Whenever Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits theaters, the end of James Gunn’s trilogy will be set at least a decade after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Although part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the prior two entries in the franchise were primarily freed from the larger ongoing narrative. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was set just a few months after the first film despite hitting theaters three years later.

The small passage of time in-universe broke the traditional MCU approach that the movies are set in the years they come out, allowing the world to move forward in real-time. However, the ending of Vol. 2 jumped ahead a few years to get the Guardians closer to the versions that would appear in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Gunn has already confirmed that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will take place after events of the two Avengers films, which he executive produced. This guarantees that the movie will be set a decade after the Guardians’ last film thanks to how the MCU timeline has dramatically shifted forward after Endgame.

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Endgame featured a five-year time jump that moved the MCU timeline from 2018 to 2023. Based on everything that came before this leap forward, we believe that, more specifically, Avengers: Endgame concludes in late-2023 – with Spider-Man: Far From Home advancing the MCU to 2024. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 set sometime in 2014, that already gives the gap between it and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 nine years if it were to pick up immediately after Endgame. But it is highly probable that there will be an additional passage of time from Endgame‘s finale to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘s opening, which will set the movie a full decade after its direct franchise predecessor.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Rocket and Star-Lord

What makes the passage of time between Endgame and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 most likely is the former’s ending. At the end of the movie, Thor boards the Benatar with Rocket and jokingly calls the team the Asgardians of the Galaxy. While this initially appeared to be set up for Thor to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, it instead may serve as a way for the Guardians to appear in Thor: Love and Thunder instead. The Taika Waititi-directed film will hit theaters first, so this could be where Thor leaves his newfound friends behind. And, unless Thor 4 picks up immediately after Endgame and Vol. 3 directly after their Thor 4 roles, then the decade mark will be hit.

This is a massive gap for the Guardians characters, but luckily for Marvel Studios they’ve been able to make up for it with multiple appearances elsewhere. They had substantial roles in Infinity War, memorable parts in Endgame, and could be used to kick off Thor: Love and Thunder in 2021. Through it all, Marvel will be able to bide time as Gunn finishes work on The Suicide Squad first – which only is happening after Disney fired him last year.

As a result, Gunn’s return to directing the Guardians and when audiences get to see a new film in their own franchise will also be much longer than it should’ve been. Originally intended to release in May 2020Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was left entirely out of Phase 4. Barring some significant changes, the movie won’t hit theaters until 2022 at the earliest. But with Black Panther 2 occupying the May 2022 slot, we may have to wait until 2023 to see Vol. 3. That would give the franchise a six-year gap between sequels. All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is going to be set and released well after its predecessor.

MORE: What We Think Marvel’s Phase 4 Slate Looked Like Before James Gunn Was Fired

Key Release Dates

  • Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
  • Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021) release date: Jul 16, 2021
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
  • Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022

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