Guardians 3 Theory Reveals James Gunn’s Secret Message to Marvel Studios
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 could be even more personal than we thought.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was always going to be personal. After all, the trilogy-capper closes a door that writer-director James Gunn first kicked open nine years ago.
It’s a fitting send-off for the once-obscure characters that have since become rock stars in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. It’s also Gunn’s very last Marvel film, which means the Guardians aren’t the only ones saying goodbye. Perhaps more than any of the previous Guardians films, Vol. 3 feels the most like an extension of Gunn. At the very least, it’s a metaphor for his relationship with Marvel — and a new theory has laid out just how true that is.
Andrew Schulz and Lenard McKelvey (aka Charlamagne tha God) recently discussed Vol. 3 on The Brilliant Idiots podcast. In a now-viral clip, Schulz points out the parallels between Gunn and Disney and two characters in the film: Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his maker, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). The High Evolutionary fancies himself a god. He aims to create a race of sentient, anthropomorphized animals that will live in a utopia of his own making. But it’s impossible for him to create life from scratch, so he resorts to gruesome experiments until he can crack the tricky code of evolution.
It’s through these experiments that Rocket is created. Rocket is meant to be a disposable stepping stone to perfection, but he manages to surpass his creator, fixing an experiment the High Evolutionary was struggling with. In response, the High Evolutionary decides to dispose of Rocket and study his brain.
Of course, Rocket escapes and goes on to join the Guardians of the Galaxy, a group that values him exactly as he is. But the High Evolutionary later comes looking for Rocket, as he can’t create the perfect society without Rocket’s out-of-the-box intellect. All those years later, he’s still obsessed with the one thing he created that managed to surpass him.
That’s the premise of Guardians 3, but it could also double as a metaphor for James Gunn’s time spent working for Disney.
Gunn wasn’t exactly created by Marvel, but the studio definitely unlocked his potential as a brilliant comic book movie director. Guardians of the Galaxy helped usher in a new era for the MCU in turn. For a time, Gunn and the Guardians were the cornerstones of a yet-undeveloped corner of the universe: the space-focused cosmic films. The Marvel movies that followed — like Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok — weren’t subtle in their appropriation of Guardians’ splashy, irreverent style.
“That is the new version of how you make a Marvel movie,” Schulz explains.
It helped that Gunn was also shaping the Cosmic Universe behind the scenes. Back in 2017, he claimed that Vol. 3 would “set up the next 10 to 20 years of Marvel movies.” But when Gunn was fired in 2018 after a series of offensive tweets resurfaced online, his partnership with Marvel Studios was cut short.
Marvel would rehire Gunn just a year later, and though he returned to wrap up the Guardians trilogy, the damage had been done. Perhaps Marvel believed it could recreate the magic of the Guardians films without Gunn’s input. With Thor: Love and Thunder — which even featured Gunn’s Guardians in cameo — the studio certainly tried. But it also proved the exact point that Gunn makes in Vol. 3.
In firing Gunn, Marvel threw away its secret weapon — and gave its biggest competitor the perfect opportunity to steal it. Now Gunn is the creative co-chair of DC Studios. He’s the captain of a new team, just as Rocket is at the end of Vol. 3.
“[The High Evolutionary] does everything he possibly can to get him back [and force him] to create,” Schulz continued. “And ultimately [Rocket] goes ‘F*ck you. I don’t need you. I’ll go somewhere else.’ And where is that? DC.”
Marvel and Disney didn’t understand Gunn’s importance until it was too late, which became the thesis for Vol. 3. The film is an open wound, one thrumming with resentment toward faceless corporations that trample over the individual. There’s a slim chance that Disney has actually learned its lesson, but at least the Guardians saga ended on Gunn’s terms.