The following story contains some spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

THE FUTURE of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is... intriguing, to say the least. In the last year, we've seen one trilogy close out as a way to set up the future (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), one fourth installment come without a whole bunch of new to contribute (Thor: Love and Thunder), and, now, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, another trilogy conclude with satisfying arcs and time spent with all the characters that fans have grown to love over the last 9 years and seven MCU appearances.

Where does that leave the future? With some very real drama playing out in the legal system around a performer Marvel previously seemed to be building its entire upcoming slate around, it's fair to wonder if the biggest name in comic book entertainment may have another pivot up its sleeve. Whether that's a major recasting or the decision to re-center characters that may have been previously planned for retirement is anyone's idea.

The end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 brings a more-than-satisfying conclusion to an end of an era for Marvel Studios. The first Guardians of the Galaxy was seen as a major risk in 2014; the source material was far from the mainstream, and the movie's writer/director, James Gunn, was coming not from other blockbusters, but from weird, dark, sci-fi and horror movies like Slither and Super (he also wrote the live-action Scooby-Doo movies and Zack Snyder's 2004 take on Dawn of the Dead).

But taking on a weird and more obscure property meant that Gunn also had the opportunity for more freedom and to take whatever chances he wanted to take in his movies. When the first Guardians was a massive smash hit, that, in essence, earned Gunn all the freedom he would need for the rest of his Marvel sub-franchise.

Now, Gunn is headed to DC Studios to, in essence, be its new version of Marvel's Kevin Feige (his old boss). And his departure would seem to mean the end of at least this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

But there are still plenty of ways for these characters to continue forward.

Will there be a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 4?

guardians of the galaxy 3
Marvel Studios

Nothing's been announced yet—so it's a definite maybe.

There are a few different ways that a Guardians Vol. 4 could shape out. One would be a fairly straightforward Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 4 story that would follow the team we saw established at the end of the movie—Rocket as leader, along with Kraglin, Phyla-Vell, Groot, Cosmo, and Adam Warlock. However, with James Gunn off to head DC Studios, the movie would likely have a different writer and director, and, thus, would lose the very specific voice that made the Guardians that fans know and love. It would be a risky proposition.

If we feel like getting ambitious, though, there's also the possibility that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 4. takes an Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull/Star Wars Sequel Trilogy kind of angle, and Gunn returns to write and direct for Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, et cetera, in a few decades. An elderly Guardians adventure? Why not!

The most likely outcome, though, is that—like in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame—we see our Guardians friends in future major MCU events.

The end of the movie says "The Legendary Star-Lord Will Return." When could we see Star-Lord again?

legendary star lord
IYL//Marvel Comics

After the second Guardians Vol. 3 credits scene—which mainly just features Peter Quill and his grandpa sitting around the breakfast table talking about mowing lawns—a white slate engulfs the screen. Text reads: "The Legendary Star-Lord Will Return." Not "The Guardians of the Galaxy Will Return," which the text read after the first two Guardians films, but just "The Legendary Star-Lord Will Return."

imusti Legendary Star-lord Volume 2: Rise Of The Black Vortex

Legendary Star-lord Volume 2: Rise Of The Black Vortex

imusti Legendary Star-lord Volume 2: Rise Of The Black Vortex

$22 at Amazon

There's one certainty we can read from this: the character Star-Lord, in one capacity or another, will be seen again in the MCU. Will he still be played by Chris Pratt? Most likely, yes, but with all the multiversal chaos going on, we can't entirely rule out that someone else could show up as some kind of Star-Lord "variant."

So let's look at the ways that Star-Lord could return in the future. Our bet? Now that he's on Earth, he could be a key, experienced figure for whatever form a future Avengers team takes in either The Kang Dynasty or Secret Wars; he's already faced off with a world-conquering villain in Thanos, and he knows more about outer space cosmic happenings than just about anyone else on the planet. We could see him having some pretty lively conversations with Shang-Chi or Moon Knight or whoever.

There's also the possibility of a Star-Lord solo film or Disney+ series. "The Legendary Star-Lord," as the ending screen calls him, is the title of the Marvel Comics Star-Lord solo comics spinoff series. If he were to have his own adventures on the big or small screen, that would be a canonical name.

But we will see in the future. James Gunn may be departing, but we will continue to see the Guardians of the Galaxy—one way or another—in the years to come.

preview for Chris Pratt | Eat Like
Headshot of Evan Romano
Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.