Even before Guardians of the Galaxy dominated the box office and received near-universal acclaim, Marvel knew that the ragtag group of aliens had a long future in store in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Days before the first film was released in the U.S., the studio announced that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was in development and gave it an official release date. Now it looks like the long-term plans for the space franchise extend past just a second installment.

In an interview with Vulture, director James Gunn mentioned that although he’s only just started working on the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 script, he is excited about Star-Lord’s journey and the series’ overall theme of family, calling the sequel "a story about fathers." While he wouldn’t go so far as to say we would see Peter meeting his mysterious dad, Gunn did state that his plans for the series are much more expansive than some might have thought. As Gunn puts it,
I knew for a long time what the story of the second one was gonna be. And the third one!

Trilogies have become the norm with superhero movies, so it’s not altogether too surprising that James Gunn has something in mind for a potential third Guardians of the Galaxy. This is reminiscent of when Joss Whedon stipulated that if he directed The Avengers, Ultron and Vision would need to show up in the sequel, which is why we now have Avengers: Age of Ultron. Although the writer/director’s focus right now is making the sequel the best story possible, he clearly already has an idea about what the threequel will throw our way.

Even though Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is still two years away from release, it’s hard to imagine it being anything other than popular at the box office, given how incredibly successful its predecessor was. If it fits with the MCU’s extensive and seemingly unending plan, don’t be surprised if Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is announced for 2020 or beyond.

At the moment, details are scarce on what we can expect from Guardians of the Galaxy 2. No new characters have been officially announced, although Gunn did mention that his favorite superhero would make an appearance. What we can look forward to is the return of the five leads Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket and Groot and their antics around the galaxy. Karen Gillan will also reprise her role as Gamora’s villainous "sister" Nebula. In terms of story, Gunn previously mentioned that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will feel like its own movie rather than a set-up for the Avengers: Infinity War movies, but is also something that will move towards future cosmic movies within the MCU.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will be released in theaters on July 28, 2017.

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