The James Gunn era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming to a close and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the swan song.
After several years on the bench of the MCU bench, the Guardians of the Galaxy have made a comeback this year after joining the God of Thunder for Thor: Love and Thunder before starring Disney+'s fun and heartfelt Holiday Special.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special marked the sixth MCU appearance of the integalactic team across eight years; but alas, all good things must come to an end as their story will come to an "emotional" end in May 2023 with Vol. 3.
James Gunn shocked the world in 2014 with Guardians of the Galaxy, prompting audiences to care deeply for a talking raccoon and a henchman tree alien who have since become household names. Now, the final story for this team of Guardians is right around the corner, and fans are preparing their tissues for tears.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3's Main Cast Members
1.) Chris Pratt - Star-Lord
The face of the franchise returns with Chris Pratt reprising his leading role as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord.
Even after The Holiday Special, Quill certainly still needs some cheering up in Gamora's absence, although his musical fun with Kevin Bacon and discovering Mantis to be his secret sister will have certainly helped.
With this being reported to be the last time fans see THIS Guardians team together, Peter Quill is a contender to receive one of those patented emotional James Gunn deaths.
2.) Zoe Saldaña - Gamora
Zoe Saldaña is set to have a busy few months between Avatar: The Way Of Water and The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 releasing roughly 5 months apart.
After her surprisingly pivotal role in Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame, Gamora has become the most intriguing character on this list. This Variant of Gamora does not have the experiences of her past self, having never properly met the Guardians and formed her close familial bond with the team.
That means no relationship with Peter Quill and no mended sister relationship with Nebula (other than the abridged version seen in Endgame).
For all intents and purposes, this is a fresh slate for one of the Guardians' most important characters. But when that relationship is inevitably rebuilt - especially with Quill - expect plenty of tears of happiness.
3.) Bradley Cooper - Rocket
Bradley Cooper brings his vocal talents back for Vol. 3 as Rocket Racoon, taking on his most important role yet. Rocket has been through a lot in his MCU career going from bounty hunter to Guardian of the Galaxy to Avenger.
Rocket is a favorite to be a major focus of this movie. His backstory has only been teased and the inclusion of The High Evolutionary points to that being fleshed out, especially after the trailer featured an adorable Baby Rocket.
Rocket is also the leading candidate for the "logo theory" of Guardians of the Galaxy as his fur and suit mirror the colors of the logo. In the past, characters that resemble the color scheme of the logos in these movies have suffered emotional deaths in the third act - Groot in Vol. 1 and Yondu in Vol. 2.
4.) Dave Bautista - Drax
Dave Bautista is back as Drax and is another Guardian whose backstory has been teased, but never fully explored.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special finally gave Drax the spotlight in a festive adventure with Mantis. Hopefully their dynamic will only continue to thrive in Vol. 3 just as it did in the Disney+ special, especially as his story comes to an end.
5.) Pom Klementieff - Mantis
The only member of the team to not be included in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 is Pom Klementieff's Mantis.
The ultimate partner of dry humor and lack of awareness for Drax, Mantis has been another incredible comedic asset for James Gunn to use. In classic MCU fashion, the funniest characters are not telling jokes. They are just being who they are. Mantis is a great example of that.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special gave Klementieff more opportunity than ever to roll with that as her and Drax went on a Kevin Bacon extraction mission to Earth, all in the name of Christmas joy. With Mantis confirmed as Peter Quill's sister, expect her to spend plenty more time with Pratt's MCU hero in Vol. 3.
6.) Vin Diesel - Groot
The sweet prince of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is back and bigger than ever. Vin Diesel returns as Groot in his final Swole form. After the traumatic death of Groot the First in Guardians Vol. 1, Groot the Second has been a face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at every turn.
Baby Groot, teenage Groot, and now Swole Groot is the closest thing the MCU will get to Pokémon and fans are here for it. Despite saying no more than 4 words in his MCU tenure, Groot is set up for ANOTHER scene-stealing role in Volume 3.
7.) Karen Gillan - Nebula
One of the most interesting characters in the MCU, Karen Gillan's Nebula has had one of the most intriguing arcs of anyone on this list.
Starting as a henchwoman heel in Vol. 1, evolving to a reluctant member of the team in Vol. 2, and a cornerstone piece of Infinity War and Endgame as she becomes an Avenger.
Gillan has teased that Nebula's time spent with Tony Stark, The Avengers, and James Rhodes has lightened up her stern and stubborn personality - as was known by her hilarious Christmas gift to Rocket.
8.) Sean Gunn - Kraglin
The mocap king is back in his second role in the MCU, Ravager leader Kraglin.
Brother of the director James Gunn, Sean Gunn pulls double duty for every Guardians property as Kraglin and the mocap actor for Rocket Racoon. Despite being mostly a supporting character for Quill and Yondu, Kraglin has had some surprisingly emotional moments in the franchise.
With the red fin atop his head, fans are waiting to see if Kraglin has improved his arrow whistling skills to bring back one of the best weapons in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
9.) Will Poulter - Adam Warlock
One of the last post-credit scenes from The Infinity Saga yet to be addressed, Will Poulter will make his debut as Adam Warlock - and the debut Vol. 3 trailer revealed his stunning MCU design.
Poulter is most known for his norratic and comedic role in We Are The Millers. After a Micky Mouse workout and a classic Hollywood glow-up, Poulter has now been cast as what many in the Marvel Universe refer to as the perfect specimen.
There are so many threads leading to this character that could be addressed. He is a product of Sovereign, created to beat the Guardians, and there is an eerie similarity between his brief post-credit introduction and the creation of The Eternals. So, keep an eye out for that.
10.) Chukwudi Iwuji - The High Evolutionary
Based on the comics, the High Evolutionary will be responsible for cruel and unusual testing on beings across the universe, with Rocket Racoon being among those. This is another reason Rocket is the favorite to be the center of the plot along with Quill's search for Gamora.
Words that have been thrown around with this character have been "sociopathic" "narcissistic" and "very charming". This is the type of character that James Gunn can get in his bag with and Iwuji is the perfect vehicle for this character.
11.) Maria Bakalova - Cosmo
After a brief appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy, Cosmo the Spacedog made her MCU speaking debut in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special before another presumably taking a bigger role in Vol. 3.
Maria Bakalova is voicing the golden retriever/Russian astronaut and will surely be a plot pairing with Rocket Racoon. Look for Cosmo to provide further exploration with The High Evolutionary and to become a fan-favorite after the movie's release.
Although the voice actor behind the character has yet to be revealed, Rocket's otter love interest Lylla appeared in the debut trailer for Vol. 3, confirming her role in the MCU threequel - presumably as another creation of the High Evolutionary.
There have been some rumors that Lady Gaga will be the one to bring Lylla to life, reuniting her with Rocket actor Bradley Cooper for their first project together since A Star Is Born.
13.) Elizabeth Debicki - Ayesha
Elizabeth Debicki returns in her role from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Sovereign leader, Ayesha.
Ayesha will likely provide the introduction to Adam Warlock and give audiences a sense of stakes with this character. Another impact supporting character in the MCU that fans will be excited to see again, Ayesha's presence in this movie is welcomed.
14.) Sylvester Stallone - Stakar
One of the biggest names in Hollywood history made a brief debut in Volume 2 and is expected for a larger role in Volume 3. Sylvester Stallone returns as original Ravager Stakar.
Stakar's role will pace how much the Ravagers play a part in Volume 3. After the death of Yondu, it seemed like the Ravager's role in the plot had come to a close but keep an eye out for Sly to keep the space pirates relevant.
15.) Michael Rosenbaum - Martinex
One of the legends of modern-day live-action comic book projects, Micahel Rosenbaum is set to return as cameo character Martinex, another original Ravager.
He will likely remain by the side of Stakar and be a supporting piece to whatever his storyline may entail.
16.) Daniela Melchior
After collaborating with James Gunn on The Suicide Squad, Daniela Melchior will be making her MCU debut in Vol. 3, fitting right in with the director's famous theme of working with close friends.
The Ratcatcher II actor is appearing in an unknown role that has only been confirmed not to be Moondragon. Many speculated she give the voice to Lylla, but a shot of her in prosthetic makeup points to a live-action role.
17.) Nico Santos
Crazy Rich Asians and Superstore star Nico Santos will also be making his franchise debut in an as-yet-unknown role - although his background certainly points toward him playing a comedic role.
James Gunn recently married longtime coworker and friend Jennifer Holland who plays Agent Emilia Harcourt in The Suicide Squad, Peacemaker, and Black Adam.
It is unknown if Holland will appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but she has been seen across the set. So, is this simply a loving wife visiting her husband at work, or could this be another cameo set to send fans into a frenzy?
Michael Rooker - Yondu
James Gunn has been a leader of the "death needs to mean something" movement, specifically in the MCU, especially when it comes to Yondu.
If Michael Rooker was going to dawn the blue skin one more time, it would likely take place in a flashback from Peter Quill, Kraglin, or Stakar. The actor did suit up for rotoscoping animation shots for the festive rewinds to Quill's childhood in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, so nothing is off the table.
Kumail Nanjiani - Kingo
Despite his reported role in Vol. 3, Kumail Nanjiani's Kingo has been debunked to appear in this cosmic adventure. Even after he was referenced several times through movie posters in the recent Disney+ Holiday Special.
Chris Hemsworth - Thor
After a short-lived time together in Thor: Love & Thunder, it seems the Asgardians of the Galaxy have come to an end for good in the MCU. Gunn recently confirmed that despite the Guardians' role in the God of Thunder's fourth solo outing, Thor will not appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Harry Styles - Eros
Gunn was quick to shut down rumors that Harry Styles' Eros, aka Starfox, who was introduced in Eternals, will be appearing in his cosmic adventure, abruptly saying: "Starfox doesn’t pop up.”
A Guardians Encore
"We'll all fly away together... One last time."
All signs point to Vol. 3 being the last dance for one of the most influential and impactful franchises in comic book movie history. James Gunn and his cast of Guardians have changed what these movies can be and they are sure to make one last impact before Gunn moves to the blue brand for good.
Who will survive? Who will continue their MCU journey? And who will unexpectedly steal the hearts of the world the way only a James Gunn character can do?
Find out May 5, 2023, when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits theaters.