James Gunn, the director of 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and its 2017 sequel, does not want Thanos to make a return in future MCU titles. According to him, the Endgame antagonist has had his moment of glory and should step back to allow other super villains to step into the limelight.
The Mad Titan’s absence from future projects is not a promise confirmed by Marvel Studios executives, but a personal hope of Gunn himself, who – when asked during an Instagram Q&A if he would want Thanos to make a comeback – shook his head saying “there’s plenty of other stories to tell.”
Gunn’s dislike for the purple snapper should come as no surprise, given that he’s not enjoyed working with the character in the past. In a 2014 interview with Vulture, the filmmaker admitted that he found Thanos’ role in the first Guardians of the Galaxy the most challenging bit to write. In that movie, Thanos played the alien overlord of Ronan, who was bested by the Guardians.
Even though Gunn may not have enjoyed it, he was instrumental in bringing the Mad Titan into the MCU. Not only did the first Guardians introduce an upgrade in the character’s overall design compared to his initial, uncanny appearance in the post-credits scene of The Avengers, but he also set up some storylines – namely, his rocky relationship with his daughters – that would strike at the heart of Infinity War and Endgame.
“There’s pressure with Thanos because you’re setting up this gigantic character that, in one way, isn’t really a part of your movie,” Gunn told Vulture. “His presence doesn’t really serve being in Guardians, and having Thanos be in that scene was more helpful to the Marvel Universe than it was to Guardians of the Galaxy.“
While Thanos might still make a return in other MCU titles, it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing him in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which Gunn is set to release sometime in 2022.