As Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 opens across the globe this week, fans are sure to exit their showing feeling a mix of emotions. Early reviews of the movie have indicated that the capstone of James Gunn‘s trilogy works as a heartbreaking sendoff to a group of a-holes that have gone from unknown to some of Marvel Studios most beloved heroes. While it’s clear that the journeys of some of these heroes will continue in the MCU, Gunn–and more than one of the film’s talented actors–have made it clear that Vol. 3 is the end of the road for them adding to the emotions of the film.
Marvel Studios has completed several trilogies before including, most recently, the Ant-Man trilogy; however, none of them have seemed to pack the emotional punch that Vol. 3 seems prepared to unleash. During the global press event for the film, host Nathan Fillion asked Marvel Studios One Above All, Kevin Feige, if he could put his finger on why this one feels so much different. “You know, we’ve had trilogies before. We’ve had a number of them, actually,” said Feige. “And I was thinking, why does this feel so different and so much of a passage of some sort? And it’s because Guardians really was the first movie that was completely outside of the realm. It tied in with Thanos and Infinity Stones. But The Avengers were not in it. And we weren’t setting up Tony Stark’s next adventure, or Captain America. And it was really our attempt of saying, we don’t wanna just do superhero movies.“
Longtime fans of the MCU likely recall the trepidation that swirled after Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced. Given that most fans had never heard of the characters, it was widely presumed that the film would flop. While it was certainly a gamble for the studio, as Feige explained, for the MCU to grow, it had to be more than the core Avengers and the Guardians opened that door. “We don’t want to just do Iron Man movies or Avengers movies. And we wanted to do, as James said earlier, a big space movie,” Feige explained, “and it worked in a crazy way. It worked entirely because of James Gunn. So, it just feels like this trilogy, and James writing and directing all three of them, it represents something unique within the pantheon of the MCU, that I’m very proud of.”
In hindsight, Gunn‘s Guardians captured lightning in a bottle. Like the team itself, the odds were stacked against the first film launching as successfully as it did and with the enormously high expectations that every Marvel Studios project has hanging over it now, it seems unlikely we’ll ever see a feelgood story like the Guardians again.