James Gunn has said his Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy is "going to tell one story" about the lovable group of misfits when it's all said and done. Though this summer's hotly-anticipated Vol. 2 has not yet been released in theaters, talk has already turned to what the future has in store for the criminals-turned-heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Star-Lord and friends will be part of the massive Avengers: Infinity War ensemble next year, but they also have a big role to play in Phase 4. Gunn recently confirmed he would return to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy 3, which supposedly sets up the next 10 years of Marvel movies.
When Gunn announced his involvement with the threequel, he explained that the film marks the end for the current version of the team - headlined by the dynamic quintet of Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. That would indicate that Vol. 3 (or whatever it ends up being called) would contain some semblance of closure and finality, perhaps tugging at the heartstrings even more than its predecessors did. The director's latest comments suggest that's very much in the cards, since the three films will work together to tell a single, overarching story.
While at the Vol. 2 premiere, Gunn spoke with EW and teased his vision for the trilogy closer, hinting that the cast of characters will be explored further than they already have been before:
“I think really that the three movies work together as a whole, they’re going to tell one story. This is the story of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and we’re going to get to know the characters even better in the same way we got to know them much better in this film than the first one.”
It'll be sad for fans to consider an MCU future that does not include the Guardians as we know them today, but an argument can be made that this could benefit the property moving forward. By the time Guardians 3 reaches theaters, the five main players will have had four films together (including Infinity War), and mixing things up down the road sounds like a strong way to keep things fresh. If the present-day team's story is completed after their third standalone movie, then Gunn (or whoever is calling the shots at that point) shouldn't be forced to maintain roster continuity just for the sake of it. There is no shortage of characters that would make for fun additions to the gang, and watching their stories unfold in Vol. 4 and beyond has the potential to be entertaining and compelling.
If Gunn's words are taken at face value, then Vol. 3 could be something radically different for the MCU as a whole - a film that gives its characters a definitive end. Many of the installments are part of a free-flowing, ever-expanding narrative with no real end in sight. Even characters who have had complete "solo" trilogies (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor) are set to have their stories continue in upcoming movies. Of course, the Guardians will still be a part of Marvel's plans through Phase 4 and beyond, they'll just have some new faces. Since our time with this group seems limited, it's best to appreciate it while it lasts and enjoy what Gunn has in store.