'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3' Will Kickstart Marvel's Phase 4

We shouldn't have to open with this, but here goes: the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not coming to an end anytime soon. And yet, that seems to be the message the internet has taken from recent quotes by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, eventually pulling Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn into the muck so he could also confirm that no, one of the most massively successful and lucrative movie series of the young century is not coming to an end. Of course not. Duh.

But Gunn did tease that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will kickstart the "new story" that is coming down the pipeline. So that's something.

Let's start with the source of the mess: an excerpt from an Uproxx interview with Kevin Feige. The mastermind of the MCU explained what he has explained before: Avengers: Infinity War and the untiled fourth Avengers movie will build to a climax for the series thus far:

"Well, all I'll say is the films we are working on now – which take us through to the Avengers Untitled in May of 19 – that's really all we are focusing on. And we are focusing on bringing, by that point, an unprecedented, 22-movie, continuous shared fictional narrative to a conclusion in a satisfying way."

What Feige is saying here is that the current storyline for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the tale of the Avengers coming together and discovering the Infinity Stones and facing off against the evil Thanos, is wrapping up (along with a bunch of actors' contracts). That means a fresh start with a fresh story is needed. A fresh start with actors with fresh contracts who won't have the leverage to demand a few extra zeroes in their paychecks. In short, the next few movies will wipe the dry erase board clean, leaving room for the next story to be born.

Still, the word "conclusion" freaked out the ever-skittish internet and James Gunn addressed the topic on Twitter, kindly asking people to actually read the quotes in context before dropping his little Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 nugget:

Of course, we've heard similar things from James Gunn before. A few months back, he revealed that the third Guardians movie would take place in the wake of the universe-shattering Avengers movies and would lay the groundwork for the major storyline that ties the next batch of Marvel movies together:

"One of the things I'm doing with creating Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, it will take place after the next two Avengers movies and it will help to set up the next 10, 20 years of Marvel movies. It's going to really expand the cosmic universe. We're going to be setting up new characters. It will be the last movie of this version of Guardians of the Galaxy."

If Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is intended to build the foundation for the next decade-plus of Marvel movies (which would be a smart move because audiences seem ready to follow those characters anywhere), our prediction that the third film will arrive in the summer of 2020 starts to feel a little more concrete. After all, Avengers 4 arrives on May 3, 2019 – whatever movie comes out the next year is going to have to sort through a lot of wreckage and get building.

To be fair to the people who misunderstood Feige's initial quotes, Marvel Studios has been a little more quiet than usual. As noted in the original Uproxx interview, Feige once got on a stage and announced the entirety of Phase 3 is one fell swoop. They've been cagey about titles beyond Avengers 4 since then and the general mood has been somewhat...well, final. Feige admits that the event may have adjusted expectations of fans:

"I also think that was a particular event to really announce and showcase Phase Three and I guess set up the expectation of doing something like that every few years. But the notion we are sitting here talking and we have, what, six films yet to be released? That's more than almost any other single production entity in town has on the docket. That should be enough."

Okay. Here's the short version: the Marvel Cinematic Universe is alive and well and won't end for the foreseeable future; Marvel Studios hasn't announced the next few years worth of titles because they probably want to protect the secrets of Avengers 4; the only thing we know for sure is that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will take place after this all clears and will be like the new Iron Man – the movie charged with rebuilding and setting the new rules.

Cool? Cool.