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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: Release date, cast, plot, rumors

With James Gunn gone, and production reportedly on hold, everything about the Guardians' next adventure is now as mysterious as Groot's vocabulary.

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The Guardians will be back, but with a new director.

Marvel Studios

In July 2018, the Guardians of the Galaxy faced an opponent that even they might not be able to vanquish: Disney itself. The company fired series director and writer James Gunn after a number of off-color tweets sparked online outrage. And in late August 2018, Dave Bautista, who plays Drax, publicly stated what had been previously assumed but unconfirmed: that the film is in a weird limbo while Disney and Marvel figure out if they can continue the series without Gunn. And maybe, without Bautista too.

"They are putting the movie off, it's on hold indefinitely," Bautista said on The Jonathan Ross Show. "To be honest with you I don't know if I want to work for Disney." Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bautista has been perhaps the most outspoken stars of the film who want Gunn back, but the rest of the Guardians aren't letting their leader go without a fight either. Fan petitions are urging Disney to rehire him, and the stars signed an open letter urging the studio to bring Gunn back.  

But rehiring him seems unlikely, Variety reports, due to the content of the tweets and Disney's family-friendly image. That same report notes that the studio feels no pressure to quickly hire someone else, which may further delay the film's expected release. There's also been debate about whether a new director would work with the script Gunn had already completed.

We'll continue to update this story as news trickles out.

Release date, production info

Speaking of that release date, it's as up in the air as Star-Lord's ship, the Milano (named for Alyssa!). Although nothing official had been announced, many thought filming would begin in fall of 2019 for a 2020 theatrical release. But Gunn's firing and the reported pre-production pause throws that into question. The Hollywood Reporter cites a source claiming "the timeline has been pushed out," though where that timeline now rests is unknown.

Variety also reports that Disney hasn't yet met with any possible Gunn replacements, and might be forced to reach outside its  normal family of Marvel directors due to those folks already having prior films on their schedules. The site also notes the studio will be seeking someone with the same kind of "offbeat sensibility" Gunn showed on the first two films, which came out in 2014 and 2017.

Filming locations, of course, aren't yet known, but the first film shot primarily in London, the second in Atlanta. Guardians Vol 2. reportedly used all 18 of the sound stages at Pinewood Studios Atlanta. The third film, whenever it's made, is expected to stick to Atlanta for space reasons.

"We shot the first Guardians in England, but because Pinewood Atlanta has so much soundstage space, we were able to have the entire production base on the lot," Gunn said in the production notes for Vol. 2. "Even though a lot of the film is CGI. I like to have as many practical sets as we can and make the environments as real as possible so it balances out the CGI elements."

Cast: Who's who?

Plot news, rumors and theories

Who's dead? If you saw Avengers: Infinity War, (spoilers ahead), you know Thanos killed off many of Marvel's heroes, and the Guardians did not go unscathed. Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Mantis and Groot all seem to be dead. But Avengers 4 could bring back any or all of them. All except Gamora were dissolved when Thanos finally acquired all the infinity stones and "rebalanced" the universe. Gamora's death seems more final -- her adoptive father, Thanos, threw her off a cliff to create the sacrifice that wins him the soul gem. But some fans argue she could be held within the soul gem, and thus may be freed later. Let's hope, for poor Peter Quill's sake.

Madam, I'm Adam: Superhero Adam Warlock was hinted at in one of the after-credits scenes shown at the end of Guardians Vol. 2. Ayesha faces a kind of cocoon containing a person, and announces, "I think I will call him ... Adam." Adam Warlock has been a Marvel character since 1967, and Gunn had mentioned wanting to include him in Vol. 3. It's technically up to the new director/writer whether Warlock will make it in to Vol. 3, but whoever gets hired will probably need to explain this scene, so we expect Warlock will play a role.

Don't bug me: Gunn's gone from the film now, so his opinions may not matter, but he did tell a young fan on Twitter that sweetly naive Mantis would return for Vol. 3.

Check the calendar: Again, this news came from Gunn, but he did promise that Vol. 3 would occur sometime after Avengers 4, which makes sense, since we're pinning hopes on that film to bring most of the Guardians back to life.

Sly Stallone could be back, eventually: Sylvester Stallone played Stakar in Vol. 2, and when that film came out, Gunn told the Toronto Sun that he wanted to see more of the character. But there weren't high expectations to see him in Vol. 3. "I'm not sure about him appearing in Vol. 3, we'll have to see about that, but it's our plan to see more of Stallone," Gunn said.

Let the music play: Guardians Vol. 1 and 2 were acclaimed for their retro soundtracks, chosen by Gunn himself. He was already well on the way to choosing the music for the third film -- well, kind of. A tweet he sent in 2017 claimed he had narrowed down the song list to 181 choices, and by October 2017, he said the soundtrack tunes were almost all chosen. This was all P.F. (pre-firing), but since the nostalgic tunes are such a big part of the Guardians' movies, we wouldn't be surprised if Disney keeps a nostalgic soundtrack, whether chosen by Gunn or someone else. As for Gunn's choices, he once told Cinema Blend he pulled from a master list of tunes he thought Star-Lord's late mother, Meredith, would like.

First published Aug. 6 at 9:35 a.m. PT.
Update on Aug. 31 at 2:36 p.m.: Adds information confirming the film is in limbo.

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