Over the past week, Marvel fans have gotten something of a deep dive into the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to the newly released book entitled The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even while excitement builds steadily for Phase 4 projects like Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home, this book serves as the ultimate retrospective look at MCU history.
Paying tribute to films that were released as early as 2008's Iron Man to more recent entries like 2019's Avengers: Endgame, The Story of Marvel Studios has a little something for every level of MCU fan in the fandom.
Even included in this book are properties nobody saw coming like the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, which has turned into one of the most popular solo stories in comic book movie history. Particularly considering that 2023's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will mark the team's seventh appearance since 2014, their fame is a minor miracle after coming in as characters barely recognizable in the public eye seven years ago.
Thanks to an excerpt from the new Marvel book and a few Twitter postings from the movie's director, it's been revealed that there was even a plan to help introduce the team a little more thoroughly.
One-Shots Nearly Happened for Guardians Team
Via an excerpt from The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige revealed early plans to make Marvel One-Shots for the Guardians of the Galaxy before their 2014 solo movie.
Specifically, Feige revealed that Marvel "toured with the idea" of making individual One-Shots for Drax, Gamora, the duo of Rocket and Groot, and eventually Star-Lord as a lead-up to their first adventure. These were meant to come with the theatrical releases of 2013's Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World along with 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which were the three Marvel Studios films that preceeded James Gunn's first MCU movie.
Quill's was meant to be more mysterious, telling the story of a mysterious kid who turned into a "big space hero" before he was introduced as the leading hero in Guardians of the Galaxy. However, the studio eventually decided that it "was too much" and scrapped the idea:
“Then you’d start Guardians. And halfway through, we would reveal that big space hero is the kid from the short. We thought that would be clever, but it was too much.”
Gunn followed up this story on Twitter by confirming it to be true, even revealing that footage was shot for the short for Rocket and Groot. Some of that footage showed Rocket wielding a machine gun as Groot carried him on his back, which was used during the movie's panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2013
"I forgot about this, but this is true. Not only did we plan it, we shot footage for one of the scripts (Rocket & Groot) - part of which was the first shot of Rocket shooting a machine gun on Groot’s back that we showed at San Diego Comic Con."
The director backed up the book's story by saying there were four shorts planned, although the only one fully developed was the one on Rocket and Groot. It would have shown "the story of how they met," and Gunn even had plans to use actor Alan Tudyk in some form as well:
"There were going to be 4 - Rocket & Groot, Gamora, Drax, & Star-Lord. Only the Rocket & Groot script was fully finished, but it was also completely storyboarded. It was the story of how they met & I still think it’s true in my headcanon. Also I wrote a role for Alan Tudyk in it!
Eventually, this idea was discarded due to the sheer amount of work Gunn would have to do on it. Having to write and direct four separate shorts at the same time as he was developing the massive space epic that was Guardians of the Galaxy turned out to be too big of a task:
"We didn’t end up doing it because I realized it was ridiculous for me to be writing & directing 4 short films at the same time as I was prepping an enormous world-building movie."
Gunn continued to confirm that the first three shorts were set "to play before the 3 movies coming out" prior to Guardians of the Galaxy, which would have been Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The idea was to help familiarize fans with the new characters before they made their MCU debuts, especially not having the popularity of heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor:
"The 3 shorts were going to play before the 3 movies coming out before Guardians - which seemed like a good idea to get people to know them since everyone was telling us these unknown characters were going to be “Marvel’s first bomb.”
As for Peter Quill's short, his backstory ended up coming through at the beginning of the actual movie, which may have made his short a little unnecessary. Gunn apparently had a tough time deciding to scrap the shorts, although he's open to bringing them to life in the future.
"The 4th short was going to be Quill’s backstory which is really what’s at the beginning of Guardians now. It was really hard for me to admit it was too much for me & I was sad deciding I couldn’t do them (especially Rocket & Groot). But, you know, maybe someday!"
Lead-In to a Bunch of A-Holes
Marvel utilized the One-Shot strategy quite effectively to bring some fun canonical stories with its Phase 1 and 2 movies, including some of Phil Coulson's adventures and the start of Peggy Carter's run as a top-level SHIELD agent. However, this endeavor by James Gunn and the Marvel team would have been unlike anything Marvel's ever done before.
Guardians of the Galaxy clearly made sense for this idea with how little fans knew about the team, particularly with talk of the movie possibly being the MCU's first flop. It would have been the first time anything like a One-Shot had been used to introduce characters never seen in the franchise before, although it simply proved to be too much extra work on top of their first solo movie.
Thankfully, Gunn found a way to introduce the characters effectively through the movie's promotional tour and trailers before the team was fully explored in Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, they hold a place as a global phenomenon and have at least three appearances planned for Phase 4 in the next couple of years.
Whether Gunn gets to make these shorts as a retrospective look at the Guardians is still a mystery, but it seems like something he would be open to taking on given the right opportunity.
The first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies are available to stream on Disney+. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will begin filming soon and is set to release in theaters on May 5, 2023.