James Gunn Considered Telling the Story of ‘Vol. 3’ without Most of the Guardians

As fans steel themselves for an emotional farewell to one of Marvel Studios’ most beloved cast of characters, the mastermind of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise reveals he once deviously plotted to undermine the grieving process. James Gunn has made no bones about the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is Rocket’s story, so much so that he once considered telling it without most of the rest of the team!

And I thought about, ‘Well, okay, if there was a talking space raccoon, how would he have come to exist?’ And as I mused upon it, I started thinking about how this was the saddest creature in the universe, and that was actually the seed to me for the entire Guardians trilogy. That was my way into it, this underpinning of just isolation and sadness, and all of these characters are isolated and sad. So I knew what Rocket’s backstory was from that moment before I had come up with the rest of that stuff for Vol. 1. It was the first thing I came up with.

James Gunn on how Rocket became the center of Guardians of the Galaxy

In an interview with io9, Gunn revealed that while he’d cracked Rocket’s backstory years ago, he wanted it to be at the center of the emotional conclusion to his time with the franchise; however, there was a time when he wasn’t sure the story needed to include the entire team. “I always thought it was a third movie thing because I thought we had to tell Peter Quill’s story first and then get into Rocket’s story,” explained the director. “I think the only question was, was it going to be a Rocket and Groot movie or was it going to be Guardians 2—because initially, I was going to do it as Rocket and Groot.

Baby Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

Rumblings of a Rocket and Groot project have been around since the Guardians made their MCU debut. In fact, Gunn confirmed that prior to the 2014 release of Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios had considered making as series of shorts to introduce the core team of Guardians and one of those would have featured Rocket and Groot. “I forgot about this, but this is true,” said Gunn referring to the scrapped projects in a Tweet from October of 2021. “Not only did we plan it,” Gunn continued, “we shot footage for one of the scripts (Rocket & Groot) – part of which was the first shot of Rocket shooting a machine gun on Groot’s back that we showed at San Diego Comic Con.”

 We toyed with the idea of doing short films on Drax, on Rocket and Groot, and on Gamora, leading up to Guardians. This One-Shot series would have led into the Guardians movie proper — which would have also been directly preceded by a fourth self-contained short film about a mysterious kid who loved fantasy things. Then you’d start Guardians. And half-way through, we would reveal that big space hero is the kid from the short. We thought that would be clever, but it was too much.

Kevin Feige on the scrapped Guardians of the Galaxy prequel One-Shots

Rocket’s special connection with Groot certainly helped fans fall in love with not only the offbeat duo but the rest of the team almost a decade ago, so Gunn’s instinct to focus on them while exploring Rocket’s origins is understandable. However, once it became clear that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was set to be Gunn’s MCU sendoff, you can bet he wanted to make sure each of the characters he’d created and curated over the years had a proper sendoff.

Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 opens in theaters on May 5th!

Sources: io9, Inside the Magic

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