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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: Exposing the Critical Flaw in the MCU’s Framework

Exiting the movie theater on Thursday night after watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, a sense of relief washed over me. Marvel Studios has proven, once again, that they can deliver outstanding movies. James Gunn’s trilogy-concluding masterpiece stands as the most exhilarating addition to the MCU since Spider-Man: No Way Home, and it carries a profound emotional impact akin to Avengers: Endgame. This achievement deserves celebration, even with Gunn’s departure from the MCU.

However, it’s disheartening to acknowledge that Guardians Vol. 3 diverges from the current saga’s messy multiversal turmoil. Rather than succumbing to this trend, the sequel excels precisely because it focuses on its characters and their individual narratives, disregarding the broader MCU.

This highlights a crucial flaw within the Multiverse Saga—Marvel’s rush into the next existential threat without establishing a solid foundation.

Why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 avoids the multiverse

The success of the Infinity Saga can be attributed to Marvel’s deliberate approach of establishing the universe and its heroes before introducing a formidable villain that necessitates their unity. In the comics, characters like Captain America, Iron Man, and Wolverine lead lives beyond constant battles with Thanos. They build relationships, engage in banter with friends, and tackle a variety of challenges. Sustaining an “end of the world” scenario every week would exhaust readers.

For a considerable period, Marvel Studios grasped this concept. While the stakes need to be higher in a $300 million movie compared to a 32-page comic book, the entire MCU doesn’t have to revolve around a single concept or villain indefinitely.

We do require breaks, but those breaks can still be bombastic, explosive, and dramatic, much like Vol. 3.

It’s worth noting that James Gunn had penned the script for Guardians Vol. 3 even before the release of Infinity War and Endgame, predating his temporary dismissal in 2018. Consequently, the movie’s lack of overt references to the multiverse is likely coincidental. However, what is intentional is that this absence contributed to making it one of the standout films of the Multiverse Saga.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 prioritizes delivering a stellar send-off to our beloved group of misfits, while simultaneously exploring the tragic backstory of a bionic raccoon. There simply isn’t enough time to delve into the activities of the Council of Kangs.

Although the Vol. 3 villains may not hold the same magnitude as Thanos or Kang, but the High Evolutionary embodies the quintessential comic book antagonist—he is unambiguously evil. We despise him for his heinous acts and eagerly anticipate seeing our heroes triumph over him.

James Gunn’s expertise in crafting exceptional comic book movies lies in his ability to include the right elements and, more importantly, omit the unnecessary ones. This is why I am apprehensive about the next four years of the MCU as Gunn departs to reboot the DCU.

Can Marvel correct its biggest error?

If Marvel intends to replicate the Secret Wars comic book storyline from 2015-16 in the MCU, they may have inadvertently spoiled the potential excitement of this grand crossover event. In the comics, the Illuminati, a group similar to the one introduced in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (minus the Scarlet Witch-induced murder), discovers the impending destruction of the multiverse and attempts to prevent it. Meanwhile, characters like Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Deadpool continue with their individual stories.

Looking ahead to Avengers: Secret Wars, which is slated for release in three years (barring any delays), it’s concerning that nearly every show and movie currently focuses on Kang and the multiverse. This excessive emphasis becomes overwhelming. The strength of the Infinity Saga lay in its ability to strike a balance between individual character arcs and the overarching plot, gradually building up tension in the background before culminating in Infinity War.

The question arises: Does Marvel have sufficient time to course-correct the Multiverse Saga? While the studio plans to slow down the release schedule, which may alleviate superhero fatigue among audiences, reducing the number of releases won’t improve the MCU if they all continue to exhibit the same messy and soulless qualities seen in Phase 4. Marvel Studios should grant creators the freedom to tell complete stories and reserve the major crossover events for the significant crossover movies.

At the very least, I hope that the contrasting reactions to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 prompt the studio to critically reassess its current strategy and reevaluate the future of the MCU.

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