superhero fatigue affecting the box office in general, Marvel must hope for a smoother path ahead, borrowing a lyric from the first “Guardians” soundtrack: “things are gonna get easier” – and the sooner, the better.