Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was all set to be one of Marvel's major 2020 releases until director James Gunn was fired last summer over old offensive Twitter jokes. Gunn's script for the anticipated sequel was complete, but without a director, production had to be delayed indefinitely. Both fans and the Guardians cast petitioned Disney to rehire James Gunn, but it seemed like the window for that passed when Gunn jumped over to Warner Bros. to direct The Suicide Squad.
With Gunn proving himself genuinely apologetic about his old tweets and no director interested in replacing him, however, last week fans received a welcome surprise with the announcement that Gunn has been re-hired to direct GOTG 3. Production is reportedly set to kick off immediately after he's done shooting The Suicide Squad, resulting in a schedule that's super tight. This, obviously, has MCU fans wondering when, exactly, should we expect to see GOTG 3 hit theaters?
The Suicide Squad is currently set to shoot starting this September, and is projected for a 2021 release. Let's assume that principal photography lasts about about four months, roughly the same amount of time it took to shoot Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the first Suicide Squad. If Gunn is ready to shoot two different films back to back, then GOTG 3 could begin filming in the first quarter of 2020.
After that, there are two main considerations in the wait for GOTG 3: The length of post-production, and how to best fit it into Marvel's busy release schedule. GOTG 2 hit theaters 11 months after the conclusion of principal photography, so theoretically the earliest we would likely see the third volume would be March 2021. Overseeing two movies in post-production simultaneously, however, is such a heavy task, you should probably expect GOTG 3 to take longer, especially with The Suicide Squad being Gunn's number one priority.
Marvel has plenty of release dates lined up for the next two years, and potential films to fill them. 2020 is a slightly lighter release slate than usual due to the delay of GOTG 3, with Eternals and Black Widow being the expected releases for the 5/1/20 and 11/6/20 dates. Then it's back to three movies in 2021, with release dates currently set for 2/12/21, 5/7/21, and 11/5/21. Black Panther 2 seems to be a lock for the February date. GOTG3 could potentially fill one of the other two dates, but we also have Shang-Chi and Doctor Strange 2 confirmed to be in the works, and they'll both likely get the jump on Gunn's MCU return.
What's most likely is that the releases of The Suicide Squad and GOTG 3 will be spaced out by about a year, meaning James Gunn's space opera trilogy will finally reach its conclusion in 2022. Marvel currently has release dates set for 2/18/22, 5/6/22 and 7/29/22, all of which are ripe for the trilogy's closing chapter to claim. Expect more news to come about the MCU's future schedule at D23 Expo in August, following the releases of Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home.