It was a shockwave that rippled through the San Diego Comic-Con community, even though it didn't involve a project that was on the ground in Southern California. James Gunn, the heart and soul of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, was removed from the third movie in the series -- which is heading into pre-production within months -- because of offensive tweets that were unearthed on his Twitter timeline. Disney's decision to sever ties with Gunn was swift, and final. Some of Gunn's Guardians have come to his defense. Now, though, the writer/director himself has issued a statement, which reads:
My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since --- not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don't reflect the person I am today or have been for some time. ... Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.
Speaking from a creative standpoint, this is a real blow. The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has James Gunn's fingerprints all over it, and while a movie like Thor: Ragnarok shows how Taika Waititi can come in and juice up a bland series, I'm not sure who steps in a provides the same colorful spark and attitude that Gunn brought to those films. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would have been a trilogy capper that concluded the story Gunn began back in 2014. Now that will fall to another filmmaker.
As of now, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is slated to hit theaters in 2020, though we don't know the release date of it yet. There are still so many stones that need to drop regarding the storylines of Avengers 4 and Captain Marvel, and they could all have an impact on what happens with the Guardians' story. And, now that we think about it, a fair number of the current team is dead, having dusted at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Could the actors ask not to come back? And what of Sean Gunn, who does the motion capture for Rocket? Does he continue to work in the Guardians/MCU realm?
The questions, in the wake of this firing, continue to pile up. We'll bring you the answers as we have them.