Guardians of the Galaxy 3's best Easter eggs and MCU references

James Gunn is sticking on Awesome Mix Vol 3 and getting us all bopping to the Beastie Boys, as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 once again has us reaching for the stars... and the tissues.

The sequel to 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is billed as the end of the road for Gunn's time with the MCU before he heads up the rebranded DC Universe. It also marks the end of the road for the current lineup of ragtag heroes.

Like any good finale (and Marvel outings for that matter), the sci-fi threequel is packed with Easter eggs, callbacks to their previous adventures and references to the wider MCU.

To mark the movie's release, we've delved into the finale to pick out our favourite Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 Easter eggs and references. Be warned, spoilers are ahead.

1. Cameos galore

lylla, guardians of the galaxy vol 3
Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is a who's who of Gunn's familiar faces that includes Michael Rooker sneaking back as Yondu Udonta from beyond the grave and Nathan Fillion as Master Karja. The Firefly favourite voiced "Blue alien prisoner" in the first Guardians and was supposed to play Simon Williams/Wonder Man in Vol 2 until his meta cameo was nixed.

Elsewhere, Gunn's wife and Peacemaker star Jennifer Holland plays Administrator Kwol at the Orgoscope, and you hear Ant-Man's Judy Greer voicing the demonic War Pig. Kraglin (Sean Gunn) plays poker with The Broker (Christopher Fairbank) from the first movie , while there's also an appearance from Seth Green's Howard the Duck.

The big cameo is Linda Cardellini voicing Lylla the space otter. Having worked with Cardellini on the live-action Scooby-Doo movies, Gunn cast her as Rocket's (Bradley Cooper) tragic love interest.

This isn't Cardellini's first time in the MCU, and even though she's unlikely to return as Lylla, the tease that Hawkeye's Laura Barton could take on the mantle of Mockingbird suggests we'll see her again.

2. Star-Lord's error

chris pratt zoe saldana guardians of the galaxy vol 3
Marvel Studios

While trying to escape the OrgoCorp HQ, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) recaps his journey so far, with a segue into how he once lost his temper and nearly got half the galaxy destroyed. This is sure to spark up the debate of whether Star-Lord is the MCU's worst character all over again.

Back when Avengers: Infinity War released, there was outrage that Quill flipped out over the death of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) and prevented the Guardians from stopping Thanos. This led to the Mad Titan acquiring the Time Stone and snapping half of the galaxy out of existence. Alongside Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Groot (Vin Diesel), Quill was one of those who paid the price and was dusted for five years.

Even the Russo Brothers admitted that the Infinity Saga could have ended there if not for Star-Lord's emotions getting the better of him. While there are those that argue Quill's fumble was for the greater good, it's clearly something that still weighs heavily on him. Just when you think we're done with the argument, Vol 3 drags us back in.

3. The OG Guardians

sylvester stallone as stakar ogord in guardians of the galaxy 3
Marvel Studios

As the MCU plays fast and loose with the source material of Marvel Comics, Gunn decided to use the 'modern' Guardians for their big screen debut in 2014. Although Yondu had a presence as an original member of the 1969 team, the first movie largely focused on Star-Lord's 2008 roster.

One of Vol 2's big talking points was the debut of the original Guardians to mourn the death of Yondu. This included Sylvester Stallone's Stakar Ogord, Michael Rosenbaum's Martinex T'Naga, Ving Rhames' Charlie-27, Michelle Yeoh as Aleta Ogord, a silent Krugarr and Miley Cyrus as the voice of Mainframe.

Stallone had another expanded part in Vol 3, alongside some of the original team. They're still Ravagers instead of being promoted to full-blown Guardians, with changes meaning Aleta and Charlie-27 don't appear, while Tara Strong replaces Cyrus.

Given that Saldaña has said she's finished playing Gamora, the fact she blasts off with the OGs suggests this could be the last we see of the old guard.

4. I am Groot

groot , guardians of the galaxy vol 3
Marvel Studios

Vin Diesel hasn't exactly been a man of many words in the MCU, meaning he's arguably one of the franchise's best-paid stars for doing the least as Groot. More than just Groot learning to talk, there's a growing theory among fandom that we, the audience, can finally understand him.

Gunn has previously said that understanding the towering tree comes from a psychic connection with Groot, and in Vol 3's final scene, there's an emotional farewell between the team before they go their separate ways. Alternate Gamora manages to understand Groot, confirming that they've been bonded through their adventure.

While saying his goodbyes, Groot seemingly says: "I love you guys". Unlike the much-anticipated first words of The Mandalorian's Grogu, the extended silence and panning shot hint that we (the audience) can finally understand Groot.

5. A Captain Marvel connection

phyla in guardians of the galaxy 3
Marvel Studios

In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reveal, the white-haired girl who is part of the High Evolutionary's (Chukwudi Iwuji) 'perfect' race is revealed as a potentially major player.

The first credit scene includes a revamped team of Guardians with Cosmo (Maria Bakalova) and Adam Warlock (Will Poulter). Also joining the squad is the mystery girl played by newcomer Kai Zen, who is referred to as Phyla (lots more on her here).

Those up on their comics will know Phyla-Vell is a huge part of the 2008 Guardians team and also boasts ties to Captain Marvel. The Vell lineage is a complicated one, with Phyla-Vell typically being the sister of Genis-Vell and daughter of the Kree's Mar-Vell. In the MCU, Mar-Vell was gender-flipped as Annette Bening's version from 2019's Captain Marvel.

Comic book Phyla-Vell's origin varies depending on which era of the comics you take as canon. Since her introduction in 2004's Captain Marvel vol. 5 #16, Vell has taken on the mantles of Captain Marvel, Quasar and Martyr, meaning she could slot into any number of future MCU projects.

Then again, her junior age and revamped origin story might count her out of Nia DaCosta's The Marvels.

6. Kevin Bacon

guardians of the galaxy holiday special, kevin bacon, drax
Marvel - Disney

It seems like only yesterday we were settling down for the festivities of The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which set the stage for Vol 3. In one of the MCU's wackiest cameos ever, you undoubtedly remember we had Kevin Bacon playing himself.

Vol 3 features the return of our favourite "bad dog" Cosmo, introduced in that same special. Sadly, Bacon doesn't get to go 'footloose' again, but as an alumni of the Holiday Special and Gunn's Super, at least Bacon is referenced in the post-credit scene.

While Quill enjoys some quality time with his grandfather on Earth, a newspaper headline reads: "Alien Abduction: Kevin Bacon Shares All".

7. The Legendary Star-Lord

chris pratt, guardians of the galaxy vol 3
Marvel Studios

Big names including Bautista, Saldaña and Rocket mo-cap actor Sean Gunn have all said they're done with their roles, seemingly ending the story for a huge chunk of Guardians.

Even though it would be easy to leave Quill enjoying cereal with his grandfather on Earth, the post-credit scene ends with a title card that tells us: "The Legendary Star-Lord will return". Similar to the Thor: Love and Thunder tease of "Thor will return", it confirms Pratt will appear further down the line.

Interestingly, "The Legendary Star-Lord" was the name of the character's solo comic series, suggesting he could go it alone next time around. Bautista pitched a Drax spin-off, while Gunn recently told io9 how Marvel Studios canned a Rocket and Groot movie, meaning character standalones have been thought about before.

Either way, this tease feels like it's leading to more than just a cameo in some Earth-based adventures like Secret Invasion. Whether it's confirming Star-Lord for the upcoming Secret Wars or branching out even further in his own for a Disney+ series, Gunn's MCU departure doesn't mean Star-Lord is going anywhere yet.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is out now in cinemas.

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