What to Watch Before ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” — the third and final installment in James Gunn’s spacefaring superhero saga — opens this Friday.
The first film introduced a band of rag-tag rebels, the Guardians, led by Star-Lord, who ended up playing a pivotal role in the Infinity Saga, largely due to Gamora’s ties to Thanos.
Now, if the last paragraph made total sense to you, you’re probably all set to watch “Vol 3.”
But if you need a refresher — or crash course — into the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and how they fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, read on. Here’s your viewing shortlist of shows and films — in chronological order — to stream on Disney+ in preparation for Vol. 3.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
This is the film that kicked it all off. We are introduced to Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a human who was kidnapped as a boy by a band of intergalactic pirates known as The Ravagers. Under the tutelage of Yondu (Michael Rooker), Quill becomes the intergalactic outlaw known as Star-Lord.
The Ravagers are hired to steal an artifact called The Orb. A warlord named Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) wants The Orb to strike a deal with Thanos (Josh Brolin). Thanos sends his daughters Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) to aid in the search.
Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) also get in on the action, and eventually they — along with Gamora and Quill — are sent to prison where they meet Drax (Dave Bautista). They escape and band together to retrieve The Orb from Ronan. Gamora “defects” to their side in order to get away from Thanos.
It’s revealed The Orb was just the case for the Power Stone, one of the six powerful gems that can change reality when assembled. Groot seemingly sacrifices himself in the final battle, but a young Groot seedling is rescued.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)
“Vol. 2” dives into Quill’s past. Turns out he’s not just human, he’s also half-Celestial, descended from powerful God-like beings. We meet his estranged dad Ego (Kurt Russell) and his caretaker Mantis. Turns out Ego has no plans for a family reunion; he really needed the Celestial half of Peter to help power his takeover of the Universe. Ego is defeated and Mantis joins the Guardians.
“Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)
The Guardians rescue Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who reveals Thanos is now searching for the remaining stones himself. Rocket and Groot leave with Thor to help him forge a new weapon to battle Thanos.
The remaining Guardians travel to the planet Knowhere to retrieve the Reality Stone, but they’re too late.
Thanos captures Gamora, who is the sole person who knows where the Soul Stone is. He tortures Nebula in front of her until she reveals it’s hidden on the planet Vormir.
On Vormir, Thanos sacrifices the one thing he loves — Gamora — to retrieve the Soul Stone. He then travels to Titan to take the Time Stone from Doctor Strange, who has joined forces with Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the remaining Guardians.
They almost defeat Thanos until Quill realizes Thanos killed Gamora. Consumed by rage, Quill inadvertently frees Thanos, who then gains the upper hand. Thanos acquires the Time and Mind Stones in succession and uses their combined power to snap half of the universe of existence. Among those snapped: Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Drax and Mantis.
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“Avengers: Endgame” (2019)
Desperate to undo what Thanos has done, the survivors of “The Snap” perform a daring Time Heist. Rocket joins Thor in stealing the Reality Stone from Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).
The Thanos of this altered timeline learns of the heist and kidnaps “good” Nebula. He replaces her with an “evil” Nebula, but not before “good” Nebula convinces her sister Gamora to betray their father. With the Snap reversed, the restored heroes battle Thanos.
Because this Gamora never met and fell in love with Quill, their “relationship” effectively has to start over.
“Thor: Love and Thunder”
“Endgame” ends with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on the Guardians’ spaceship, and that story point is paid off in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which begins with Thor hanging around with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Quickly, though, Thor is called away on a mission to save the gods and the rest of the Guardians go on their way.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” (2022)
Not required viewing by any measure, this standalone special introduces new member Cosmos the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova). Mantis reveals that she is actually Quill’s half-sister. Gamora does not appear in the special.
Bonus Viewing: “What If” (2021)
This animated anthology series explores what would happen if T’Challa, prince of Wakanda, was kidnapped by the Ravagers instead of Peter Quill. In this series, Ultron collects the Infinity Stones, and a group called “The Guardians of the Multiverse” are brought together to defeat him.
It’s also not required viewing, but it is the late Chadwick Boseman’s final Marvel project and shows alternate versions of popular characters, including Peter Quill that works as a Dairy Queen janitor.
Well, there you have it. Everything you need to know heading into “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which opens this Friday.
Is it the final adventure for Star-Lord and company? You’ll have to head to theaters to find out.
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