Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

12 Ways That Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Changes The MCU Forever

Contains spoilers for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3"

Writer-director James Gunn's final "Guardians of the Galaxy" film has finally arrived with the highly anticipated "Vol. 3" and it delivers the most emotional adventure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's band of galactic misfits. "Vol. 3" sees the Guardians thrust into a race against time to keep Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) from dying, going on a cathartic journey that unearths Rocket's tragic backstory and uncovers revelations about family. It's pretty incredible how the Guardians of the Galaxy went from obscure Marvel heroes to the true heart of the MCU, and it's a big reason that "Vol. 3" is such an emotional ride.

Rocket's story leaves fans misty-eyed right from the beginning, and there are even more tears to be had seeing the Guardians go their separate ways at the end. With Gunn also exiting the MCU to bring his vision of the DCU to life and Dave Bautista not returning as Drax, "Vol. 3" has many ramifications for the MCU going forward. From new characters being introduced to iconic Guardians ending up in new places and positions, there are many ways that "Vol. 3" changes the MCU forever.

Introducing Adam Warlock

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" features one of the biggest MCU character introductions to date with Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) finally being thrust into battle. Warlock's creation was hinted at back in "Vol. 2," but now he's formally arrived and the MCU has one of Marvel's most powerful cosmic entities. As seen in "Vol. 3," Warlock has an incredible range of powers that nearly takes out the entire Guardians team right in the film's opening moments. He can fly, emit powerful light energy, and shows some immense strength that's tough to match, making him essentially Marvel's more cosmic-bound Superman.

In the comics, one of Warlock's biggest claims to fame is helping Earth's mightiest heroes defeat Thanos after he obtains the Infinity Gauntlet. With Thanos (Josh Brolin) long dead and the events of "Infinity War" settled, the MCU's plans for Warlock could have some impact on the ongoing multiverse story and beyond. Perhaps Warlock will play the same kind of game-changing role in helping the MCU's heroes beat the Council of Kangs or other cosmic threats that start to appear — like the Celestials or Galactus. Or Warlock's well-known evil version Magus and the destructive Church of Universal Truth could also now come into the MCU to add some psychological, cult-like fear in the MCU cosmos. Warlock now officially being in the MCU as one of Rocket's new Guardians opens up tons of possibilities for powerful heroics and evil that could come in the MCU's future.

Peter Quill back on Earth

While Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) starts "Vol. 3" as the Guardians' leader, he isn't by the film's end. After experiencing everything he did trying to save Rocket and being reminded about the importance of family, Quill decides to head back to Earth so he can reunite with his grandfather (Gregg Henry). He hands the reins of team leader over to Rocket and says his fond farewells to the team and Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) before traveling back to Earth, where he sees that his grandfather is still alive. There's even a fun post-credits scene where the two are sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast together, showing Peter's now-mundane life.

Peter now living on Earth has way more interesting implications than him just reuniting with his estranged family. He could actually aid other heroes on Earth. There's nothing here that indicates he's hanging up his hero cape in any way, and it's tough to believe that Peter wouldn't jump into battle if he heard that some big looming threat was terrorizing Earth. Peter being back on Earth opens up tons of cameo possibilities he could have in the future and unique ways that he could interact with and impact the more Earthbound heroes of the MCU.

A new kind of Guardians

Given that some of the cast and director James Gunn hinted that this would be their last trip in the MCU, it was safe to say that a new Guardians team was going to form. That's exactly what happens when Rocket is given the position of team leader and most the team goes their separate ways. However, Rocket isn't completely lost in finding new teammates, and the first post-credits scene of "Vol. 3" shows us the new team that's formed. Along with Rocket and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), the MCU's new Guardians team is made up of Adam Warlock, Cosmo the Space Dog (voiced by Maria Bakalova), Kraglin (Sean Gunn), and Phyla (Kai Zen). 

Given that powerful heroes like Warlock and Phyla — who could play pivotal roles in future MCU storylines — are on the team, the Guardians could take on a new role of importance in the MCU. At the moment, they're easily the most pivotal force in the cosmos and are likely going to be around just about any time there's a major threat to the universe.

In terms of when we'll see this team again, it's unclear. Maybe there will be another Guardians movie in the works soon or this Guardians team will pop up as supporting players in other space-bound Marvel stories — like "The Marvels" or a potential project focused on Nova. Regardless, the Guardians have a new team with which to forge a new legacy.

Phyla-Vell introduced

One of the most interesting additions to Rocket's new Guardians team is Phyla, and it's not just because she's introduced in the last act of the film. Based on Phyla's eye-marking and the kind of power that seemingly emits from her eye, many are speculating that she's actually the character Phyla-Vell from the comics. Phyla-Vell is a descendent of the original Captain Marvel and is known for being a powerful entity in the Marvel cosmos with her incredible energy abilities and badass Oblivion Sword. She's also known for working with a newer version of the Guardians of the Galaxy, so her introduction here is fitting.

Although there isn't much we learn about Phyla's story or powers in "Vol. 3," her presence now boasts a ton of potential for her and this new Guardians team going forward. First and foremost, the idea of Phyla being a descendant of Mar-Vell could result in her and the new Guardians team appearing in the upcoming "Captain Marvel" sequel, "The Marvels," and be a part of the evolving Captain Marvel storyline. Plus, if Phyla changes into her persona as Martyr, there will be another vastly powerful cosmic hero in the MCU's roster. It looks like "Vol. 3" snuck in another fun introduction with Phyla, and now there are plenty of possibilities for her to impact the MCU's cosmic side.

Gamora's officially a Ravager

Gamora's future in the MCU always feels like it's hanging in the balance throughout "Vol. 3." She shows incredible resistance to working with the Guardians and isn't necessarily a part of the Ravagers when she first meets with the team again. Honestly, until the very end, you can't help but feel like she could simply join back up with the Guardians to see what the other version of herself truly loved about this group. However, Gamora's place in the MCU becomes clear by the film's end — she's now officially a part of the Ravagers.

She's seen hugging Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) and being cheered on by fellow Ravagers as she's officially welcomed by them. Gamora now being a member of the Ravagers opens many possibilities not only for her future in the MCU, but also for the Ravagers as a faction. From the Ten Rings to the Red Daggers, there are already many factions on Earth — but not many in space. The Ravagers could easily be seen again in any future cosmic adventure and would be a strong force to stop any threat in the MCU that comes from the cosmos. They could honestly be a pivotal force in stopping Kang (Jonathan Majors) later on, since they feature a wide range of powers within their ranks. Plus, having such a major character as Gamora with them makes it very likely that the Ravagers will be seen again.

Knowhere Sanctuary

Knowhere has always been seen as a sort of refuge for the galaxy — which is why it makes sense that the Guardians of the Galaxy would eventually make it their headquarters. By the end of "Vol. 3," though, Knowhere becomes something so much more. It's now seen as a sanctuary to start the better society that the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) couldn't perceive. Nebula (Karen Gillian) and Drax (Dave Bautista) stay and take care of the children and animals taken from the High Evolutionary's cruel experiments, while the rest of the team goes their separate ways.

Nebula staying and running Knowhere is actually pretty significant and different since Cosmo is usually the one who's known to run Knowhere while the Guardians are out saving the galaxy. With a more prominent character like Nebula running the show, though, it's very likely that we'll see Knowhere in future cosmic-based MCU storylines. It'll likely act as a refuge for impacted civilizations, and it wouldn't be too surprising to see other heroes stop by there to check in on things or even aid Nebula and Drax in taking care of the kids. Who knows when we'll really return to Knowhere again, but when we do, it'll certainly be a much more diverse and community-driven place thanks to Nebula and Drax.

Rocket is free from his past

Rocket has always been characterized as hardened, irate, and erratic, making him the group's most chaotic member, but it's mostly due to his tragic past, which he's kept a secret. He's been trying to hide scars left by the High Evolutionary and is constantly burdened by the horrific memories of his friends being gunned down during his escape. Rocket is haunted by his past and the friends he couldn't save — which is what makes him confronting his past in "Vol. 3" cut so deep. Rocket's backstory is the heart of the story this time around, and this redemptive arc for him actually creates a huge change for the character.

Until now, Rocket's personality and anger have been driven by the pain of his past. But now that Rocket has found redemption and taken out the High Evolutionary, he's able to truly move on and live a more fulfilling life as the new leader of the Guardians. Even in the post-credits scene of him with his new team, there's a more relaxed feel to Rocket that really shows him to be at peace. With this new Rocket leading the Guardians, it's safe to say that his new style of leadership will forever change how the Guardians go into battle and are perceived as a team in the MCU.

No more Drax the Destroyer

Drax's fate in "Vol. 3" was a bit of a surprise given what Dave Bautista was saying about his future as the character. Prior to the film's release, Bautista constantly reiterated that after "Vol. 3," he was done playing Drax in the MCU. That hasn't changed whatsoever, and Bautista even said he feels relieved that his time in the role is over. However, instead of just killing the character off, James Gunn decided to give Drax a more fitting sendoff.

Instead of going off on his own or joining Mantis (Pom Klementieff) on her new journey like he wants to, he's tasked with helping Nebula take care of the children on Knowhere — which is more fitting to Drax's backstory of losing his original family. Now, he has a new family to take care of and can find his own redemption, as Rocket does. He even lowers his inhibitions enough to join everyone in the dance-filled finale. Yet though Drax is left alive and given a new purpose in the MCU, it's very likely that this will be the last time fans see him on-screen. Unless Marvel Studios convinces Bautista to reprise the role, it seems like he's really done and the MCU will have to fill the big comedic and emotional void left by Drax's absence going forward.

A new millennium of music

With each "Guardians" film, James Gunn shifted into different decades of music for Peter and his team to play during battles and other pivotal moments. While the first film sees Peter jam out to some classic '70s songs, the soundtrack of "Vol. 3" features some big hits from the '90s. It's a nice change that shows great progression in Peter and the Guardians' arc, and it's cool to see that Peter's moved into the digital age and uses a music player rather than his old Walkman. But there's something important that happens when Peter gives his music player to Rocket.

It not only symbolizes the team leadership changing hands, but Rocket's discovery of a playlist titled "2000s" plays a bigger role in highlighting a new era for the Guardians. Along with a new millennium of music being on the table for potential future "Guardians" stories, fans can really feel like a new saga for the Guardians is starting, and it's what makes "Vol. 3" truly feel like the end for the Guardians as we know them. The handoff suggests a fresh future for one of the MCU's most beloved teams and one that maybe hints at the MCU — as a whole — going into a new era. Plus, it leads to a heartfelt finale scored by Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" — which just hits all the feels.

James Gunn has moved onto the DC Universe

Arguably the biggest loss for the MCU after "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is James Gunn. His creative vision will not only be sorely missed, but it's also now going to the MCU's biggest competitor. Gunn took a no-name hero group from Marvel Comics and turned them into some of the most beloved heroes in the MCU. He brought a distinct blend of humor, music, family, and even sci-fi horror to the MCU, and now Gunn has delivered his swan song. Gunn's time in the MCU has finally come to an end with "Vol. 3," and now he's starting a new journey in the comic book movie space over in the DCU.

Gunn's new position as the head architect of the revamped DCU gives the MCU's greatest threat a huge strength, and his vision is already starting to come together. Not only is Gunn writing and directing the upcoming Superman reboot "Superman: Legacy," but he's also laid out a very promising first chapter for the DCU that he'll be very hands-on with. The MCU has benefited from Gunn's unique vision for the Guardians, but now that he's moved on to DC, there's a huge hole left by his departure.

No new big threats

It's no secret that the MCU has been teasing many big overarching plot threads and new kinds of threats that could become big players eventually. From Arishem the Judge and other Celestials possibly looking to destroy Earth to Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) building a team, there's a lot going on in the MCU currently. The last big introduction was Kang the Conqueror, the multiverse, and the Council of Kangs — which is said to be the big thing of the Multiverse Saga. With "Vol. 3" not introducing or hinting at something else set to happen in the MCU, it actually helps solidify that the multiverse is what we should be focusing on.

There are no hints at big cosmic entities like Fin Fang Foom, the Beyonder, or Galactus, and we don't even check in on any of the other MCU heroes — which is great. Frankly, there's already too much going on in the MCU, and if "Vol. 3" simply wants to be a trilogy-ender for the Guardians, that's perfectly fine. Ironically, by not adding anything big to the MCU, "Vol. 3" helps answer the looming question about the MCU's future — it should be all about the multiverse now.

A shrinking presence

While the Guardians have been a big force in outer space, it seems like that's about to change with this new team. With most of the original Guardians leaving the team for their own personal missions, there isn't much story left for the Guardians to be the same kind of big focus anymore. Though Phyla and Warlock definitely have room to grow into the bigger players that they'll become for the MCU, Rocket's story is pretty much closed and shut, and none of the other characters really have big enough storylines to make for another "Guardians" film.

From here on out, Rocket's Guardians team will likely become support players for the MCU. The best chance that we have for seeing them again will probably be for big "Avengers" films or small cameos here and there for other films and shows. Maybe there's a chance that we'll see another holiday special, but with Gunn gone, the possibilities seem slim. The Guardians are once again small players in the Marvel universe, and one of the MCU's most beloved teams is now being quietly slid into the background.