As noted philosopher and Poison frontman Bret Michaels once said back in 1988, “Every rose has its thorn.” Alas, it’s a truth that even applies to roses that bloom as beautifully as the Guardians of the Galaxy movie franchise. We’ve known for a while that the third movie, Vol. 3, would be the last for director James Gunn, who also helmed the first two films. But now, it turns out that Vol. 3 will also be the last time we see the core team together.
Gunn dropped the news on Deadline’s Hero Nation podcast, saying, “This is the end for us. This is the last time people will see this team of Guardians.” He’s not mincing words here, which makes it sound like something’s going to happen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 that will make it impossible for the current team to reunite, even if Marvel Studios decided to go ahead with a fourth installment. So let’s reason it out, shall we?
The current team roster includes Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Sean Gunn and Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff), after the time-displaced, 2014 version of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) walked away in Avengers: Endgame. Unless one of the stars has confirmed to Marvel Studios that she or he has zero desire to star in a future GotG movie, I would imagine that Gunn is going to kill at least one team member off. Raising the emotional stakes to that degree makes sense for the third and final movie in Gunn’s trilogy.
I also suspect that the director is referring to the original five members of the team: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. Although killing off Nebula or Mantis would be sad—the former more so than the latter, because of her relationship to her adoptive sister Gamora—I think leaving the rest intact would still count as the “team,” both to Gunn and everyone else. Not that this means Nebula and Mantis will necessarily survive, of course.
So which of the original five could bite the space dust? Let’s take Gamora off the board immediately. Not only has she died once and just been resurrected, the Guardians (along with Thor) leave Endgame by heading out to space to find her. The chances of her dying again, after (presumably) reuniting with the team and with Star-Lord, seem low because it would be too tragic for an MCU movie couple in general and the GotG franchise in particular. Likewise, Star-Lord is probably safe so that he and Gamora can have a happy ending... but I certainly don’t think it’s impossible for Star-Lord to sacrifice himself to save Gamora.
That leaves Drax, Rocket, and Groot, and frankly, I think all these guys could be in line for the guillotine. Killing off either or both of GotG’s two most beloved characters, Rocket and Groot, would be a way to elevate the threat of the movie’s villain over the previous movies, as well as raise the stakes for the final conflict. If I had to guess which of the two would be more likely to survive, I’d have to pick Rocket. He’s got a pathos and depth that—and no shade to the vocal talents of Vin Diesel—Groot lacks. Plus, Groot already kind of died in the first movie, I think for the same reasons; killing him off for real would still have emotional stakes without devastating audiences like the other characters would... with one exception.
If I were a betting man, I’d put my money down on Drax the Destroyer to bite the dust. His entire character motivation, which was killing Thanos in revenge for the death of his family, has been completed. In terms of the movies’ narrative, he has nothing to live for, which makes him the prime candidate in my eyes. And it’s extremely easy to imagine the battle-loving Drax happily leaping into a hopeless battle to save the other Guardians from something or other. Plus, Bautista has been dropping some major hints that this will be his last GotG movie for a while now.
As for replacements? Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), who’s a major character in Vol. 3, is surely a lock, having been a Guardian in the comics. Other members currently in the MCU include Captain Marvel and Ant-Man, although he seems unlikely. This could also be the way Nova gets introduced into the MCU, as has so frequently been rumored.
What do you think? Who dies? Who lives? Who will/should join the team? I’ve speculated enough, so now it’s your turn.
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