James Gunn is pleasantly bidding Marvel farewell after Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 hits theaters, the director tells The New York Times on Wednesday. “I have no clue what I’m going to do,” he says. “For me, Guardians 3 is probably the last one. I don’t know about doing it again.”
The St. Louis native isn’t without options, though. Warner Bros. famously courted him following his highly publicized breakup from Marvel and the result is this year’s The Suicide Squad, already touted by fans and critics ahead of screening to be the next great comic book movie. James Gunn highlighted the difference between Marvel — whose executives eventually took him back — and DC, and feels he’s on an interesting precipice between making connective films and crafting more maverick one-shots. And he’s done enough family-friendly entries to know he wants to try something more risqué. And that sort of “pedal to the metal” storytelling is what DC is currently offering him. It allowed him to develop The Suicide Squad his way without constantly being micromanaged. And for Gunn, who has directed Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 with the same framework in mind, being able to create unhindered and simply enjoy the process is half the victory when you’re a devoted filmmaker.
“I do find, because of the ability to do different stuff in the DC multiverse, it’s fun,” he gushes. “They’re starting to really resemble their comic books. The Marvel universe has always been a little more cohesive, and DC has always had more great single runs. They had The Dark Knight Returns. They had Watchmen. They had The Killing Joke. They had Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. The fact that they did Joker, which is a totally different type of movie, that to me is cool. I’m very excited about Matt’s movie. They’re getting some really good filmmakers involved. They’re always going to be hit or miss — I just don’t want them to get boring.”
Despite the massive oversight that comes with collaborating with Marvel, James Gunn was able to tell Guardians of the Galaxy in a manner that’s unique to him. The franchise qualifies as the most liberated of all the films produced under Kevin Feige’s watchful eye, and easily the least regulated. The lapse in creative control allowed Gunn to insert otherwise grownup nuances into the script, like the subtle insinuation Star-Lord’s bodily fluids color the inside of his ship in Guardians 1. That sort of crude, adult humor is classic James Gunn, and incidentally also a major spectacle in his upcoming Suicide Squad movie.
Speaking openly about the tremendous leeway DC gives him in terms of witty one-liners, as opposed to Marvel’s more distilled approach, James Gunn adds: “I think it’s great. That is the one of the ways in which DC can distinguish itself from Marvel. What I do is very different from what Peyton Reed does, it’s very different from what Favreau did, it’s different from Taika. But not as different as Shazam! and Suicide Squad, however. I think the current batch of folks over at Warner Bros. are really interested in building out a world and creating something that’s unique to the filmmakers. We’re in a strange time, so anything can happen.” The 54-year-old’s brand of storytelling is pretty straightforward as far as structure and content go. The louder and raunchier, the better. “I love toys and the explosions and the cameras, frankly,” he explains. “I love to be able to work on a big playing field.” In a sense, he’s not only a perfect fit for R-rated comic book films; he could also settle into racy comedies like Neighbors and Sausage Party as an intriguing change of pace. Guardians of the Galaxy certainly toed the line with its choice of dialog, and the third installment is expected to fully up the ante.
James Gunn still has The Suicide Squad and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 in the horizon, but he’s already considering his retirement. He arrived at his Wednesday interview sporting an all-white top and beard, betraying how exhausted he actually is in real life. “If I had a smaller, more intimate thing that I wanted to do, I would definitely do that,” he relates. “Right now I really just want to nap, but I still have another major motion picture to make before that.” Here’s to that nap. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is still in the pre-production stage. Gunn finished the screenplay in the tail end of last year, with filming scheduled to commence on November. It stars Chris Pratt as Star-Lord/Peter Quill, Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon, Vin Diesel as Groot, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, and potentially Zoe Saldana as the alternate-reality version of Gamora. Talk about already including Variants in Guardians 3, if ever. Chris Hemsworth also expressed interest in appearing in the movie as Thor. It comes out on May 5, 2023.