No Gunn Means Angry Guardians... And Future Cosmic Stars
Displeased talent is nothing new in Hollywood. Brad Pitt nearly quit Interview with the Vampire in the middle of filming, Ian McKellen wanted to walk right off the set of The Hobbit, and even Jeremy Renner wanted Hawkeye to be killed off in the first Avengers movie because he wasn't happy with the direction his character was being taken. However, contracts keep those actors in tow, regardless. So, even though the entire cast of Guardians of the Galaxy is openly standing in Gunn's defense following his firing, they're contracted to stick around. That said, the main crew is only confirmed to star in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Avengers 4; so, not only will the next installment of Guardians of the Galaxy run the risk of featuring less inspired performances, it may well mark the end of their involvement in the MCU as a whole.
There is definitely the argument that money talks, but the lack of team spirit still stands. Disney has put the Guardians of the Galaxy series at risk of phoned-in performances and an air of overall negativity. So, legal or moral grounds aside, Disney's lack of foresight in their decision to fire Gunn may well tear away at the Guardians' homespun fabric that made the series so endearing in the first place.
Guardians of the Galaxy also represents the future of the MCU in terms of its dive into cosmic storytelling - and Vol. 3 was going to be a major jumping-off point, with Gunn stating that it will "end this iteration of the Guardians and complete the story of the three films." The Guardians were meant to be the glue that connects earlier phases of the MCU to later ones, and even if any of the original actors chose to make a return, it's unlikely to be in the same capacity it might have been had Gunn still been involved. You can imagine them operated like Tony Stark post-Iron Man 3 - his trilogy was over but it was far from the end of RDJ. Now, that seems shaky.
The MCU Will Be Forever Hampered With A "What If?"
In big-budget movies, major changes are part of the natural landscape. Even properties as massive as The Exorcist, the DC universe, and even Star Wars have suffered last-minute behind-the-scenes changes that wholly altered production (see: Solo: A Story Wars Story and Justice League, both of which ran into this very issue just last year). So, it's no surprise that this sort of thing also happens in the MCU. While its on-screen heroes were doing battle against their respective villains, Marvel Studios was dealing with its own share of baggage behind the scenes - baggage that ultimately rewired the MCU and left fans pondering over what might have been had certain changes never come to light.
Sometimes, these changes leaned closer to the positive spectrum. For example, when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter lost creative control over the MCU once Disney came aboard, the MCU headed into more daring directions (Perlmutter was not keen on breaking new creative ground, which might have prevented movies like Black Panther and Captain Marvel from being greenlit). Then, sometimes, these changes sat closer to the center of the spectrum - like when Edgar Wright left Ant-Man. Wright is a talented and beloved filmmaker, but Peyton Reed still managed to take the series into a well-received direction. And, as is the case with James Gunn being fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, sometimes these changes were mostly negative. Gunn had such a prominent hand in the future of the MCU, defining its overall direction post-Avengers 4, that, without him, the franchise is now riddled with uncertainty, adding to Marvel's growing slew of "what ifs?"
It's difficult for audiences to look to the future of the MCU with enthusiasm when the formula to which they've grown so accustomed is being abruptly rewired. The beauty of the MCU - especially compared to competitors like DC - is the consistency that's been threaded throughout their movies for the past ten years. They take chances, but there's a plan. They've got a tried-and-true road map. So, now, Disney's impulsivity is putting the MCU at risk of screwing with the formula; changing what's made them so unique over the past decade, as well as jeopardizing the future of the entire franchise. And unless Disney decides to play ball and reinstate Gunn back into Marvel, the future of the franchise may never live up to the original direction in which Gunn saw this cinematic universe headed.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 release date:
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019