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James Gunn teases the surprising protagonist of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Published Dec 18th, 2022 9:02AM EST
Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 trailer 1.
Image: Marvel Studios

Out in theaters on May 5th, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is one of the most anticipated MCU Phase 5 movies. Like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Guardians Vol. 3 is a threequel, meaning that Marvel wants the story to be a high-stakes adventure, both for the Guardians franchise, the protagonists in the movie, and the larger MCU story.

Writer/director James Gunn often makes that point very clear in interviews. He teased that Guardians Vol. 3 will be very emotional and unlike the previous two. That prompted speculation that some characters might die along the way, with rumors saying that Marvel shot various death scenes to prevent spoilers. The purported deaths have started leaking, however.

But the director hasn’t offered any significant details about the Guardians Vol. 3 plot in interviews. That is, until now. The director spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the final installment in the Guardians saga, hinting the real hero might not be the character you expect. If you hate Marvel spoilers, this is the time to look away.

Expect heartbreaking high stakes for the third movie

The Guardians movies are about a team of misfits who banded together to become superheroes. That’s to say, all of the Guardians are the protagonists of these movies. And the films have a fantastic ensemble cast that only reinforces that idea.

But in practice, you wouldn’t be wrong to say that much of the focus has been on Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana). The Guardians Holiday Special spurns that by turning Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) into the main characters, with a big focus on the latter.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 official trailer.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 official trailer. Image source: Marvel Studios

We already expect Quill and Gamora to be the stars of Guardians Vol. 3, especially considering how we left them in Endgame. As a reminder, the MCU’s main Gamora died in Infinity War. In Endgame, a variant from a different reality dropped into the MCU’s main timeline and stayed there.

But this Gamora doesn’t love Quill, and that has been a massive problem for the Guardians’ leader.

Gunn told EW he has big plans for Vol. 3, looking to turn it into a great ending to the saga and avoid the curse of threequels.

“This is the big one,” Gunn said. “This is where things really happen.” He continued teasing that the third movie will let us “know the truth about who these characters are, and we face the biggest stakes.” And up until now, this resonates with Gunn’s previous remarks about the movie.

The Guardians Vol. 3’s protagonist will surprise you

But Gunn provided more specifics about one Guardians member: Rocket (Bradley Cooper).

Rocket (Bradley Cooper) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 trailer 1.
Rocket (Bradley Cooper) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 trailer 1. Image source: Marvel Studios

“One of the reasons why I came back to [make] this movie was because I felt like I needed to tell Rocket’s story,” Gunn said. “I would’ve been very sad not to complete the trilogy for many reasons, but I just feel very connected to Rocket. I feel like nobody would be able to tell his full story if it wasn’t me.”

“To me, Rocket has always been the secret protagonist of the Guardians movies,” Gunn continues.” From the beginning, it has been rooted in who he is as a character. I think he exemplifies a lot of the traits of all the Guardians. They’ve had all these traumas, and it brings them together. I just think that his is more extreme than others.”

We already know that Rocket’s creator, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), is in the movie. We saw the villain in the first trailer. And Gunn will tell us how and why he made Rocket.

High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 trailer 1.
High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 trailer 1. Image source: Marvel Studios

“He was just fine being an animal, and he was transformed into something else he didn’t want to be,” Gunn explains. “I think that transformation itself was extremely painful, but I also think it made him feel incredibly alienated from everyone else. In [Guardians] Vol. 3, we learn a lot about his past — where he came from, who he is, and what he’s been through. It’s been a difficult road for the little animal.”

But we’ll have to wait for Guardians Vol. 3 in theaters to see precisely what Gunn has in store for Rocket & Co.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.