Marvel Studios revealed big plans at San Diego Comic-Con this year, including the unveiling of Phases 5 and 6 of the MCU. The big news surrounding Phase 6 is that it will end with two Avengers movies, but Phase 5 will share one important quality with the current Phase 4 of the MCU: no Avengers movie at the end of it.
The Phases of the MCU have generally followed a simple layout until recently: introducing new characters through solo stories and subsequent sequels while furthering the narrative toward the next Avengers-level threat. That changed with Phase 4, which has switched gears to dealing with the Marvel Multiverse in almost every project since Avengers: Endgame, showing that an MCU “Phase” can be more than just a bunch of build-up toward an eventual team-up.
Even so, an MCU Phase is also open to interpretation. To some, it appears to represent the overarching theme of the stories being told within it. To others, an MCU Phase is a neat way to keep track of the overabundance of Marvel content coming out each year. Some even find beauty in the obscurity of how the MCU films and shows are grouped together.
There is also the possibility that the MCU Phases are strictly a way to organize Marvel’s release slate, which now seems more likely after a big-time Marvel director admitted he wasn’t told which MCU Phase his movie would end up in until after it was shot.
No One Told James Gunn About Phase 5
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was one of the movies revealed to be part of the MCU’s Phase 5 at SDCC; however, this secret was so well-kept that not even the film’s director knew about it.
When asked if the Marvel Phases were helpful for his MCU storytelling, director James Gunn admitted on Twitter that he “didn’t know Vol. 3 was Phase 5 until the presentation at Comicon,” implying that the new Phase 5 designation may not have that much meaning for the third Guardians outing.
Gunn also admitted that he doesn't know what Phases his first two Guardians belong to, saying that it's not for him to decide:
"I don’t even know what Vol 1 or 2 was - I’d have to look them up. What “phase” they’re in just isn’t a part of my process."
Do MCU Phases Even Matter to Marvel Directors?
Other than Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige already admitting that "some (MCU) projects will connect" and "some of them won't," James Gunn’s admission that he had no prior knowledge of which MCU Phase his third Guardians film would end up in is interesting but not all that unusual.
After all, neither of the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies relied on their placement in the MCU to tell their stories. In fact, one of the most compelling traits of Gunn’s Guardians is that they don't really fit in anywhere. Star-Lord’s squad of ex-scoundrels is just that—a band of misfits that simply fits itself into wherever it ends up.
The Guardians of the Galaxy movies share that trait; they spend little time caring about where they fit into the bigger picture and instead focus largely on the heart of the story. Guardians Vol. 3 will likely be no different, as it’s expected to be even more emotional than the first two installments. If it is the last hoorah for this particular group of heroes, then why would it matter where the project falls alongside all of its MCU counterparts?
As of right now, Phase 5 of the MCU consists of projects such as Ant-Man 3, a new Captain America movie, reboots for Blade and Daredevil, and a bunch of Disney+ shows that wouldn’t touch the Guardians franchise with a ten-foot pole. That’s similar to how the first two movies fit into their respective Phases, so this isn’t anything new for Gunn and his gang of Guardians.
There’s a likely chance that Gunn didn’t know that his movie was in Phase 5 because it doesn’t matter in relation to the story it will tell. The Guardians may cross over into other MCU events like Avengers: Infinity War and Thor: Love and Thunder, but the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has always been on the outer rim, prioritizing an upbeat, heartfelt adventure while letting the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe sort out the rest.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be released on May 5, 2023.