Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has been playing in theaters since May 5th, and the final installment in the Guardians saga is already a huge success. The film got great reviews, making over $821 million at the box office to date. It might still have a chance to hit $1 billion, which would be an amazing end for the franchise. Guardians Vol. 1 topped $773 million, and Vol. 2 ended its run at over $863 million.
But I’ve realized something I wasn’t expecting for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. We’ve stopped discussing the film, and I think that’s a bad thing for an MCU movie.
Some Guardians Vol. 3 spoilers will follow below.
Standalone superhero stories are great
MCU superhero movies should be amazing standalone movies that anyone could watch without having to sit through the dozens of projects that came before. That should be Marvel’s top concern.
But since they’re MCU movies, they should also deliver the expectations of fans who appreciate the growing universe (multiverse?) of stories. They should feature Easter eggs and connections to past and future adventures. And they need to deliver plot developments for the larger story.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a great standalone movie. You don’t have to watch any other MCU project to have a great time in theaters. You don’t even need to see the previous two Guardians films.
But it fails to deliver any meaningful connections to the rest of the MCU. Sure, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) will be back. And the Guardians remain active under Rocket (Bradley Cooper). But we’ve already discussed all the amazing implications from Guardians Vol. 3. And there’s really no big connection to the rest of the MCU.
In turn, this essentially grinds discussion around the movie to a halt. And that’s what’s currently happening with the sequel. We hardly talk about it because there’s nothing left to discuss. I’ve hardly thought about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 since seeing it when it was first released. In turn, that could prevent the film from reaching that $1 billion milestone.
I will point out the obvious. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has massive competition in theaters right now. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and The Flash came out in the past few weeks. The former is part of the larger MCU multiverse, and the action in it has huge implications for the MCU. I could talk about Spider-Verse 2 all day.
The MCU doesn’t work without strong connections between movies
Competition is getting stronger. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse might teach Sony to tell better SSU stories. And James Gunn has moved to the DCEU now that his Guardians tenure is complete. The DCEU should get a lot more interesting.
What I’m getting at is that Marvel should have in mind the post-movie experience. Fans discussing a project well after its premiere will drive up MCU hype and interest.
Again, MCU movies should be standalone stories that can work without Infinity War and Endgame-like events. That’s not the life of a superhero. Other more “boring” ways to save people occur while on the job. This is exactly what we get in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
But let’s remember that the Guardians franchise is only possible because of the MCU. Marvel’s interconnected universe was already a thing when Vol. 1 arrived. And even then, the film was considered a risk for the studio. But MCU fans flocked to theaters to watch it. And it so happens that Vol. 1 had plenty of connections to the larger Infinity Saga. It even introduced us to Thanos.
Whereas Guardians Vol. 3 does very little to explore connections to the MCU past or future. And while I’m happy to watch the everyday adventures of Marvel’s superheroes that don’t involve saving the entire universe/multiverse, they’re less fun if they lack the connective tissue that ties them to the MCU. And the MCU is the main reason I keep watching everything Marvel puts out. Even the not-so-great stuff.
Put differently, I have no immediate reason to rewatch Guardians Vol. 3. And I don’t think it’ll make the list of pivotal MCU pictures you need to rewatch before the next massive Avengers crossover.