Last month director James Gunn was fired by Disney over some offensive tweets from roughly ten years ago. Gunn’s firing has brought on tons of commentary on what should and shouldn’t be considered fireable, whether Disney was right to fire him, and who from the Marvel team supports Gunn. We could get into all that, but it’s all speculation. There’s only one thing that we know as of now: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will not be directed by James Gunn. He had just finished the first draft of the script, which may also be rewritten depending on the direction Disney and Marvel decide to go.
There’s only two options for the final film in the Guardians trilogy at this point: either Disney brings in a new director or they rehire Gunn. No matter what, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 will never be the film it could have been. Gunn has commanded the Guardians franchise in a way that hasn’t been seen much in the world of cinematic universes – especially Marvel. For most franchises, each entry has a new director and new group of crew members behind each film. There are very few times where we even see the composer come back for a sequel. The Russo brothers and Gunn were the successful exceptions for Marvel, with each staying on for multiple films and bringing their teams along with them. Yes, Joss Whedon did the first two Avengers films, but he had a lot of input from Marvel on Age of Ultron, and it caused him to take a big hiatus from work. Jon Favreau came back for Iron Man 2, but that film was also torn apart by obvious requirements from Marvel (Re: Black Widow, Fury, Shield). Guardians of the Galaxy has been the only franchise within the MCU that has been successful on every level, has had little push from Marvel to interweave the larger MCU, and was guided by a singular voice.
If Marvel hires a new director, the film is not going to be the same. It may still be a fantastic movie, and depending on who they hire, there’s a chance that the film will stand on its own and close out the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy the right way. But that’s going to be incredibly difficult. It’s going to be harder for a director, who is coming in to very publicly replace Gunn, to fight against Marvel on decisions for the film. There’s also the chance that what the director sees, what the actors see, and what Marvel sees for the characters will all be completely different, which could create further turmoil. We’ve seen in recent years how horrible replacing a director on a big picture can go. Justice League was a mess, and maybe Zack Snyder’s original film would have been better – but we’ll never know. Solo was incredibly weak—fun, but weak— and we’ll never know what Chris Miller and Phil Lord could have given us. Guardians has the benefit of not having begun filming yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely in the clear. After two successful films, having a new director come on board may lead to similar issues.
The biggest problem, though, is that even if Gunn were to be rehired (which is incredibly unlikely), it still won’t be the same. Anything he may have to fight for within the film, Disney isn’t going to give into. Every moment on the film is going to be filled with stress; every day Gunn will feel like Atlas holding the world on his shoulders. Directing can already feel like that as you’re trying to piece everything together, but knowing that Disney is keeping a close eye on you, waiting for you to fail, go over budget, or do anything they can fire you for without issue – that would drive anyone insane. And that’s not the type of filmmaking that should be happening here. One thing that’s been clear from Gunn and the rest of the cast and crew of these films over the past 5 years or so is that these films are a labor of love; they make these films from a place of understanding. The messages of redemption and family in these films are important to them. If you’ve followed Gunn at all on social media the past few years, you can see that these films are his babies. He has put his blood, sweat, and tears into these films. Because the first film was so successful, Marvel let him do what he wanted with the second film. That would have been true for Vol. 3 as well, but now that’s incredibly unlikely if he comes back.
Look at it like this: our parents have been fighting for months. We love them, but we know this isn’t healthy. Mom kicks Dad out, and we beg her to bring him back. She’s thinking about it for us, but there’s going to be so much tension between them that it’s not going to be a healthy environment for anyone involved. Do we keep pushing or do we live with this? Maybe we’ll get a cool step parent whom we enjoy. For now, I think we’re gonna get that stepparent. We’ll probably spend years wondering what could have been, but maybe Marvel can hire a female director – or someone who isn’t just another white guy. Then at least it will mean something more.
We’ll see how this all plays out over the next few months. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is slated for release in early 2020. There’s sure to be some news concerning a new director or Gunn’s rehiring in the coming months, but for now, this is all fresh and just kinda sucks.