Director James Gunn has promised an emotional ride for fans when they finally sit down to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The film is set to act as the finale for the titular team and their time together in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as a goodbye from Gunn to his years working at Marvel Studios. A trailer for the threequel, which recently debuted at Brazil Comic Con, embraced the poignant tone set by the occasion and featured plenty of footage that seemed to hint at somebody not making it out of the film alive. The previous entries in the franchise have both been full of heartbreaking moments, the circumstances of which usually have something to do with a major character taking their last breath, and it would stand to reason Gunn wouldn’t finish off the trilogy without taking at least one more cast member with him.
With the future of the Guardians currently so up in the air, it feels like any one of the lovably dysfunctional, intergalactic misfits could end up biting the stardust. Nobody is truly safe, but it’s likely some are probably safer than others. Not every character feels quite as poised to end their on-screen journey, even if nothing is really off the table. As such, the situation begs for a ranking of the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy in order of their likelihood to face an untimely demise at the hands of Vol. 3.
Here’s how it all shakes out:
This is the one everyone has been assuming for a while, and honestly, everyone has a good chance of being totally correct. While there’s been a lot of talk about certain characters “meeting their maker” by the end of Vol. 3, Bradley Cooper‘s Rocket will be the only one taking the phrase seriously. Gunn‘s trilogy capper is confirmed to explore the origins of Rocket in the MCU and will bring the anthropomorphic animal face-to-face with the man who created him – Chukwudi Iwuji’s High Evolutionary. The film will deal with the fallout of this reunion and dig into its impact on the team as a whole, something that may feel familiar to fans of the franchise. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 pulled a similar move in expanding upon the origin of Michael Rooker‘s Yondu Udonta before killing him off in a soul-stirring sequence of self-sacrifice. At this point, it really feels like Gunn might do the same with Rocket in the follow-up.
To elaborate just a little further, Rocket has thus far enjoyed one of the most well-developed character arcs the MCU has been able to offer, and a definitive conclusion to that arc in Vol. 3 would be a natural way for the unlikely hero’s story to end. If that weren’t enough, Gunn himself has gone on record multiple times to state Vol. 3 would be a “send-off” for his favorite protagonist, repeating himself as recently as last month in an interview with Deadline:
The reason why I needed to finish this is because I love the character of Rocket more than any character I’ve ever dealt with before, and I needed to finish his story and that is what Volume 3 is about. I absolutely needed to do it, and I think we’ve done it in a spectacular way that I can’t wait for people to see.James Gunn
It’s possible this is all one big ruse to hide the actual big death in the movie, but if that’s the case, it’s one of the better cons ever pulled by a director. This one feels too obvious.
There isn’t much story-wise that directly points to a coming expiration for Dave Bautista‘s Drax the Destroyer, but a few real-world instances have shot the character to the top half of the “probably going to die” list. To put it plainly, Bautista himself has been very open about his intention to leave Drax behind after Vol. 3, and with The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special fulfilling the dream of a Drax/Mantis project coming to life, Gunn has been able to do pretty much everything he’s publicly stated he wanted to do with the blood-loving, soft-hearted space warrior. Bautista, never one to mince words, has been referring to Vol. 3 as his last ride for a while now and even posted a farewell message on his Instagram back in May.
The only reason Drax isn’t a more surefire bet than Rocket is because there’s still a decent amount of comic book material the MCU could work with in the future. At this point, the films have not yet drawn from the comic return of his long-thought-deceased daughter in the form of Moondragon, which could prove to be a wonderful plotline for a future movie or series. However, that could simply be a surprise twist Gunn is hiding for Vol. 3, and if so, her appearance may seal Drax’s fate immediately. After all, Bautista‘s career is on the rise, with several other projects on his plate. He may be on board to leave the MCU on a high note. Also, #GoodbyeDrax doesn’t sound all that promising.
Perhaps a sleeper pick for the film’s big passing, Karen Gillan‘s Nebula actually has evidence going against her survival both on the screen and off. Much like Rocket, Gillan‘s rough-and-tumble space pirate has undergone a bit of a transformation since audiences first saw her in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Nebula started as an antagonist for the titular heroes, but has since become a trusted member of the team, and even served as an impromptu Avenger for a brief period of time. Also like Rocket, Gunn has gone on record in the past to say Nebula’s dramatic development over the course of his three films has been planned from the very beginning. Standard knowledge of plot structure would imply that, if her story was conceptualized as having three parts, an end for the character is, at the very least, somewhere in sight.
Furthermore, both Gunn and his buddy, actor and comedian Seth Green, have stated that Vol. 3‘s script is quite heavy on Nebula. An increased amount of screen time in the last project a character is planned to appear in is, often, not a great sign for anyone hoping to see them continue living. Green specifically commented on a lot of the plot revolving around the relationship between Nebula and her sister, Gamora. If one of those two had to sacrifice themself for the other, as will be outlined later, there’s a higher chance of it being the former. Gillan herself may have also put a final nail in the Nebula coffin, taking a page from Bautista‘s book and giving her character a send-off on Instagram:
Sure, she says it’s possible this is Nebula’s “final chapter”, but at least she left a little room for hope at the beginning.
What better way to close a trilogy than to kill off the main character? Of course, the answer is giving them a happy ending everyone can enjoy, but something like that might not carry the kind of gut-punch Gunn is aiming for with Vol. 3. Chris Pratt‘s Peter Quill, the self-proclaimed Star-Lord, has been the heart and soul of the Guardians since the franchise launched in 2014. He is, for all intents and purposes, the lead of the trilogy, which automatically puts him in contention for a big death to close it all off. This is especially true when one considers how willing Quill has been to die for his found family at the end of both previous films, and how absolutely heart-wrenching Gunn and company know it would be to have him meet his mother again in some sort of afterlife. Not saying that will happen literally, but the internet does love to make edits.
The major thing holding Peter back from the top of the list is the massive potential he holds for the future of the MCU’s cosmic storytelling. Even if he’s no longer a leader of the Guardians, Star-Lord is a central figure in most of the comics’ best intergalactic stories and is complex enough to transform for a new era in much the same way as Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor. It may feel like Quill is destined to end with the trilogy that made him a star(lord), but it might actually just be the conclusion of one book before another is opened. It seems just a little more likely that Pratt gets some time off from playing Peter before coming back as a changed man down the line.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special just gave Pom Klementieff‘s Mantis a pretty big emotional connection to the heart of the franchise’s story and did a great job of engraining her forever as a Guardians fan-favorite. While this is all well and good, they could also just be setting it up to hurt more when Mantis is offed by the end of Vol. 3. Truthfully, though, Mantis is probably safe. She’s a newer character to the franchise, with a lot of room left to explore. That doesn’t instantly save her from death, but it would make her a pretty good through line between the next iteration of the Guardians and the team that came before. Also, there isn’t much in the way of evidence to point toward curtains in Mantis’ near future. In fact, there’s more evidence going the other way, with Klementieff recently making an appearance on the D23 Inside Disney podcast and making a few comments that hint toward a continued existence in the MCU.
When asked if there would be more adventures for Mantis in a post-Vol. 3 world, the actress replied carefully, not giving anything away but not really hinting at a demise either:
I can’t say much because, you know, the movie’s going to be released a long time from now, in May. But what I can say is that, again, it’s going to be very funny but also extremely emotional. And it’s going to be, in some ways, you know, the end of a chapter, as the Guardians of the Galaxy family. So we’ll see what happens after, you know? It’s not like ‘over over’ but, you know, it’s still…it’s going to be different after.Pom Klementieff
When asked a follow-up about starring in a Mantis solo project, Klemetieff responded, “Yes! Oh, that’d be fun for sure“. It doesn’t really sound like she’s expecting her journey to end in Vol. 3.
Reader, Gamora has already died in the MCU. That’s the main argument to be made against Zoe Saldana‘s space assassin having a big, dramatic death in Vol. 3. Granted, one might be able to see the storytelling advantages of killing her off a second time. She means a whole lot to several members of the main group, and the idea of getting her back – against all odds – just to so quickly lose her again could work in the way of total devastation for fans and the film’s cast alike. It’s also possible that the team finds themselves in a situation where someone has to go, and Gamora volunteers herself knowing she’s displaced from her real timeline anyway. It’s just that all of that comes off as cheap on paper, and Gunn isn’t going for anything cheap in his final Marvel outing. Unless there’s a fantastic concept for a second Gamora death scene, it isn’t supremely likely that the creatives behind the Guardians double down on tears for Saldana.
One might assume Sean Gunn‘s Kraglin is disqualified from death in Vol. 3 because he’s not a big enough character to elicit the proper audience reaction, but that’s pretty silly thinking. At this point, everyone should have grasped the concept that no character is too small to bring tears to viewers’ eyes. Especially in James Gunn‘s hands. The real reason Kraglin is disqualified from death is that he’s the obvious future of the Ravagers, and he can’t perish before nailing down how to control that darned arrow. When Vol. 3 opens, Gamora will be in charge of the Ravagers, but there’s only a very tiny chance that is still true by the time credits roll. If she doesn’t remain as captain of the Ravagers, it only seems fitting that Kraglin finally ascend to his rightful place. This is the ending he deserves, and both Gunn brothers know it.
Vin Diesel‘s Groot will probably survive Vol. 3 on the same clause keeping Gamora alive, and that’s the simple fact that Gunn has already killed him off once before. The original Groot met a perfect and beautiful end during the climax of the first film, and it’s hard to imagine his son topping it at such a young age in Vol. 3. The more interesting plotline would be Groot finding his way in the galaxy without Rocket by his side, something that feels more and more bound to happen as the release date draws near.
After making a short cameo in the first film and landing a supporting role in the Holiday Special, Maria Bakalova‘s Cosmo will become an official member of the Guardians when Vol. 3 eventually lands in theaters. The thing is, there’s almost no way she dies in the movie. Not only is she essentially still a brand new character, who has massive potential as a founding member of the Guardians 2.0, but there is not a soul attending the premiere of Vol. 3 who wants to see the adorable talking dog eat it so fast? That seems harsh even for noted horror connoisseur James Gunn.