“Vol. 3” ends with the original team of Guardians mostly going their separate ways. Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) resigns as leader of the team and says he’s heading back to his maternal motherland, the planet Earth, specifically the state of Missouri, where he plans to search for the one bit of family he has left, his grandfather Jason.
Peter declares Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who somehow did not die in this movie and join Iron Man in that big Avengers Mansion in the sky, the new leader of the Guardians.
Gamora (Zoe Saldana) returns to the Ravagers, in part because she is not the original Gamora of the team but an alternate-universe version who doesn’t have the same deep connection with the Guardians.
Mantis (Pom Klementieff) lets the team know she wants to travel the galaxy and make a name for herself on her own. Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Drax (Dave Bautista) declare they will remain on Knowhere to help take care of the enslaved children the team rescued from “Vol. 3’s” villain, the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). Groot (voiced by family man Vin Diesel) is still Groot. But you probably already knew that.
When the mid-credits scene appears on-screen, Rocket is leading a new Guardians of the Galaxy team protecting the locals on an alien planet. The new roster features Groot, who is now the size of a wooden Hulk; Kraglin (Sean Gunn), equipped with the whistle-fueled arrow of the late Yondu (Michael Rooker of Vols. 1 and 2); the psychic Cosmo the space dog (voiced by Maria Bakalova); the immensely powerful Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), who was a foe to the Guardians at the beginning of “Vol. 3”; and Phyla (Kai Zen), one of the enslaved children the Guardians rescued.
Just as Star-Lord before him, Rocket has picked up a love of pop music and uses it for team bonding, asking each member what their favorite song is. Rocket leads the new team into battle by playing Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” on his Zune — fans will recognize it as the song that introduced Star-Lord in “Vol. 1,” serving as a full-circle moment for this trilogy.
Will this new iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy return? It seems pointless to introduce them just to never see them again. Rocket is now a certified MCU star after being the backbone of this Guardians trilogy. Adam Warlock is a Marvel heavy hitter with a rich comic book history. And Groot is … Groot.
The person who won’t be returning for sure is Guardians trilogy director-writer James Gunn, who is the co-head of DC Studios and is going to be very busy over the next decade trying to turn DC into what Marvel Studios has been for the past 15 years. A new Guardians movie seems unlikely. This franchise was so uniquely Gunn’s it would seem out of place under the direction of someone else. But a Disney Plus series? More holiday specials? A major role in the next two Avengers films coming soon? This new team is likely to show up again somewhere.
As for Star-Lord, well, if the Gunn playlist of pop music that was such a big part of the DNA of this franchise has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes the leader of the band goes solo.
The “Vol. 3” post-credits scene shows Star-Lord in an emotional reunion with his grandfather Jason in Missouri. There’s also a “The Legendary Star-Lord will return” message at the film’s end. Maybe Pratt is on his way to getting his own Star-Lord solo movie and a new deep-space trilogy for Marvel Studios. Or maybe now that Star-Lord is back on Earth, when the next Avengers crisis happens, he’ll be asked to help out.
The galaxy still has its guardians after all. It’ll just never be like the first time again.