It's been a few years since our favorite ragtag group of intergalactic misfits united to guard the galaxy and a lot has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since then -- villainous robots and dimension-hopping sorcerers and superheroes who talk to ants. Thankfully, the second installment -- the "more unique, more daring" Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- picks up only a few months after Vol. 1, and you have this handy Q&A to answer any lingering Qs you may have before it hits theaters.
"Peter still has to deal with Rocket and he still has to deal with Drax and Gamora," Chris Pratt, aka Peter Quill aka the legendary outlaw, Star-Lord, said on the Atlanta, Georgia, set of Vol. 2. "There's still a lot of fun to be had there -- he certainly doesn't have a mastery on how to be a leader of this group. But I think he feels like the leader at the beginning of this."
So, where does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 kick off? Fresh off of saving the universe from the zealous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), the Guardians are semi-famous and quite "full of themselves" as they accept a gig from the Sovereign high priestess, Ayesha (known in comic lore as Her, Kismet, Starduster and She Who Must Be Obeyed), to fend off a giant, alien monster.
"She's a member of this race called the Sovereign. They're all genetically created by themselves as a self-sustaining race who are perfect and they think of themselves as perfect," director James Gunn teased of Ayesha (played by Elizabeth Debicki). Meanwhile, Marvel President Kevin Feige revealed, as a villain, Ayesha is "less grandiose in her ambitions than Ronan was, for instance. Ayesha just wants to kill them for slighting her."
"If a big criticism of ours is that we focus on the heroes more than the villains, I think that's probably true," Feige said during our sit-down. "I don't think it will always be true...In Infinity War, in a movie that has a lot of characters, you could almost go so far as to say Thanos is the main character."
Is Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? Nope. Though the galaxy's ultimate big bad (played by Josh Brolin) was a fairly substantial player in the first Guardians movie, he fails to make even the briefest of appearances this time. Gunn explained that he was interested, instead, in exploring the estranged relationship between Thanos' daughters, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan).
"It's not about the sisters and their father. It's about two sisters and what were the sisters' problems with each other. And yeah, some of those things were caused by being raised by the ultimate abusive father," Gunn said. "But it really isn't about Thanos and, frankly, I just wasn't inspired to put him in the movie. I go with my gut on these things and it just wasn't what I wanted to do. It wasn't the most fun part of the movie last time for me, and I didn't really want to do it this time."
Wait, they never even mention Thanos? Isn't he kind of important to the story? Make no mistake, Thanos is extensively discussed -- queuing up 2018's Avengers: Infinity War -- but we see neither hide nor hair of him. He mainly serves as a motivating factor in Gamora and Nebula's arc, as hinted at by Gillan. "We're going to find out a lot about their backstory and learn a lot about Thanos' parenting skills," she said. "And maybe how dysfunctional the entire thing is. We're going to chip away at those layers."
If it sounds like Nebula is going the way of rainbows and sunshine, Gillan reassures, "You might love to hate her, [but] she definitely doesn't cross over to the good side completely. Her default is very pissed off and that's not going to change." Her sister, it seems, will also remain equally flawed. "She's like, a full blown assassin with a lot of bad habits," Saldana said of her character. "I mean, I guess I just feel like, Gamora at least has friends."
What about the Infinity Stones? Are those in Vol. 2? They aren't. This really is the most self-contained Marvel movie since at least two Iron Mans ago. However, the fact that Peter Quill was able to hold the Power Stone is another topic of conversation. "There's a thread there that gets pulled in the second movie," Pratt played coy. "That wasn't an unimportant aspect of who he is."
"There's a question as to why Star-Lord was able to hold the Infinity Stone and not be completely and immediately destroyed," Gunn added. "And we learn a little bit more about why that's the case in this movie."
Do I need to remember anyone from the first movie? The Guardians, certainly -- Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) -- plus Peter's surrogate father figure, the Ravager Yondu (Michael Rooker). Otherwise...not many. While on set, we were told a very small piece of the movie ("nothing major") would take place on Xandar, while Gunn confirmed that Nova Prime would return. ("Yeah, we're going to shoot with Glenn Close.") But even she's not in the final movie.
Instead, Gunn embraces the core cast and introduces a few new characters -- though there was almost one more. "During the treatment phase there was another character that was a major character," Gunn said. "I got to the place where there were too many characters. I think Civil War handles a lot of characters really well, but they're minor characters, and in this movie, every character has their own arc, their own thing." (Asked if the now-omitted character was one of the classic Guardians, Gunn replied, "I don't know what you think is a classic Guardian. You mean the Yondu-Starhawk classic Guardians? No.")
Which new characters are in the movie then? There are the villains -- Ayesha and a rival Ravager named Taserface (This Is Us star Chris Sullivan) -- and, as I've written about before here, Kurt Russell's mysterious Ego the Living Planet, Peter's biological father who is an actual anthropomorphized planet. Then there's an exciting new player, the empathic alien, Mantis, played by newcomer Pom Klementieff.
"She came in and she nailed, just completely, completely nailed the role. In a way that honestly, nobody else has ever done on either this or Guardians 1. And that's pretty incredible," Gunn said. "I think Mantis is as odd and strange as Pom is. I think she is an incredibly unique character. And I think she's funny as sh*t and also a little creepy."
As for how Mantis factors into the plot, that is a spoiler. She does share most of her scenes with Kurt Russell, though. "He's got a very full painter's palette. It's very intricate," Russell said. "You're going to go, 'Wait a minute. That means if that person's that and that person's over there, that means--' Too late! Like, whoops! Sh*t!"
BABY GROOT! Not a question, but you're not wrong. Quite frankly, Baby Groot is adorable. Pre-order everything Baby Groot now. "When I bring Baby Groot out, people just die," prop master Russell Bobbit said on set, revealing that Gunn treated the 10-inch figurine like any other actor on the call sheet. "No different than Chris Pratt."
"Everyone knows Groot so well, that we have much larger awareness, me and the cast, of a Baby Groot being there at all times and being one of the members in the scene," Gunn said of the difference between Groot in Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. "I think he's a better written character than the first Groot in some ways...I think he's just a more complete character." As for what the other Guardians think of Baby Groot, Bautista laughed, "I don't think Drax and the tree are ever going to get along."
Are there post-credits scenes? What's set up for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? More on that later this week. Gunn recently announced that he will be back to write and direct a third Guardians, though, and Pratt and the cast will pop up in Infinity Wars next year. As for what Star-Lord himself hopes comes next?
"I don't know how it works, but I think it would be awesome for Star-Lord to meet Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin somehow," Pratt brainstormed. "I was always a fan of The Punisher. That was my dude who I loved growing up. I had the murals of him on my wall and stuff. So, that would be pretty awesome. Maybe a little more moody than Quill--I don't know exactly how they would work together."
And yes, of course, there are end credits scenes. Five, to be exact, which Gunn said he wrote into his original script. "You guys saw my last tag, right? One was a dancing Baby Groot and the other one is f**king Howard the Duck. That's my tags," Gunn said, claiming that the fate of the Marvel Universe wouldn't be changed as the credits roll. "Don't wait for stupid sh*t." Which is a BOLDFACED LIE. Stay through the credits. The MCU will never be the same.