__Spoilers for __Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 below.
After a rough start to 2023, the new—and final—installment of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the hit the MCU desperately needs. Thankfully, it mostly delivers. Not since Endgame has a Marvel film felt as complete, fully realized, and entertaining as Vol 3. And Gunn, on his way out the door for his new job as the co-CEO of DC, does his best to imbue his final Guardians chapter with a sense of closure.
After rescuing Rocket (Bradley Cooper), some of the Guardians realize they have some solo soul-searching to do, which leads to a Return of the King-like parting of the ways: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) returns to Earth to reconnect with his grandfather, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) ventures out to explore the universe; the time-displaced Gamora (Zoe Saldana), despite reconnecting with Peter on some level, returns to the Ravagers; Drax (Dave Bautista) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) stay behind on Knowhere; and Rocket becomes the leader of the Guardians.
The future of the Guardians seems to hang in the balance. That is, until we reach the post-credits sequences (yes, there are two).
Could they offer clues about what’s next for the galaxy’s rag-tag defenders? What do they say about what’s to come? Let’s break them down and try to determine what clues they offer about future installments.
Scene 1: Meet the New Guardians
The first stinger opens on a desert-like planet with Rocket, Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Cosmo (Maria Bakalova), Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), and Phyla-Vell, one of the kids the Guardians rescued in the climax. All clad in the blue-and-red Guardians uniform, these five represent the revamped Guardians of the Galaxy. They’re on a mission, defending a small town from a group of monstrous creatures about to invade. As the monsters approach, Groot unfurls himself, looking much larger than he did during the film, which would seem to indicate that this new group has been around for a while.
The inclusion of Phyla-Vell is a nod towards the landmark 2008 Guardians comic book run by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with art by Paul Pelletier, Brad Walker, and Wes Craig, which Gunn has cited one of his inspirations. Phyla-Vell is one of several characters to hold the Captain Marvel mantle, but it would seem that she’s on a different path for the MCU. This version of Vell is the character of Moondragon but with a different name. In the comics, Moondragon is a telepath with a shaved head, just as Vell appears here.
Gunn has said before that, “The story of this group ends with Vol. 3,” and true to his word, that did happen—and this new group would serve as the foundation for new Guardians tales moving forward, should Marvel decide to continue the series. Yet with these movies being so singularly defined by Gunn’s particular voice, trying to replicate it feels like a tall task, if not a fool-hardy endeavor.