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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 release date, cast and story

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will find it unsurprising to hear that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is eventually going to come their way, assuredly retro soundtrack and all. Both Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were absolute box office smashes, and with Disney going all-in on the franchise — getting a ride at Disney World is no joke, people — Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is looking to keep the good times rolling with the upcoming three-quel. 

Of course, the state of the MCU has vastly changed, even in the few years since the second film's release. Given the vast amounts of movies and television shows set to take place before Vol. 3, things are sure to change even more before fans get to see their favorite bunch of a-holes on the big screen once again. Though concrete details are a bit scant at this time, there is still plenty to pontificate upon when it comes to Marvel's space-faring superteam. Here is everything we know so far about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

James Gunn is returning to direct Vol. 3

Series helmer James Gunn will be returning to space with the Guardians, though this was in jeopardy for a while, to put it mildly. In a messy bit of Disney business involving some old tasteless jokes coming to light, the filmmaker was fired and eventually re-hired onto the project. However, in the months between his firing and re-hiring, Gunn signed on to work with Marvel-rival DC on their reboot/sequel The Suicide Squad, set for release in 2021.

Though Gunn was welcomed back with open arms thanks to the support of fans and colleagues (not to mention his willingness to own up to his past mistakes), he will now have to complete work on The Suicide Squad, which is still in pre-production, before work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 can begin in earnest. Had Disney not fired Gunn in the first place, they wouldn't be in this scheduling pickle. 

Of course, given the glut of characters and plot points shoehorned into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, perhaps giving everyone some extended time off will end up benefiting the project in the end anyways. And besides, the collective story of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame had enough going on with the Guardians that it can be considered a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.5 anyways.

What's the release date for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?

Due to Gunn's contractual obligations to Warner Bros. and DC, the delay in production has effectively pushed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 out of the MCU's Phase 4, as confirmed when Kevin Feige revealed the studio's 2020-2021 slate at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. Initial fan speculation had suggested the film would hit theaters sometime in 2020 or 2021, marking a three- or four-year gap between the second and third films in the franchise, mirroring the release schedule of 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy and 2017's Vol. 2.

That may have been accurate at one point (Gunn's script was ready to go before his firing, and Marvel intended to use it no matter who ended up directing), but the tumultuous pre-production phase has unsurprisingly made that window impossible. Feige did confirm that Vol. 3 is coming during his Comic-Con presentation, but had no further details to offer. No further updates came out of Disney's D23 Expo, where Black Panther 2 was announced for a May 2022 Phase 5 release. It feels safe to assume Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will release sometime in 2022 or 2023, but it's all guesswork for now.

Is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in production yet?

There have been reports that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 could begin shooting sometime in 2020, which would easily set it up for a 2022 release date. But with Gunn still hard at work on The Suicide Squad — a film that has itself not even begun shooting — it is hard to imagine the Guardians assembling any sooner than very, very late into 2020, perhaps even waiting until early in 2021 to begin what is sure to be a monumental production. 

Filming for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 started in February 2016 and wrapped that June, hitting the big screen in May 2017. There's a lengthy post-production and effects process needed to bring the Guardians' galaxy to life, but it is hard to see Marvel getting the film shot in 2020 while eyeing a release date in 2022 or 2023 — they just don't leave projects on the shelf that long. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and there is a historical precedent for Feige's MCU plans changing after already being announced. We'll be sure to update you with the actual release date when Marvel deigns that the filmgoing public is ready for that information. 

Who's returning to the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 cast?

Everyone's favorite rag-tag group of heroes is set to return for the third film in the series, still reeling from the events of Avengers: Endgame. Chris Pratt's Peter Quill is sure to keep struggling to grow up, Bradley Cooper's Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel's Groot will continue to be fan favorites, and Dave Bautista's Drax and Pom Klementieff's Mantis will keep on serving up those off-kilter laughs. No matter how much we love watching all of them, though, the adopted daughters of Thanos are the ones with the most intriguing story potential in the aftermath of Endgame.

Karen Gillan's Nebula arguably had the most rewarding character arc throughout the latest two Avengers outings and, well, let's just say Gamora has been through some things since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hit theaters. For her part, Zoe Saldana is looking forward to playing "Bad" Gamora — the Gamora who didn't go through the character development of the first two Guardians movies and was brought forward in time with Thanos at the end of Avengers: Endgame, effectively replacing the Gamora we've known all along, who died at the hands of Thanos in Infinity War

Speaking on the possibility, Saldana said, "I've never seen [her bad side], and she's, you know, she's considered the most lethal assassin, the most lethal woman in the galaxy, so I would want to see what that wrath looks like… it would just give me layers to sort of work on."

What other GOTG characters might join the cast for Vol. 3?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe always seems to be growing in size, introducing more and more characters with each film, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was no different. Gunn introduced an entirely new (or is it old?) team of Ravagers by the end of the film, led by Sylvester Stallone's Stakar. Joining him during a mid-credits scene was the original 1969 comic book lineup of the Guardians of the Galaxy, played by some pretty famous faces. This team includes Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex, Ving Rhames as Charlie-27, and Michelle Yeoh as Aleta Ogord. Joining them are Krugarr and Mainframe, CG characters, with Mainframe actually being voiced by — get this — Miley Cyrus herself. Gunn has gone on record about the team showing up in the MCU again, stating, "Kevin (Feige) and I are working on what is going to become of the Marvel Cosmic Universe and where it's going to go. We plan to see the rest of them in the future."

Gunn also wants to bring back even more characters from the film, including Elizabeth Debicki's antagonist Ayesha."I absolutely plan on bringing Elizabeth Debicki back," the director revealed in an interview with IGN. "She's actually one of my favorite actors I've ever worked with." Just how big can the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 get?

Will Thor join the Guardians of the Galaxy?

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, everyone's favorite God of Thunder left New Asgard in the hands of Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie in order to travel the galaxy with Rocket, Groot, and the rest of the Guardians. Does that mean Thor will be joining the crew in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? Will the Guardians show up in the next Thor movie, Thor: Love and Thunder, which is set to hit theaters before the next Guardians film? It is hard to say what Marvel's plans for the hammer-wielding hero are, but Chris Hemsworth certainly is game for some Asgardians of the Galaxy action. 

In an interview with Cinema Blend, Hemsworth stated, "I'd play that character again. I love it so much — especially if there's something unique to do again with it. I felt like the last three films were very, very different each time. It really felt like a totally different character." Hemsworth went on to add, "And I don't even know when or if they're shooting [Guardians of the Galaxy 3]. After the Avengers press tour I kind of went and buried my head in the sand. I'll work with any of those guys. Asgardians Of The Galaxy. That's actually great." It is clear he is on board for some more comedy-tinged Thor, if Marvel comes calling.

Adam Warlock in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?

For die-hard Marvel Comics fans, the name Adam Warlock incites some serious excitement. For those who are not well-versed in the decades-long, convoluted history of the House of Ideas, the name brings up nothing but questions and shrugs. Adam Warlock has been a Marvel character since 1967, and he was explicitly hinted at in one of the credits scenes shown at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As soon as Debicki's Ayesha faced a large cocoon containing a person, comics fans lost their minds and regular moviegoers wondered just how weird Marvel's sci-fi series could possibly get. Ayesha says, "I think I will call him… Adam," which all but confirms Warlock's presence in the MCU. 

In fact, Gunn told Slashfilm that Warlock was supposed to have a big role in the second Guardians film. "I love Adam Warlock. He's one of my favorite characters… He was a big part of the screenplay and I realized it was one character too many… so I decided to save him for later," Gunn explained. "But he will be a part of the future Marvel cosmic universe and a pretty important part of that." Even if he doesn't make it into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, be on the lookout for the future inclusion of Warlock into the MCU.