Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s Marvel Cinematic Universe connections

Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.
Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL. /

The final film in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy is also the 32nd Marvel Cinematic Universe feature. Let’s take a look at how Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 connects to the larger franchise.

James Gunn set out to conceive a film that stands on its own for his third Guardians of the Galaxy theatrical release, which is also his Marvel Cinematic Universe swan song. This story has no Infinity stones – the gem in Adam Warlock’s forehead is strictly decorative – and no mention of the Avengers, not even their buddy Thor.

After the entire Guardians roster turned up for Thor: Love and Thunder, the God of Thunder does not return the favor here. But he does at least get a shout-out by being included in one of the ending scroll snapshots; standing side by side with Rocket and Groot, from Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos is obviously not an Avenger, but he does get naturally brought up because of his familial ties to Nebula and Gamora.

Almost all the threads in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 continue from the previous Guardian narratives, whether from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, while the most recent Avenger epics are also essential. The most important development from Infinity War and Endgame is Gamora’s death. She was killed by Thanos in order for him to retrieve the Soul Stone. And after Thor detached Thanos’ head from his body, a past version of the villain traveled to the future, along with Gamora. While Iron Man snapped Thanos’ legions out of existence, Gamora was spared, presumably because of her innocent roots.

Star-Lord appears to be searching for Gamora at the end of Avengers: Endgame and mourns her in the holiday special, leading right into his depression in the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Although the Gamora that Star-Lord loved is dead, the alternate Gamora, who never joined the Guardians, halfheartedly works with them in Volume 3. She is now a member of the Ravagers, with some associates from the previous movie returning.

Sylvester Stallone is the leader of the United Ravagers, reprising his role as Starhawk. Michael Rosenbaum again plays the crystallized Martinex. Mainframe, the bodyless artificial intelligence, was voiced by Miley Cyrus in Volume 2 but has been replaced in this movie by Tara Strong. A veteran voice actress, Marvel credit-watchers will recognize Strong as the voice of Miss Minutes in the Loki Disney Plus series.

Tara Strong is not the only past MCU personnel to play a different character in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Linda Cardellini endearingly voices Lylla the otter after appearing as Laura Barton in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Endgame, and the Hawkeye limited series. Judy Greer amusingly voices the High Evolutionary’s war pig. Greer portrayed Scott Lang’s ex-wife in the first two Ant-Man features. And after Nathan Fillion, a close friend of James Gunn’s, cameoed as a Kyln inmate in the original Guardians of the Galaxy, he is given a larger role in this movie as Master Karja.

Other familiar faces in Guardians 3 are the black-market dealer and Howard the Duck, who gamble with Kraglin and Cosmo the Spacedog. Cosmo was one of the Collector’s prized possessions on Knowhere, but seemingly became more acquainted with the Guardians once they claimed the celestial head as their headquarters, as seen in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. By the end of this movie, Cosmo is one of the members of Rocket’s new team of Guardians.

Speaking of Rocket, he is a major focus in the third Guardians of the Galaxy. His origin from a baby to a cybernetically enhanced raccoon is dispersed throughout the contemporary plotline. It is revealed that he could be even smarter than we ever imagined. He did quip to Iron Man, in Endgame, that Tony is only a genius on Earth, hinting that Rocket’s intellect competes with the best minds in the galaxy. This is taken a step further when he is shown resolving a scientific problem that his creator was struggling with. Rocket also learns in Guardians 3 that he is, in fact, a raccoon.

Another important callback in Gunn’s trilogy closer is Star-Lord almost dying from being stranded in space without a helmet, just like in the first movie, and this is also the way Yondu perishes in the second installment. The team again encounters Abilisk creatures; they fought one during Volume 2’s opening credits and now Mantis communicates with several of them to avoid getting eaten.

And one of the biggest payoffs from a Guardians of the Galaxy credit scene is the inclusion of Adam Warlock. He was created by Ayesha (as directed by the High Evolutionary) at the end of the second movie and is a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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What other Marvel Cinematic Universe connections did you catch in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? Let us know in the comments below.