James Gunn teases Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 at Comic-Con: Adam Warlock, Rocket's origin, more

Cue up the Awesome Mix: The Guardians are back.

James Gunn & Co. took over Hall H on Saturday, crashing Marvel's massive Comic-Con panel to tease Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Scheduled to hit theaters May 5, 2023, the new Guardians will see the return of Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Karen Gillan as Nebula, and Pom Klementieff as Mantis. The film will also mark the debut of Will Poulter as Adam Warlock, a powerful adversary first teased in the end-credits scene of Vol. 2.

Exclusive footage at Comic-Con revealed Poulter's all-gold look as Warlock and teased that the film will be exploring Rocket's origin story (so far, it's only been hinted that it involved some kind of cruel experimentation).

"When I first started doing Guardians of the Galaxy, I was like, I don't know, it sounds a little goofy. I thought it was going to be Bugs Bunny joins the Avengers," Gunn said of Rocket. "But then I thought if there is a talking raccoon, how is he real? Where does he come from? I realized he was the saddest creature in the universe, and that's what this story is about, to a great extent."

After playing the trailer, the cast was visibly moved and emotionally crying — particularly because of the footage of Rocket as a baby.

Chris Pratt as Star-Lord in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2'
Chris Pratt as Star-Lord in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2'

©Marvel Studios 2017 Chris Pratt as Star-Lord in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2'

The Guardians movies have been a major hit for Marvel ever since Gunn's oddball space crew first hit theaters in 2014. But the third film has been a long time coming: Gunn has wanted to make Vol. 3 for years, but Marvel fired him from the directing gig in 2018, after several controversial and offensive tweets from the filmmaker resurfaced. Gunn apologized for the tweets, and rival studio Warner Bros. later tapped him to direct The Suicide Squad. Disney rehired Gunn soon after.

The Guardians were last seen cruising the universe in Thor: Love and Thunder, and they'll next appear in this year's Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, debuting on Disney+. Gunn has said that he expects Vol. 3 to be the last Guardians film he'll direct. At Comic-Con, he described it as the end of the story he first set out to tell 10 years ago.

"I think it's really been about telling one story between the three films with a couple of sideways adventures," Gunn said at Comic-Con. "But I think it really is about the one story. This is the final arc that we began at the very beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy, with Peter Quill, with Rocket, seeing where Nebula goes, and even Kraglin, who started out as saying one or two lines in the first movie and is now a main Guardian of the Galaxy."

Kraglin is of course played by Gunn's brother, Sean Gunn, who is also the physical stand-in for Rocket on set. He got particularly emotional on stage, saying, "The truth is the most rewarding part of it has been working with my brother. That's the honest-to-God truth. But it expands over the course of three movies. It comes to the point where it's not just about the joy of working with him, but it's the joy of working with these other people. We were legitimately choked up backstage, watching this footage, because we f---ing care. We care."

But as close as the original Guardians of the Galaxy cast have gotten over several movies, the new film will also add new actors and characters. Poulter said he was "absolutely terrified" about joining the storied team, "but I was welcomed into the family, and I couldn't have been treated better by these folks."

Then, in a move straight out of professional wrestling, actor Chukwudi Iwuji appeared in person as the High Evolutionary — Adam Warlock's creator, and surely the big bad villain of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3.

Chukwudi Iwuji at San Diego Comic-Con
Chukwudi Iwuji at San Diego Comic-Con

Richard Shotwell/AP/Shutterstock Chukwudi Iwuji at San Diego Comic-Con

"As I gaze out at this crowd, I am reminded of my sole purpose in the universe: To take unevolved, disgusting low-life scums such as yourselves and enhance you genetically to something less reprehensible," Iwuji said in character. "Thank you for inspiring me with how vomitous you are. The bile in the back of my throat as I look at you is all the motivation I need to move forward and create the perfect species."

Stay tuned for more news from Comic-Con 2022.

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