Patient fans who wait through the credits of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (and really, who goes to a Marvel movie these days and doesn’t wait) will be rewarded with no less than five separate extra scenes. While three are simple callbacks to the film itself — and to long-time Marvel editor and writer, Stan Lee — two are significantly deep cuts into Marvel lore.
We don’t know yet when the third Guardians film will hit screens (Disney and Marvel Entertainment will probably make some bit announcements about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the D23 Expo this July), so for now let’s go down the list of scenes and see what we can divine about the future of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Warning: This post will contain spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Duh.
Scene 1: Kraglin practices with Yondu’s arrow
Our first post-credits scene is a simple, comedic one. Kraglin, Yondu’s final loyal crewman, practices with his departed captain’s whistle arrow. No big takeaways from here except that we’ll probably see Kraglin again in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie, once he’s gotten better at whistling.
Scene 2: Stakar Ogord gets the band back together
Here’s our first scene that anybody outside of the comics world (and a few inside, including this writer) will find completely baffling. Yondu’s heroic demise motivates Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar Ogord to reunite with several other bizarre-looking Ravager captains, implying that, with Yondu, they were all a part of a single team when they were young.
This is our confirmation that Stallone’s character is based on the Marvel hero known as Starhawk, and that several of the other high-ranking Ravagers shown throughout the movie are based on the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy team from the original 1969 comic series. In addition to Stallone as Starhawk, Michelle Yeoh plays Aleta, his adopted sister and ex-wife. Ving Rhames plays Charlie-27, a genetically engineered human with many times the average muscle mass. Michael Rosenbaum plays Martinex, a crystal-skinned being with power to deliver heat or ice-based attacks. And Miley Cyrus (yes) voices Mainframe, a computer intelligence typically depicted as a disembodied red face. Rounding out the group is Krugarr, a voiceless CGI character.
The original Guardians of the Galaxy operated in an alternate far future version of the Marvel Universe. They would occasionally come across links to their ancient past — the present Marvel setting. Krugarr, for example, was the Sorcerer Supreme, trained by his own “Ancient One,” Doctor Stephen Strange. Mainframe was a highly evolved and changed version of the android superhero, the Vision. (If the characters who appear in Vol. 2 ever have their backstories explored, we can probably expect them to be significantly different.)
The original, far-future version of the Guardians of the Galaxy appeared sporadically throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s and up to the early ‘90s. In 2008, the team was rebooted as a part of the core Marvel Universe, with a new lineup that Guardians of the Galaxy movie fans will find much more familiar, including Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Mantis … and Adam Warlock.
Scene 3: Ayesha creates “Adam”
In this scene, Ayesha, a high-ranking leader of the inflexible Sovereign, is informed that her rulers are unhappy with her failure to apprehend the Guardians. To appease them, she has crafted an ultimate being, currently cooking in a technological cocoon, who she thinks is capable of hunting down our heroes. She calls this being “Adam.”
Adam Warlock has had a number of wild incarnations over the years, including as a honest-to-goodness messiah figure inspired by Jesus Christ Superstar. Perhaps most tantalizingly for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its Phase 3, the Infinity Gems (known as the Infinity Stones in the films) were invented for an Adam Warlock story. For a long swath of his stories, Adam Warlock was the bearer of the Soul Gem, the only remaining Infinity Stone that is unaccounted for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In The Infinity Gauntlet, the story in which the titular gauntlet is first constructed by Thanos, the Mad Titan, Warlock plays a key role in rallying heroes against Thanos, destroying the gauntlet and separating the Infinity Gems once more.
And yet, years after that storyline, he was just another member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and that may be how we eventually see him in a future film. Director James Gunn has said that his first few tries at the story for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 heavily featured Warlock, but eventually it became clear that he was “one character too many.” This is a good indication as any that Marvel doesn’t intend for Warlock to be an instrumental part of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.
Scene 4: Teen Groot
Well, this one is pretty self explanatory, isn’t it? Teen Groot. Bein’ a teen.
If we can take anything away from this, it’s that now when people see a normal sized Groot in Avengers: Infinity War and go “Wait I thought Groot was tiny now,” you can point them to this scene.
Scene 5: Stan Lee and the Watchers, reprise
Our final scene is a callback to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s Stan Lee cameo, which featured Stan on a rock in space chatting with some tall, large-headed, caped figures — apparently about all the various times he’s been interrupted in a menial job by a Marvel superhero. Gunn and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige consider this implication — the idea that Lee’s cameos have been the same character all along — as a reference to a popular fan theory.
The theory suggests that Lee’s various cameos are actually depictions of the same man, a situation made possible by the reveal he is a Watcher (for more on that, read on). The scene would seem to imply the former — that somehow, all those different versions of Lee are the same person — but not necessarily the latter.
That’s because those big-headed aliens are clearly members of a race known as the Watchers, an ancient civilization with tremendous cosmic powers over time and space. Famously, they abide by a very restrictive version of the Prime Directive — they are not allowed to interfere in the affairs of other races, only to observe and record knowledge.
This may explain exactly why they were all sitting around listening to Lee’s stories. The cosmic punchline on the joke being that even the Watchers, whose entire existence is observing, eventually got bored with him.
With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 looking at a projected $250 million weekend opening, it’s safe to say that us humans aren’t going to get bored of the work of Lee and other Marvel creators any time soon.
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