The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already had its fair share of “end of era” stories so far, dating back to Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the latest of these, and several cast members have already declared it will be the final MCU film they do. Writer-director James Gunn has already taken over as boss at DC Studios, meaning he, in all likelihood, is also done with Marvel for the foreseeable future.
So, yeah, after three of their own movies, two Avengers movies, a Thor movie, and a holiday special, this is the end of the road for this specific Guardians of the Galaxy roster. The group itself will continue to exist one way or another, however, and it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see a new iteration of the group pop up down the road.
Like so many other MCU movies lately, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is pretty well self-contained–this story is concerned only with the past and present of the Guardians themselves, and makes no mention of any MCU stories they weren’t directly involved with. But it’s still a Marvel movie, and that means that there are bonus scenes after the end credits start to roll that may or may not tease some upcoming thing.
Warning: the rest of this article contains spoilers for the ending of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, as well as the mid-credits and post-credits scenes.
As you might expect from a “one last ride” kind of movie like this, it’s got a rather lengthy, Lord of the Rings-esque ending. As the High Evolutionary orders the destruction of his Counter-Earth, the Guardians fight back and assault his space ship/laboratory. During this epic final battle Rocket defeats the evil High Evolutionary, who had turned him into what he is all those years before.
The Guardians, along with the people of Knowhere, then manage to very dramatically rescue all the captives on his ship, from the horde of grey-haired children all the way down to the new batch of baby raccoons. And then it’s party time.
Each of the Guardians who aren’t staying with the group–which is every character who isn’t CGI–gets their own little denouement. Gamora returns to the Ravagers, finally on decent terms with Peter. Drax and Nebula are going to take care of all those grey-haired kids. Mantis is heading off on her own adventures with her new tentacle monster friends who had been held in the belly of the High Evolutionary’s ship.
And Peter returns to Earth and pays a visit to his grandfather, who he hasn’t seen since the night he was abducted by the Ravagers in the 1980s.
As for the remaining heroes: their ending comes later, during the credits.
Guardians of the Galaxy mid-credits scene explained: the new squad?
The first bonus scene, which comes a couple minutes into the end credits, catches us up with several characters who are hanging out together outside some town on some new alien planet. We’ve got Rocket, Groot, Adam Warlock, Kraglin, Cosmo the Spacedog, and the main little grey-haired girl from that group of kids the Guardians rescued at the end of the movie. They’re talking about Earth music they like–that little girl is into Britney Spears and Korn.
Also: they’re all wearing the Guardians of the Galaxy uniforms, and they’re ready to fight a large horde of some kind of space animals that are about to stampede into town. The girl asks Rocket if he feels bad for having to fight these animals who aren’t acting with malice. Rocket, as practical as ever, points out that the town doesn’t have anybody else to fight for them. It is what it is, Rocket pretty much is saying here.
This doesn’t feel like the sort of cast that Marvel would make new standalone movies for–the star power among the three live-action actors here (Will Poulter, Sean Gunn and a child in her first high-profile role ever) is basically zero. At the same time, Adam Warlock is a hugely significant character in the comics–a character that Marvel is not likely to introduce and then immediately abandon. Likewise, this movie firmly established Rocket as one of the smartest individuals in the entire MCU–it was he, not the High Evolutionary, who actually perfected that fast-evolution tech. So we’re talking, like, one of the top 10 smartest people in the universe. Maybe the smartest. And it would be a shame if we don’t get to see him flex that big brain some more.
Which brings us to the subject of Rocket’s best friend, and the post-credits scene.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 post-credits scene explained: the legendary Star-Lord
At the very end of the movie, Peter Quill makes a well-overdue visit to his grandpa back on Earth. The post-credits scene catches up with Peter and Grandpa Quill some time after their tearful reunion during a more mundane moment: breakfast.
It’s a funny and cute scene without any story–they’re talking about house chores, and Peter thinks it would be just a bit silly to make him mow the lawn. But the biggest revelation comes from the title card at the end of the scene, after the film has faded to black for the final time.
The card reads: The legendary Star-Lord will return.
So while Gamora, Nebula, Mantis and Drax may be out of the picture for the foreseeable future, Peter isn’t. Does that make a fourth Guardians of the Galaxy movie more likely? Of course. But it’s more likely that the new Guardians and Peter will be MCU floaters instead, popping up in other characters’ movies and in big crossovers. With Secret Invasion and The Marvels coming up later this year to set up more long-term outer space story arcs, there should be plenty of room for Peter and Rocket and the rest to continue taking part in the franchise.