While Marvel Studios has its fair share of new heroes that will carry its next era of Earth-based stories, the galactic side of the MCU will mostly feature regulars carrying over from the Infinity Saga. This is particularly the case with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is led by director James Gunn and features the entire core team of "a-holes" from Phases 2 and 3.
Tied closely to the Guardians through their movies was the Mad Titan Thanos, who made his mark as the primary villain of the MCU's first 22 movies through 2019. After taking both Zoe Saldana's Gamora and Karen Gillan's Nebula as children, his impact will surely continue to be felt in Phase 4 after his demise in Avengers: Endgame.
Although Gamora's future is still a mystery, Nebula's freedom from the villain sometimes known as Grimace will play an important role in her story going forward.
KAREN GILLAN ON THANOS' INFLUENCE
MCU star Karen Gillan spoke with Collider about her future in the MCU as Nebula, specifically after the death of Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.
Gillan described Nebula as being in "a really interesting place" with Thanos being not only her father but also "her abuser essentially, the person that made her life a living hell." Even though there's the obvious "sense of relief" and the "catharsis" behind this death, Gillan also explained that there's "a sense of loss to a father figure" through a "complicated" relationship:
“I think we left Nebula in a really interesting place where she experienced the death of her father, but also of her abuser essentially, the person that made her life a living hell. And so those feelings are really conflicting. I think for her, she’s feeling a sense of relief, the catharsis of it all, but she’s also probably feeling a sense of loss to a father figured because these relationships can be really, really complicated where even though they’re treating you so badly, you can still be desperate for approval and love from that type of figure in your life. And so for her, I think it’s both.”
A HAUNTING, ABUSIVE PAST
Thanos' influence on Gamora and Nebula was blatantly clear even in movies that didn't feature a full appearance by the purple villain, especially with Nebula describing the torture she went through in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. While her intent to kill her adoptive father was there from the beginning, fans gained a deeper understanding of her reasoning through her four MCU movies to date.
The troubled alien hero endured intense trauma in Avengers: Endgame having to kill the past version of herself before helping the Avengers defeat Thanos, finally freeing herself from his grasp.
Now that she's off on a new adventure with the Guardians that starts in Thor: Love and Thunder, she has the opportunity to build something for herself for the first time in her life. While she will certainly be out to find her sister's 2014 "Variant," the next couple of years in real-time will be something special for Nebula's continuing story on-screen.
Karen Gillan will make her next MCU appearance in Thor: Love and Thunder, which premieres in theaters on May 6, 2022.