James Gunn has once again stated that Thor: Love and Thunder did not impact the story of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Avengers: Endgame ended with the God of Thunder joining the Guardians following Thanos' defeat. Prior to Endgame's release, Vol. 3 was expected to premiere in May 2020, before Love and Thunder (which would be given a 2021 release date in 2019).
In 2018, however, Gunn was taken off the film due to past tweets, ultimately delaying the project. Gunn was later rehired, and Vol. 3 was given a 2023 release date. That, combined with significant date-shifting, meant that Love and Thunder ended up coming out in 2022, a year before Vol. 3. Thor's fourth solo adventure featured everyone's favorite space a-holes in a very small capacity, which begged the question of whether or not the film had impacted the storyline in Vol. 3.
Speaking with Screen Rant at SDCC 2022, Gunn was asked whether or not Thor: Love and Thunder had influenced the Guardians going into Vol. 3. The director replied that his script never included the God of Thunder: "No, I wrote the script without ever thinking that they were ever going to be with Thor, so it hasn't affected them at all."
This echoes Gunn's previous comments. Earlier in July 2022, he responded to a podcast speculating on what Guardians of the Galaxy. Vol. 3 would have looked like with Thor, stating: "I appreciate the love but Thor was never going to be in Vol 3."
There was, however, collaboration between Gunn and Love and Thunder helmer Taika Waititi when it came to how the Guardians were handled in the Thor franchise, as Waititi explained during an interview with Total Film (via CBR.com):
"James [Gunn] had always been supportive of me, when I first came into Marvel on Ragnarok. [...] But his style is very different. He's very particular about his scripts, and about the way his characters speak. Obviously I wrote the script, and I always knew we were going to kind of just hand those scenes to him, and say, 'How do these characters talk? Have I missed a character?' [...] He would go through it, and go, 'Groot wouldn't say something like that. He'd be a bit more like this.' So, he was very helpful in that way."
Thor not factoring into Vol. 3 is somewhat surprising, considering how significant it was for him to team up with Quill and co. While it's tricky to know how the film would have addressed that without the God of Thunder physically there, his absence could have theoretically been explained away through dialogue.
Keeping The Guardians Standalone For Their Last Ride
Despite its larger-than-life scale and its first installment featuring Thanos, the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has been relatively standalone from the rest of MCU. As such, not having another major hero in Vol. 3 isn't entirely unexpected.
It makes more sense considering the film is planned to be the end of this iteration of the Guardians, as Gunn confirmed to Deadline's Hero Nation podcast in early 2022: "[The] movie [is] big; I mean, it's so, so, so big and dark, and different than what people might be expecting it to be. [...] This is the end for us. This is the last time people will see this team of Guardians. That's where we are."
Gunn then stated at SDCC 2022 (via Deadline): "This is the end of that story. I’m sorry. Some stories have an end. It doesn't mean everybody dies."
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 flies into theaters on May 5, 2023. Before that, the heroes' corner of the MCU will return with I Am Groot, a series of shorts coming to Disney+ on August 10, 2022.