Why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Is Likely the End of James Gunn's Marvel Run

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 will arrive on May 5, 2023, and it's looking increasingly likely that the threequel will be the end of director James Gunn's run in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since Marvel Studios put out its new MCU Phase 4 movie trailer, Gunn has been speaking much more openly about what's going on with Guardians of the Galaxy 3 - and his future beyond it. When asked directly by a fan whether or not Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 4 was on his radar, Gunn said "I'm planning on [vol. 3] being my last."

Of course, Gunn has not completely killed Marvel fans' hopes; in a later chat with a fan, Gunn said that he would "never say never" about coming back for Guardians of the Galaxy 4, but still insisted that he sees "Vol 3 as the end of the Guardians' story I started telling back with Vol. 1."

Hope is a nice thing to have, but most likely James Gunn will indeed be done with Marvel Studios after Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3. Here's why:

First of all, as you can see below, James Gunn is still fielding questions about why he's indicating that Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 will be the end for him. In his latest response, Gunn says "Because it finishes the story I started telling in Vol 1. It's the ending for me."

James Gunn Says Guardians Galaxy 3 it end of Trilogy
(Photo: James Gunn - Instagram)

That response isn't just about the narrative of the Guardians of the Galaxy films - it seems to hint that Gunn feels like this is a good endpoint for this phase of his career, as well. That's not all too surprising: after the successes of Guardians of the Galaxy 1&2, it really seemed as though James Gunn would graduate to being a bigger player in the Marvel Studios creative hierarchy - but then the happy relationship hit the rocks. Hard.

Disney fired James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy in the summer of 2018, due to old tweets Gunn had posted, in which he made jokes that some deemed "inappropriate," or "offensive." Gunn's "controversy" became a lightning-rod for the "Cancel Culture" debate - and ultimately he prevailed. Disney re-hired Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 in spring of 2019, but even though he's been cordial about the whole thing, it's not hard to imagine that Gunn would be tired of the social politics that go along with making Disney/Marvel movies. From having to defend old tweets to having fans pester him about GotG Easter eggs since 2014, Gunn has shouldered a lot on Marvel's behalf.

Gunn has been working with Warner Bros. on The Suicide Squad and its Peacemaker prequel tie-in - and it's really seemed like he's enjoyed himself during that process. That said, James Gunn is, at his core, an independent filmmaker of unique vision. With the level of clout and box office success he's brought himself working with both Marvel and DC, it wouldn't be surprising if Gunn's biggest wish isn't to return to doing his own projects.

Publicly, Gunn has shown concern (commitment?) about the state of mid-level budget and/or independent films, stating:

"I think the mid-level commercial film and the independent films are going to have a difficult time being seen in theaters. People go to see horror films and spectacle films and maybe some comedies in theaters. All three of those things can be 'cinema' but it's limited."

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With his love of making those films, and the influence he now has, don't be surprised if a James Gunn original project comes after Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 will arrive on May 5, 2023.