Although Marvel hasn't officially announced its Phase 4 slate yet, we've gradually been learning which movies will be part of this next era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the start of the year, it looked like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would be one of the 2020 release, potentially being the second Phase 4 entry out of the gate, after Spider-Man: Far From Home. However, weeks after James Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, production was indefinitely delayed, and today brings word that shooting might not begin until February 2021.
To put this into perspective, back when James Gunn was still attached to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the plan was for it to start rolling cameras in February 2019, providing more than enough time for it to be ready for a summer 2020 release. But Gunn's off-color tweets from a decade ago resurfacing changed everything, and after Disney cut ties with Gunn, the studio made it clear that it's in no hurry to find a replacement director. If Production Weekly is to be believed, clearly this still stands, as principal photography on the threequel is now more than two years away.
What's particularly interesting about all this is that although Disney dismissed James Gunn from directing, the studio still plans on using his script. Assuming that none of the lead actors have dropped out (which could legitimately be a possibly with Dave Bautista, Gunn's most vocal supporter), it's curious why it would take so long to hire a replacement director and get the ball rolling again.
Maybe Kevin Feige and the other MCU bigwigs shifted things around and found a way to make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 fit better later in Phase 4, but given how popular these characters are, one would imagine it'd be better for them to return sooner rather than later. Assuming this production update is true, that means we shouldn't expect Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 to come out until 2022. That means five years will have passed since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's release, the longest gap between any same series MCU movies. Currently Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok hold that record with four years.
As things stand now, the only scheduled Phase 4 MCU movie is Spider-Man: Far From Home, which comes out on July 5, 2019. It's hard to say which upcoming MCU could fill the production void left by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, although it probably won't be Black Panther 2, as that's reportedly not rolling cameras until late 2019-early 2020. But Black Widow and Doctor Strange 2 are also among the candidates, so we'll have to wait what ends up taking those summer 2020 release dates.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more updates on what's happening with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. In the meantime, the Guardians themselves will return when Avengers 4 comes out on May 3, 2019, and you can look through our Marvel movies guide to learn what else this superhero franchise has in development.