Cinema is dead – and Guardians of the Galaxy 3's final scene proves it

Peter Quill, Mantis, Groot, Drax, and Mantis exit their Bowie ship in Guardians of the Galaxy 3
The perils of being an MCU fan are clear to see in Guardians 3. (Image credit: Marvel)

Major spoilers follow for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. You've been warned.

If you haven't yet seen the latest *ahem* Gunnslinger – Guardians of the Galaxy 3 – and you really want to, do turn back at the end of this paragraph. Nobody wants you to read the scant spoilers I'm about to share. But wait! Before you leave, do yourself a favor: get yourself a Disney Plus trial stat, if you haven't already got one, or grab one of the best Disney Plus deals. You're going to need it. 

Don't be like me, trotting along to see the flick on opening night, excited to immerse myself fully in the latest scrapes and japes of Chris Pratt's Peter Quill and his dysfunctional surrogate family (since the last time I joined them all here) in my local IMAX theater. 

To clarify: I've seen all prior Guardians of the Galaxy movies on this big screen, thanks to my limitless cinema ticket. Been there. Done it. Watched them all. So that's the sole prerequisite for seeing Marvel's latest film (outside of watching Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Thor: Love and Thunder) right?

Not quite. It turns out we all had extra homework for this one. It's so pivotal, in fact, that if you haven't done so, you'll be more than a little confused and bemused by what plays out. The message from Disney is clear: pay the TV streaming fee and bone up, Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans. 

What you're supposed to know before you go

Cosmo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, looking up expectantly

Cosmo looks almost as confused as non Disney Plus subscribers watching GotG 3 on the big screen…  (Image credit: Marvel)

So, what's the problem? Take a trip down memory lane with me, reader, and you'll remember there was a 44-minute Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special that arrived on Disney Plus in November 2022. And, if you haven't seen it, there are a few MCU debutants who'll knock you sideways, especially at the very end of the movie. 

That's not a good feeling for people like me, aka fans who decided that, given the current cost of living crisis (and given that, as an audio specialist, I am already shelling out for all of the best music streaming services), something had to go. And that something was Disney Plus, i.e. one of the world's best streaming services

Look, I know Disney's primary streamer is home to some of the best Disney Plus shows around (hello, The Mandalorian Season 3, you and your forefathers are going to be crucial to my enjoyment of Star Wars: Ahsoka, aren't you?) and that Doctor Strange's particular outcrop in the Multiverse is all over this kind of juxtaposition – WandaVision, I'm looking at you. However, this is the first time my lack of Disney at home has felt like a gut punch, and here's why.

Groot looks incredibly concerned in Guardians of the Galaxy 3

When did Groot start working out so much though?  (Image credit: Marvel)

What did we (read: I) miss in the Guardians' small-screen special? Quite a bit, actually. Everyone's favorite cosmic supergroup has a new swanky ride called The Bowie, Groot looks totally buff (although that can be explained away owing to the passage of time, I'll grant you), and there's a new character called Cosmo the Dog (voiced by Bodies Bodies Bodies' Maria Bakalova), a cosmonaut who speaks English through a widget in her suit and who has mad telekinesis abilities. 

Oh and Kevin Bacon. Kevin Bacon! You know, everyone's favorite Footloose star and one of Quill's beloved Earth-based heroes. You may remember that Gamora died in Infinity War and, understandably, Peter was not happy about it. Come Endgame's time traveling escapades, too, an alternate reality's version of Gamora is now alive and well in the MCU, but she's also younger than before and, most importantly, doesn't know who Star-Lord is. Cue Quill moping about the joint at the start of the Holiday Special, then. To cheer him up, Drax and Mantis kidnap and gift "legendary hero" Bacon to Quill as part of the Holiday Special's festive themed story.

I did not know any of this. So imagine my surprise during the end credits crawl when a scrapbook/collage image of Kevin Bacon appears alongside the rest of the cast, my internal monologue screams "Why is Kevin Bacon's face there though?", and my outer monologue quickly follows. Then, in the final final scene, we see Quill slurping cereal with his grandfather – this is after the Guardians disband, with Quill heading back to Earth to reunite with ol' pops after their last meeting in Guardians 1 – and complaining about how their neighbor’s 45-year-old son likes to watch him mow the lawn. 

The old man shakes out the morning paper. We're ripe for a teaser folks! And there it is, the headline on the front page: "Alien Abduction: Kevin Bacon Tells All". As part of the movie's second post-credits scene (and, technically, the final scene of Gunn's MCU career), I felt left out. I love Kevin Bacon, and hearing Quill's constant referencing of the actor in the Guardians' movies was a fun, inside joke. To know that he'd actually appeared in the MCU at some point, then, was incredibly disappointing to me. That's despite my love for this bizarre and misfit-fabulous corner of the MCU, too.

I've been thinking about it all wrong: Disney knows its cash cow – streaming is the future

Rocket, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 looking sad

I'm sure Rocket would've told us about Kevin Bacon if he'd had the time... (Image credit: Marvel (Disney))

I know, I know. I'm looking at it all wrong. There's no point getting all "I pay for unlimited tickets at my movie theater, I shouldn't need to pay for Disney Plus, too" when Disney knows the opposite is true. The bulk of its loyal, global fanbase – especially MCU fanatics – are starting to wait until Marvel films debut on Disney Plus before they watch them. Just look at Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Thor 4, and the forthcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (find out when Ant-Man 3 comes to Disney Plus), all of which didn't perform as well as expected at the box office, as proof of that. In short: why pay to go to the movies when Disney cares most about its captive, streaming-first audience.

I can't help but feel, then, that my beloved cinema is dying. The post-pandemic world hasn't helped, with people still reticent to venture out  to watch films on the big screen. That's even more clear when you see people investing in one of the best TVs, best soundbars, and other home entertainment paraphernalia they could afford over lockdown. 

So yes, my love for my local Odeon persists strong and true. And, if my only two concerns are 1) Guardians of the Galaxy and 2) attending my local theater as soon as the movie lands, paying a monthly fee for 44 minutes of crucial content that aids my understanding of this film franchise and my enjoyment might seem like a bit of a non-argument to some of you. At the time of writing (May 12), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has taken $365.6 million at the box office (per Box Office Mojo), so plenty of us are going to see it. 

At the movies, though, there are no distractions. There's no beep from the washing machine, no neighbours shouting, no Amazon delivery for  those living in the apartment above me (but they're not in, so I have to take it in...). The cinema is my time, and I'm sad that Disney doesn't really get that – or, if it does, it also needs me to pay for the MCU's expanding suite of TV-based content as well.

And I get it. The interconnectivity of the MCU means that, if you don't keep pace with most Marvel TV shows, you will end up being confused when you and watch the next MCU movie in theaters. Just look at The Marvels, which arrives in November and requires you to have seen *deep breath* Captain Marvel, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Shang-Chi, WandaVision, and Ms Marvel (the latter two being Disney Plus series). Even so, there are people like me who can't afford a Disney Plus subscription right now – and we're the ones who'll end up missing out on key information about the MCU before we go and watch the movie series' next film. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, that doesn't sit right with me.

For more Marvel-based coverage, find out how to watch the Marvel movies in order. Alternatively, get the lowdown on Secret Invasion and Loki season 2, two of Marvel's TV offerings for 2023.

Becky Scarrott
Audio Editor

Becky became Audio Editor at TechRadar in 2024, but joined the team in 2022 as Senior Staff Writer, focusing on all things hi-fi. Before this, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.