Ten years ago, no one would have expected a sentient tree and a heavily armed, talking raccoon to become two of Hollywood’s most popular superheroes. Two Guardians of the Galaxy movies later, that’s the world we’re living in — with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 expected to hit theaters in 2022.

Marvel’s 2014 cosmic adventure Guardians of the Galaxy and its 2017 sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, were led by actor Chris Pratt’s charismatic thief Peter Quill, and featured Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket Raccoon. The team was later joined by Karen Gillan as Nebula, and Pom Klementieff as Mantis. Here’s everything we know about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Endings and beginnings

First, it was Groot, then Yondu. And soon, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 could have another heartbreaking farewell in the works for audiences.

Responding to a fan’s question on Instagram about rumors that a popular character will die in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunn responded, “I can’t remember any comic book film where someone didn’t die!”

While his response in that October 2019 conversation doesn’t offer any clues regarding who will meet their end in the film, it does support previous reports regarding the end of certain characters’ story arcs.

Prior to the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Gunn hinted that the third installment of Guardians of the Galaxy could bring an end to some key elements of the franchise while kick-starting a new chapter for the ragtag team.

“Much of what’s happened in the MCU for the past 10 or so years has been leading, in a big way, to the Avengers’ Infinity War,” wrote Gunn. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will happen after all that. It will conclude the story of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and help catapult both old and new Marvel characters into the next 10 years and beyond.”

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Gunn’s cryptic hint at what the future holds for the Guardians of the Galaxy could have a wide range of interpretations, but one thing seems certain: Whatever version of the team continues on after Vol. 3 will be very different from the team that was introduced in the 2014 film.

The origins of Rocket Raccoon

Speaking during a Quarantine Watch Party, James Gunn told fans that Rocket Raccoon’s origins will play “a big part of what’s happening” in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Combined with previous teases that there may be a major character death in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and a shakeup of the team, could Rocket be the ultimate victim? Might he emerge as the leader of the Guardians?

The release date

When will it arrive? We had high hopes that Volume 3 would land in 2019, but a director controversy put the kibosh on our hopes. At Comic-Con International 2019 in July, Marvel Studios finally shared what’s coming in its highly anticipated fourth phase of films, offering details on a whopping 10 projects for 2020 and 2021, and giving some very intriguing hints as to what the future holds. However, there was very little mention of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige did confirm that Black Panther 2Captain Marvel 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 are on the way, although he didn’t offer any release dates. This leads us to suspect that 2020 is a no-go, and 2021 unlikely as well. 2022 looks like a likely bet at this point.

The long delay until Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits theaters stems from director James Gunn also directing The Suicide Squad reboot (above), from Marvel competitor DC, a project he signed on to while on hiatus from the Guardians franchise.

The director

Eight months after Disney fired James Gunn over a series of old (and tasteless) social media posts, the company had a change of heart.

Gunn was reinstated as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in March after meeting with Walt Disney Studios president Alan Horn. Gunn will direct Guardians of the Galaxy 3 from the screenplay that he wrote before his initial dismissal.

James Gunn 'Guardians' spinoff

Gunn initially made his return for Vol. 3 official in an April 2017 post on Facebook. The lengthy post was published before the start of the press tour for Vol. 2, and Gunn indicated that he wanted to let fans of the franchise be the first to know, rather than simply announcing the news during a press junket interview.

“Yes, I’m returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” wrote Gunn. “In the end, my love for Rocket, Groot, Gamora, Star-Lord, Yondu, Mantis, Drax, and Nebula — and some of the other forthcoming heroes — goes deeper than you guys can possibly imagine, and I feel they have more adventures to go on and things to learn about themselves and the wonderful and sometimes terrifying universe we all inhabit. And, like in both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, we will work on creating the story that goes beyond what you expect.”

Gunn fired, then rehired

After directing the first two installments and announcing that he would write and direct the third, Gunn was abruptly fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in July 2018 after political pundits unearthed highly damaging tweets posted by the director almost a decade earlier.

The campaign to convince Disney to remove Gunn — an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump — was led by a controversial right-wing blogger and eventually resulted in just that, with the studio’s chairman, Alan Horn, declaring “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

Shortly after Gunn’s departure, an open letter was posted on Instagram by Guardians of the Galaxy actor Chris Pratt, beginning with the statement “We fully support James Gunn,” and ending with the signatures of every member of the franchise’s recurring cast. In the letter, the actors express their belief that — as Gunn stated himself — he is a very different person from the man he was when he made the comments more than a decade earlier.

The statement also alludes to the alt-right campaign to paint Gunn as a pedophile due to the content of several jokes he made, with the cast expressing disappointment with “those so easily duped into believing the many outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding him.”

Less than a year later — and after a prolonged delay in production — Gunn was reinstated as the director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in March 2019.

More Mantis

It’s widely expected that the core team from 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy will return for Vol. 3, but given how many supporting characters have been introduced across the first two films, it’s anyone’s guess as to which cast members will be brought back for another adventure.

One character that does seem to have been confirmed to return, however, is Mantis — the empathic, antenna-sporting alien in Vol. 2. In a May 2017 post on Instagram, Gunn wished Klementieff a happy birthday and  looked “forward to spending the next couple of years hanging out with both her and Mantis while making Vol. 3.”

Given the uncertain realities of comic books and the movies inspired by them, even Michael Rooker’s fin-headed mercenary Yondu might return for more action.

Updated on April 9, 2020: Added story details about Rocket Raccoon’s origins.

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