‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’: James Gunn Knew He Had to Come Back to Finish 1 Character’s Story

Guardians of the Galaxy was anything but a sure thing when it hit theaters in 2014. Yet, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie made movie stars out of a talking raccoon and a living tree. Now writer-director James Gunn is back to finish the story he started with 2023’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. And he owes his need to complete his trilogy to one character.

James Gunn almost didn’t make ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’

Of course, Gunn nearly didn’t get the chance to return for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. After some particularly controversial social media posts resurfaced, Disney fired Gunn from the third film. The director then got hired on to make The Suicide Squad for Warner Bros. and DC Comics. Following the support of the Guardians of the Galaxy cast, Gunn was eventually rehired.

Considering how integral Gunn’s distinctive style and voice are to his Marvel movies, it’s hard to imagine another filmmaker stepping into his shoes. After all, Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie that shouldn’t have worked. But thanks to Gunn’s vision, it became one of the MCU’s most beloved movies and spawned an even more successful sequel in 2017.

Rocket sounds like he’s the central character of the trilogy’s finale

But for all the story threads set up by the previous two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Gunn was most drawn by one in particular. At the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con, the director revealed to Entertainment Weekly that it was the character of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) that initially compelled him to sign on for the first movie. And it’s his story he’s most excited to tell.

“A lot of people know that, for a while, I wasn’t going to do this movie. And the reason I knew I needed to come back was to tell this story. In some ways, in particular, I have a special closeness to the character of Rocket. And I knew I needed to finish telling his story. … I realized that to tell the story honestly, he’s the saddest character in the universe. He was unlike anybody else, and he was created in this horrible way … and this film tells that story along with the family that he’s created along the way.”

Up to this point, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) has been the central character of the Guardians of the Galaxy films. The second installment even uncovers his origins as the child of Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell). Although Star-Lord’s story will no doubt remain key, it’s interesting to note how Gunn is sharpening the focus on Rocket going into the third and final part of the trilogy.

Will James Gunn kill Rocket in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’?

guardians of the galaxy vol. 3
James Gunn attends the UK Premiere of “Guardians of the Galaxy” at Empire Leicester Square on July 24, 2014 in London, England. | Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Given Gunn’s interest in finally telling Rocket’s story and the presumed finality of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, some fans believe the anthropomorphic raccoon will meet his end in the new movie. Thus far, Rocket remains the only central Guardians team member who hasn’t died on screen, though the Blip and time travel mean all the characters have returned in some form.

Gunn has often mentioned how Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be the final time fans will see this line-up of characters on screen together. With Rocket such an integral part of that, it seems likely the movie will be the final time Cooper – an in-demand actor and filmmaker in his own right – will participate in the MCU. Whether Rocket will be killed off, however, remains a mystery.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits theaters on May 5, 2023.

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