How ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Really Did James Gunn’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ A Huge Favor

The Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy has just one more movie left.

For years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has revolved around the Avengers itself. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes factor into just about every one of the films in some way or another. Along the way, characters like Ant-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Captain Marvel have crossed their paths.

But what of the other MCU team? Guardians of the Galaxy is the only other Marvel franchise that focuses not on a single hero but an ensemble. So the MCU had a big challenge in store when it came to finally show the Guardians and the Avengers intersect in epic fashion.

To some degree, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame imposed themselves on writer/director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies. But in the end, the two-part Thanos-centric showdown might have actually ended in the perfect way for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2' screening
‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2’ screening | GP Images/Getty Images

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ derailed the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ trilogy

For characters like Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, Avengers: Infinity War fit perfectly within their solo adventures. But for the Guardians to catch up with the rest of the MCU, their story actually had to skip ahead four years. After all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes place shortly after the first film in 2014.

However, the biggest indication of how much time has passed isn’t Groot’s evolution from an infant to a moody teen. It’s the relationship between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). The last time we saw the Guardians, Gamora was only beginning to develop romantic feelings for Star-Lord.

By Avengers: Infinity War, they’re deeply in love. Gamora even tells him “I love you more than anything” at one point. So it’s a far cry from her feeling the early signs of “some unspoken thing” between them. Later, of course, Gamora dies at Thanos’ hand, and most of the Guardians are snapped out of existence.

But ‘Avengers: Endgame’ course-corrected the Guardians’ story

Avengers: Infinity War seemingly leaves the Guardians of the Galaxy movies in a difficult place. But the sequel, Avengers: Endgame, pretty much restores the status quo to Gunn’s series. By the final battle, all the Guardians have returned. And Nebula (Karen Gillan) and 2014 Gamora have rekindled their sisterly bond.

The only big issue Gunn still has to resolve is Gamora’s absent memories of the Guardians. Of course, this is a comic book world we’re talking about. So Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 could find a way to restore Gamora’s memories. But it doesn’t really need to if you think about it.

After all, Gunn’s third film will be aiming to follow the previous two films, not the Avengers movies. True, Gamora doesn’t remember joining up with the Guardians. But last we saw her in Vol. 2, she was only just beginning to fall for Star-Lord. She’s still the same Gamora fans know and love.

Considering what she’s seen, it wouldn’t take much for her to re-establish a bond with her fellow Guardians. Moreover, Gunn would have the chance to explore Gamora and Star-Lord’s romance more in-depth than ever before. Since Avengers: Infinity War skipped past it, this narrative ground has yet to be covered.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ will likely end with a major hero’s death

The other way Avengers: Endgame does the Guardians of the Galaxy a tremendous service is its handling of Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). As the only two Guardians who survive Avengers: Infinity War, they each get a ton of much-needed character development.

Nebula evolved from a minor villain in the first two Guardians movies into a full-on Avenger by Endgame. And her heroic journey and bond with Gamora will certainly play into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But the more pressing character arc is that of Rocket.

The rumor mill is heavily hinting one of the Guardians will meet his or her end — for real, this time — in the third film. Gunn has said he identifies most with Rocket, who’s the focus of Vol. 2‘s final shot. Plus, he’s the only Guardian who has yet to get his own on-screen death scene.

The major theme of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies is family. This ragtag group finds each other and forms their own family unit. Rocket has often shrugged this off. But the last two Avengers movies highlighted how much the Guardians mean to him. If Rocket sacrifices himself for them in Vol. 3, that story will feel a lot richer after everything he’s been through.