How James Gunn’s Firing Could Dramatically Impact the Marvel Cinematic Universe

James Gunn at the opening of the Guardians of The Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! ride

James Gunn | Richard Harbaugh/Getty Images

The firing of James Gunn will not only dramatically alter the direction of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3; outside of that film, Disney’s decision is also likely to have massive implications for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.

After all, although Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was set to be the end of the trilogy that began in 2014, Gunn’s work with Marvel was not going to stop there. Instead, he was to be instrumental in the future of the cosmic side of the MCU.

He said as much in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last year, explaining, “Kevin [Feige] and I talk about it all the time; we just had a meeting today. Discussing what is the next iteration of cosmic characters and where are the characters that we’ve already created going to go in the next batch of films.”

Gunn also described his future at Marvel last year by saying that he is “shepherding the future of the Marvel cosmic universe,” adding that he will be helping create movies “around” Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. It seemed like what he meant was that characters from that film could get spinoffs, with fans theorizing that we could see the introduction of Adam Warlock and/or Nova in that movie.

Indeed, Gunn has described Vol. 3 as critical to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He said last year that it will “help to set up the next 10, 20 years of Marvel movies.” Additionally, he said in an interview with Vanity Fair that while Infinity War and Avengers represent the end of an era, Vol. 3 is “a big part of the beginning of what comes after that.”

Gunn also said on Facebook that Vol. 3 will “help catapult both old and new Marvel characters into the next ten years and beyond.” It wasn’t entirely clear whether Gunn would return to direct more movies after Vol. 3, but the way he talked about his future with Marvel, it definitely sounded like he was interested.

Now, the status of Vol. 3 is completely up in the air. It’s possible Marvel will simply find a replacement within the next few weeks, and that person will make a film that also sets up the next 10 or 20 years of Marvel stories. But whether he or she can do as good a job as Gunn remains to be seen, and clearly, doing a good job is crucial when we’re talking about a movie that’s supposed to lead us into the next era.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | Marvel Studios

But even in the best case scenario, it seems like Vol. 3 will likely face some delays. Since Disney is severing ties with Gunn entirely, Marvel will have to throw out his script and start from scratch to avoid crediting him as screenwriter. If that’s the case, it is unlikely that the film will be able to begin production this fall and start shooting early next year, as was the intention.

Producer Kevin Feige and everyone else at Marvel Studios plans these films far in advance, and Feige recently revealed that the studio has mapped out everything through 2025. If Vol. 3 sets up the next 10 years, a delay could cause a chain reaction and force Feige to reshuffle Phase 4 and Phase 5. Clearly, then, Gunn’s firing will have broader implications than just the potential delay of one standalone movie.

Of course, this is all assuming Vol. 3 will still happen, which, believe it or not, is an open question right now. After all, every single one of the series’ stars is standing with Gunn, especially Drax actor Dave Bautista, who has made clear on Twitter over the past few days how upset he is about Gunn’s firing. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that some if not all of the actors may refuse to do Vol. 3 without Gunn’s involvement.

Seeing as the backlash to Gunn’s firing has been so intense, it’s also not entirely unreasonable to think Disney might reverse its decision. But if Gunn remains ousted, expect the Marvel Cinematic Universe to feel that impact pretty intensely.