How Marvel Can Explore Its Universe Without 'Guardians of the Galaxy 3'

There are still more for characters related to the property to do, even if it's not in a third film.
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

It remains unclear exactly what Marvel Studios is planning to do with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Since writer-director James Gunn was fired by Disney this summer, the next installment in the space superhero series has seemingly run aground, with it being put on hold in August and a new rumor based on an issue of Production Weekly suggesting that production won't begin for several years. 

It's easy to see why Marvel might want to leave a third Guardians movie alone for a while; the series has been so identified with Gunn that any future installment will raise the specter of his dismissal and resurrect discussion over whether or not the studio made the right decision in dismissing him over years-old posts on social media. The idea of simply abandoning the series altogether has almost certainly been discussed, although likely swiftly discarded considering how successful earlier installments have been and how beloved the characters are. But what if there was some way for Marvel to continue the movie series without all the baggage of the Guardians brand?

By the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, there were multiple narrative threads left to play out — but none of them, curiously enough, necessitated a third Guardians movie, especially considering the existence of Avengers: Infinity War, which ties up the stories of Nebula, Gamora and Drax. (Star-Lord, for the most part, had his narrative wrapped up by Vol. 2, and there are no real dangling threads for either Rocket or Groot, by design.) Instead, the movie seems primed to produce a number of spinoffs, should Marvel want to pursue them.

The most obvious two spinoffs would be a Ravagers movie, featuring Sylvester Stallone's Stakar Ogord, who was reunited with his former teammates in a mid-credit sequence — former teammates who just so happened to be versions of the original comic book Guardians — and an Adam Warlock movie, centering around the being inside the cocoon glimpsed in another of the movie's mid-credit sequences. Not only would either project ostensibly be a sequel to Guardians Vol. 2, closing the narrative loop set up in that movie and having appeal to fans of the franchise for that reason, but both center around characters and concepts familiar to the Marvel comic book faithful.

Similarly set up in existing movies, but left unexplored, is the Nova Corps. The police force of outer space, as introduced in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, was decimated, according to Avengers: Infinity War — but that just creates a structure for the organization to be rebuilt in future movies, with an all-new cast assembled to do so. (Perhaps including Richard Rider, the first Nova of the comics.)

Following Marvel comic book mythology, there are also a couple of replacement superhero teams in the offing should Marvel Studios want to replace the Guardians outright. The Infinity Watch was a group of intergalactic heroes — including Drax and Gamora, notably — where each had one Infinity Stone to keep track of, to ensure that no one like Thanos could abuse the infinite power again; it's an idea that seems natural after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, and an obvious direction to take the space opera element of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If it's not already under consideration, it should be.

Alternatively, there's also the unfortunately named "Annihilators," a group of more powerful alien heroes gathered when the Guardians were presumed dead, with the view of being a more proactive force out to stop trouble before it gets too dangerous in the first place. The various members of that group haven't shown up onscreen just yet — aside from the Silver Surfer, in the second Fox Fantastic Four movie — leaving them as a blank slate for filmmakers to build on.

Even if Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 never happens, seeds sown by the now-departed Gunn and the comic creators who came before him have ensured that there's (literally) a galaxy of potential to be mined for further exploration. If Marvel Studios wants to live up to the name of its Cinematic Universe, there's more than enough material to let them do so.