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Warning: This post contains big spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; proceed with caution.
With the notable exception of Baby Groot, everything about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is supersized. James Gunn’s sequel to his 2014 hit boasts more classic rock songs, more special effects-powered set-pieces, and more credit scenes than its predecessor or, for that matter, any Marvel movie to date. By the director’s own admission, Vol. 2 features five — that’s right, five — bonus moments that play out while the credits are rolling, meaning you’ll have to delay that trip to the bathroom until the theater lights come up.
Two of these five scenes are purely comedic: In the first, Kraglin (Sean Gunn) tries to master Yondu’s telekinetic arrow he inherited following his friend and fellow Ravager’s death. The fourth sequence, meanwhile, forces Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) to play angry father to a surly teenage Groot (Vin Diesel), who is none too eager to clean up his living quarters. But some Marvel knowledge is required for the other three segments, which mingle teasing setups for Vol. 3 with several deep-cut references to the company’s comic-book universe. If you’re still scratching your head about why Stan Lee is hanging out with a bunch of bald giants or who (or what) Adam might be, read on for our deconstruction of what these moments mean for the Guardians, as well as the future of the MCU.
What’s Sylvester Stallone Doing in a Marvel Movie?
The appearance of Sly, Michelle Yeoh, and Ving Rhames joining together to mourn Yondu (Michael Rooker) at the end of the movie might seem to the casual fan like nothing more than some cool celebrity cameos. But the second closing-credits vignette of this new team offers a deeper explanation. As fans of Marvel’s old-school Guardians comics will happily tell you, Stallone’s character, Stakar Ogord, is not only bringing together his fellow Ravagers — he is also reassembling a version of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
A quick history lesson: The core Guardians we know from the movies — Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot — are based on a 2008 Marvel Comics reboot of the team. Before that, the Guardians, which first appeared in a 1969 issue of Marvel Super-Heroes, had an evolving roster; its most indelible lineup from the 1970s included Yondu, Stakar (better known by his heroic moniker Starhawk), the powerful Charlie-27, the crystalline being Martinex T’Naga, and eventually Stakar’s sister Aleta.
Stallone is Starhawk, Rhames is Charlie-27, and Yeoh is Aleta. With Martinex, played by Smallville‘s Michael Rosenbaum, introduced earlier in the film, Gunn has performed the meta maneuver of reforming the early comic Guardians by having Stallone’s Stakar getting his old band of Ravagers back together. The Vol. 2 end-credits crew also includes the android Mainframe (voiced by Miley Cyrus) and the CGI alien sorcerer Krugarr, relatively minor characters who allied with the comic-book Guardians in the early 1990s.
“He is fantastic in the movie,” Gunn told Yahoo Movies of Stallone’s Starhawk. “It’s a very important part of the Marvel cosmic universe.”
That doesn’t mean that Starhawk and his team will play a more significant role in the next installment. As Gunn told the Toronto Sun, “I’m not sure about him appearing in Vol. 3, we’ll have to see about that, but it’s our plan to see more of Stallone. Kevin [Feige, head of Marvel Studios] and I are working on what is going to become of the Marvel cosmic universe and where it’s going to go. We plan to see the rest of them in the future.”
In announcing the threequel on Facebook, Gunn said Vol. 3 “will conclude the story of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy and help catapult both old and new Marvel characters into the next 10 years and beyond.” Perhaps Starhawk and Co. will be part of the new Guardians iteration? We’d love to see an Expendables-esque episode in the MCU.
Madam, He’s Adam.
Next up, we find a Sovereign envoy approaching the defeated Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) to admonish her for her failure. But Ayesha has engineered a force she believes will make her even more formidable. Cut to a golden cocoon. “I will call him Adam,” says Ayesha.
Adam is Adam Warlock. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Fantastic Four, Warlock was originally known as “Him” (just like Ayesha is also called “Her” in the comics) and was later given a backstory inspired by Jesus Christ Superstar (seriously). The genetically engineered, cosmically powered character is generally allied with the Guardians and has several encounters with Thanos.
Warlock’s greatest moment in the comics is in the Infinity Gauntlet storyline that affected the entire Marvel Comics Universe. The classic 1991 miniseries finds Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet and laying waste to the universe, including nearly all of Earth’s superheroes. Warlock bides his time as Thanos destroys all comers, waiting for the right opening. Once Thanos is defeated, Warlock ultimately winds up with the Gauntlet.
While the story sounds very similar to the setup for the Avengers: Infinity War film, both Gunn and Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige insist that Warlock would only play a role in a future Guardians installment, not the already jam-packed Avengers sequel.
“He’s not in Infinity War. But he will be a part of the future Marvel cosmic universe and a pretty important part of that,” Gunn said at the Vol. 2 junket, according to SlashFilm. (Gunn also confirmed that he had originally written Warlock as a major character in Vol. 2 but opted to cut him in favor of Mantis.) We see Warlock as one of those characters who could start out as an antagonist to the team, only to become a potent ally.
Whatever the case, between Warlock and Starhawk and his rebooted crew, this future cosmic universe is already well-stocked.
Who Watches the Watchers?
If you find it difficult to keep up with the ever-expanding MCU, just imagine how exhausting it must be for the Watchers. These stoic sentinels, who are tasked with observing galaxy-wide events as they unfold while maintaining a Switzerland-style neutrality, make their cinematic debut in Vol. 2. First appearing as part of the galaxy-jumping montage, where the Rocket and Yondu’s ship passes through various worlds on the way to Ego’s planet, the Watchers are also featured in the fifth and final credits segment.
They’re joined in both of their appearances by their co-creator Stan Lee, who, along with Jack Kirby, introduced this alien race in the pages of Fantastic Four in the early ’60s. And both times, the motormouth Lee is yammering on, regaling the Watchers with stories of all the things he’s seen and heard around this enormous universe. Eventually, even their seemingly eternal patience is at an end; as the scene winds down, they walk away from Lee, while the verbose author is still protesting that he has more stories to tell. Stan, buddy — there’s a reason you named them Watchers, not Listeners.
Because of their oath of noninterference, you shouldn’t expect the Watchers to take an active role in subsequent adventures. But they have been known to go from observers to participants in the past. In one of the Fantastic Four’s most famous storylines, Earth’s Watcher, Uatu, attempted to divert the attention of the world-devourer Galactus and his herald, the Silver Surfer, from this tasty blue planet. (That story arc was previously adapted to the big screen in 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, but omitted Uatu’s involvement.) With the Infinity War looming, and the fate of every Earthbound Marvel hero on the table, might that be enough to spur Uatu and his fellow Watchers to join the fray?
The inclusion of Lee in a Watchers-centric sequence is a fan-servicing Easter egg that works on multiple levels. Yes, comic aficionados will nerd out over the mere appearance of the cosmic beings, but Gunn is also giving a wink to a popular theory regarding Stan Lee and his multiple Marvel cameos over the years. To explain how Lee routinely turns up in films based on his comic book properties, from Spider-Man to X-Men to Big Hero 6, some clever fans have posited that Lee himself is a Watcher, allowing him to observe the superhero action up close.
“Stan Lee clearly exists, you know, above and apart from the reality of all the films. So the notion that he could be sitting there on a cosmic pit stop during the jump-gate sequence in Guardians was something very fun — James had that idea and we shot that cameo and loved it so much, you know, you see it a couple of times in the movie,” Feige told reporters at the Vol. 2 junket, per ScreenRant. “We thought it would be fun to put that in there because that really says, so wait a minute, he’s this same character who’s popped up in all these films.”
Now you know, true believer.
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