Is This Really the Last We’ll See of the Guardians of the Galaxy?

Breaking down what the mid- and post-credits scenes tell us about the Guardians, Groot, and the next generation. Photo: Jessica Miglio/Marvel

Whether you think Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 holds up to its predecessor, one of the ways it’s a step down is its positively normal number of post-credit scenes. Where Vol. 2 featured a grand total of five, James Gunn’s latest exhibits the self-control of a regular Marvel movie by showcasing a mere two — the standard for nearly every Marvel Cinematic Universe entry since The Avengers in 2012. Let’s get into the scenes and how they set up the Guardians’ future in the MCU.

Spoilers to follow.

At the end of the movie — which will likely be Gunn’s Marvel swan song before he starts captaining the DC extended universe full time — the original band of Guardians breaks up amicably and sets off in mostly different directions. Star Lord/Peter Quill heads back to Earth (more on him in a moment); his empath half-sister, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), embarks on a journey of self-discovery alongside her three new battery-devouring pals, the interdimensional Abilisks. A time-displaced Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) rejoins her Ravager family, and Drax (Dave Bautista) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) remain at the space-port Knowhere to look after the many children and animals freed from the villainous High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).

While this appears to be the end of the road for the first version of the Guardians, the mid-credits scene teases a fun new lineup à la the comics. Rocket (Bradley Cooper), now finally going by his comics moniker Rocket Raccoon, can be seen sitting by a pile of rocks on a dusty alien planet alongside former Ravager Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and Soviet space dog Cosmo (Maria Bakalova), who were introduced as Guardians in the team’s recent Christmas special. Also present are a reformed Adam aka the Warlock (Will Poulter), alongside Blurp, the fluffy alien pet he adopted from the Ravagers, and one of the Sia-resembling child experiments who escaped the Evolutionary’s clutches. There’s been speculation online that the latter is a version of Phyla-Vell, a Captain Marvel from another timeline and an eventual Guardian, but there’s nothing in the film to actually indicate this. Sorry, comic faithfuls!

In any case, this group is wearing the Guardians’ now-standard blue leather uniforms with red accents, thus cementing them definitively as the new core team rather than some new faction altogether. An orange-skinned alien species cowers in terror nearby as something arrives over the horizon, and the Guardians discuss their favorite Earth pop songs from decades past, owing to an updated, 2000s music-equipped MP3 player Quill handed to Rocket during the movie.

As a stampede of giant feline aliens approaches, the Guardians shake off the cobwebs and stride casually in slow-motion to protect their new orange friends. The song they choose to score this encounter is the 1974 Redbone track “Come and Get Your Love,” the same one Quill listens to during the first Guardians movie’s memorable title reveal. It’s a wonderful little throwback, but it’s only the second biggest surprise of this mid-credits sequence. The actual biggest — literally — is that one of the boulders next to the Guardians is in fact Groot (Vin Diesel), who stands up to reveal his new, gigantic height of some 30 feet, comparable to King Groot in the comics. The scene cuts off before the heroes dive into the action, but it’s a hint of the fun adventures and familiar needle drops ahead for them.

The second scene, which appears after the credits, is far more low-key. Quill, having now settled into Earth life, eats breakfast with his grandfather and middle-namesake, Jason (Gregg Lee Henry), at the kitchen table. Grandpa Quill can be seen reading a newspaper story about Kevin Bacon’s alien abduction, a reference to the aforementioned Christmas special. They discuss helping the old woman across the street mow her lawn, while also indulging in some neighborhood gossip about her lazy middle-aged son. It’s wry and mundane, the way Quill’s break from Guardian-ing should be. But then comes a title card in an alien font on a white background: “The Legendary Star-Lord Will Return.”

It’s a shame the now-customary teaser message borrowed from 007 doesn’t mention any of the other Guardians. But if Vol. 3 ends up a box-office success, it’s not hard to imagine that Marvel might want to bring most of them back in some form. After all, Gamora died in Avengers: Endgame and technically so did Rocket in this film, not to mention we saw Quill’s third consecutive space-suffocation fake out. Those characters are all still alive and well — or, at least, certain versions of them are. So if nothing else, these mid- and post-credit scenes reassure us that the Guardians and their brand are going strong, and they’ll probably be back again, whether or not their stories demand further telling.

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Is Vol. 3 Really the Last We’ll See of the Guardians?