It appears that Marvel Studios isn’t keen on turning Guardians of the Galaxy 3 into another Ant-Man-like race to the finish line. A month after writer/director James Gunn was fired off the film following the unearthing of some of Gunn’s very old, very stupid tweets by an alt-right conspiracy theorist, THR reports that Marvel Studios has put Guardians of the Galaxy 3 on hold, telling the small group of crew members who were prepping for pre-production that they are now released from their contracts and free to look for work elsewhere.
Marvel is by no means scrapping Guardians 3 altogether, but this signals that the studio will be taking its time in finding the right way forward for the project. Pre-production was set to begin this fall ahead of filming beginning in either January or February, but those plans have now been scuttled. So, too, has Marvel’s targeted release date for the film, and while the studio had yet to officially set a Guardians of the Galaxy 3 release date, most assumed the film would be dropping in the May 2020 slot that Marvel has staked out for an untitled film.
While a large number of fans and, more importantly, the film’s cast had been pushing Disney to re-hire Gunn, that prospect is now firmly off the table after a meeting Gunn had with Disney president Alan Horn last month, where the Disney exec reiterated his position. There were even rumblings that even Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige was lobbying Horn to re-hire Gunn, but it’s now become clear that Guardians of the Galaxy 3 will be moving forward without the franchise’s creator at the helm.
So who will take Gunn’s place? THR notes that Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi recently had a meeting with Marvel, but it’s unknown what was discussed. It’s possible Waititi was there to talk about another Thor movie, a different Marvel movie, or simply just to discuss openly potential future projects. Right now, no one is reporting that Waititi is in line to take the helm of Guardians of the Galaxy 3, but if you absolutely have to make the best of a bad situation, Waititi would be a swell choice to step in.
Of course the other issue is which filmmakers will feel comfortable taking over the project. When Edgar Wright left Ant-Man over creative differences, it left Marvel scrambling to find a new director with a cast, filming dates, and a release date already set. Some filmmakers felt it would be unfair to Wright to take over a project he himself had created. Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is a bit of a different situation, but it’s still going to be hard for Gunn to watch someone else close out the trilogy of what was a deeply personal franchise for the filmmaker.
Earlier reports said Marvel still intends on using Gunn’s screenplay for Guardians of the Galaxy 3, but basically everything’s up in the air now that Marvel has decided to put the film on hold. It’s possible they start from scratch with a new screenwriter, it’s possible they bring someone on to polish Gunn’s script to make it more in line with the vision of the new filmmaker, or (and this is highly unlikely) it’s possible Marvel just never moves forward with Guardians 3 at all. The franchise is incredibly valuable and lucrative for Disney so that doesn’t seem like a real possibility, but speaking as a fan I’d rather see this franchise just end with Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 than see it brought to a close without Gunn.
THR says one person characterized the production halt as “temporary” and more of a “regrouping” so this thing could potentially kick back up in the next few months. Marvel is being incredibly tight-lipped about what’s next after Avengers 4 so as to maintain the integrity of Infinity War’s death-filled ending, but we know Spider-Man: Far From Home is filming right now and the Black Widow spinoff has a director, so there are a few hints here and there as to what’s next.
As for Guardians of the Galaxy 3, we know one thing for sure: The sequel isn’t being rushed to hit a targeted production start-date. Marvel and Disney are taking their time, which is probably a smart move.