No one quite knew what to expect when Marvel Studios announced plans for a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but after years of speculation, the 2014 film premiered to rave reviews from critics and audiences alike and (somewhat surprisingly) became one of the year’s biggest blockbusters. The group of heroic misfits will return in May 2017 for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with writer and director James Gunn also reprising his role behind the camera.
The 15th film in Marvel’s rapidly expanding cinematic universe, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will feature the return of the entire core team of heroes and many supporting cast members, as well as welcome several newcomers to Marvel’s big-screen universe.
With the film scheduled to hit theaters May 5, 2017, here’s everything we know about the return of Marvel’s favorite group of hard-luck cosmic heroes.
Getting to know the score
On January 25, Gunn took fans inside a recording session for the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 score, offering a unique preview of the music that will set the tone for the much-anticipated film.
Gunn’s preview of the recording session was broadcast live on Facebook, with the director accompanied by composer Tyler Bates in the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London, England, where — as Gunn points out — quite a few other prominent films recorded memorable scores.
Live from Abbey Road with the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 orchestra playing the score!
Posted by James Gunn on Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Bad goes good?
Karen Gillan’s mechanically enhanced assassin Nebula was among the earliest characters confirmed to return for the sequel, but a recent interview with the actress suggests that the adopted daughter of Thanos could drift toward the good-guy side of things this time around.
“What I love about the second movie for Nebula in particular is that … we know that she’s a pretty angry woman with some daddy issues, [but] in the second movie, we’re going to start to see how much pain her father actually caused her,” Gillan told The Wrap. “We’re going to delve right into the relationship with her sister Gamora.”
Audiences were given an indication of what Nebula endured as Thanos’ daughter in the first film, but Gillan hints that the more we get to know about her life prior to the events of Guardians of the Galaxy, the more we’ll understand why she did what she did — and actually begin to see her side of things.
“I think we might even feel a tinge of sympathy towards Nebula this time, because we really start to see the emotional crack in her character,” she added. “I was just allowed to completely explore that and take it to a completely different dimension with her. I was really happy about that.”
The trailer arrives (with a big bang)
After months of teases throughout the end of 2016, the very first, official trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was released December 3 — and it did everything it could to reward fans for their patience.
Set to the tune of 1975’s Fox on the Run by the British band Sweet, the trailer features the whole gang doing what they do best: fighting, arguing, looking good, and kicking some serious cosmic butt. It also features Rocket Raccoon (as voiced by Bradley Cooper) having a tense discussion with an adorably miniature version of the sentient tree creature Groot about the necessity of not pushing a button that the latter seems intent on pushing.
The trailer concludes with a scene featuring one of the new additions to the cast, the empathic alien Mantis, played by Oldboy actress Pom Klementieff.
On October 19, the first official poster for the film was released by Gunn and Walt Disney Studios. It features the main characters: Nebula (Karen Gillan), Yondu (Michael Rooker), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), and Drax (David Bautista).
But that wasn’t the only big piece of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 news to arrive that day …
The first official footage from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was released to the public on the same day as the aforementioned poster in the form of a brief teaser trailer.
Dubbed “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Sneak Peek,” the 80-second preview of the film is set to the familiar tune of Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling — the same song that set the tone for the first film’s trailer — and runs through a montage of scenes from the sequel that feature all of the main characters, as well as a hefty dose of the comedy that made the first film so appealing. The teaser trailer ends with a scene of Rocket Raccoon shooting a hole in the wall, then smiling as a tiny version of Groot watches from Rocket’s shoulder.
Improving on awesome
As for the audio component of the film, Gunn acknowledged to Entertainment Tonight in April 2015 that he felt “a little pressure” to improve on the first film’s widely praised “Awesome Mix, Vol. 1” soundtrack, which went platinum after it was officially released.
The specific tracks chosen by Gunn for the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have remained a closely guarded secret, but the filmmaker did indicate that at least one David Bowie song will likely make the cut.
“I’ve been trying to work another song from Ziggy into the sequel, which would make Bowie the only artist to have a song on both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2,” wrote Gunn in a Facebook update penned the day of Bowie’s death in January. “I thought this was fair and appropriate. Although I cut the scene it was used in from the script, we have the rights. Who knows. Maybe I can figure a way out.”
Second time, with feeling
Like all the Marvel Studios movies, Guardians of the Galaxy was envisioned from the start as a potential franchise starter, and the film’s success sealed the deal. The sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy was officially confirmed at San Diego’s Comic-Con International mere months after the film’s premiere, and was given a release date of July 28, 2017. That release date was later pushed up to its current May 2017 premiere in order to make room for Marvel’s busy slate of films arriving in theaters between 2016 and 2018.
Along with confirming the return of James Gunn as director and (now sole) writer, Marvel announced the return of all five of the main actors (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper) early on, as well as the return of several supporting characters (including Michael Rooker’s blue-skinned mercenary Yondu).
“I’ve never been told to put in any character or plot element at all.”
Asked about his reasons for returning to the franchise when so many other Marvel Studios filmmakers have only directed one film, Gunn praised his relationship with the studio during a Facebook Q&A session.
“We have a really great relationship where they let me go and do my thing, and I truly listen to their notes and ideas,” he explained. “I’ve never been told to put in any character or plot element at all … When [Marvel] trust[s] you – and I think I’ve earned their trust over the past few years – they give you a wide berth … we just fit.”
Gunn hinted for quite a while that the sequel wouldn’t simply add a “2” to the title of the original, and in June 2015 he revealed that he’d finished the first draft of the script and announced the official title for the film: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which technically fulfilled his promise.
Yes, the official title of the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.Kevin Feige…
“Because Guardians of the Galaxy is already so wordy, it seemed strange to add another bunch of words after it,” he explained on Facebook. “I liked Vol. 2 the best, so that’s what I stuck on the cover of the screenplay – and, fortunately, [Marvel] liked it.”
Principal photography on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 officially began on February 17, 2016, at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayette County, Georgia.
Marvel Studios celebrated the start of filming by releasing the first official photo from the production, depicting all five main characters back together again.
Early on in production, Gunn revealed that many of the behind-the-scenes crew members from the first film weren’t available to work on Vol. 2 due to their involvement with Doctor Strange. Among the missing team from the original Guardians of the Galaxy are cinematographer Ben Davis and production designer Charles Wood. However, editors Fred Raskin and Craig Wood both returned, and visual effects studio Framestore was also rehired to work on bringing Rocket Raccoon to life for another adventure.
Also involved with the filming this time around was an 8K resolution camera — quite a few of them, in fact. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 became the first major feature film to use 8K cameras, with Gunn and his team using the Red Weapon 8K to capture the action for the movie.
Getting the band back together
Just a few months after the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, director James Gunn himself made the return of the five main characters official with his own announcement — but only after joking that he planned to kill them all off in the first 10 minutes of the movie.
Along with Pratt, Saldana and company, supporting cast members Rooker, Sean Gunn (James’ brother), Glenn Close, and Gillan were all subsequently confirmed to return, playing the Ravagers Yondu and Kraglin, Nova Prime, and the deadly assassin Nebula, respectively. Rooker in particular hinted (in an interview with Comic Book Resources) that his character Yondu could have a larger role in the sequel, as well as some potential changes on the visual side — possibly bringing it more in line with the character’s comics counterpart, who sports a large fin on his head.
While there was no shortage of speculation about which cosmic characters might debut in the sequel, Gunn and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige didn’t shy away from crossing a few well-known names off the list — including a few familiar ones from Guardians of the Galaxy and other Marvel movies.
Captain Marvel, who’s expected to make her debut in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War (with Brie Larson playing the popular character) was taken out of contention for the sequel in order to keep Pratt’s Peter Quill the sole representative of Earth, according to Gunn. Similarly, the god-like alien Thanos was eliminated from the sequel’s story — despite playing a key role in the original film — in order to save him for Avengers: Infinity War, Feige told Empire Magazine. Gunn later confirmed that Benicio del Toro’s eccentric alien known as The Collector would also be absent from the sequel after debuting in the 2014 film.
However, in discussing that big Infinity War team-up film far in the future, Gunn and Feige didn’t entirely rule out an appearance by an Avenger or two in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, either. (So the speculation can continue.)
“That could or could not include a couple of Avengers and a couple of Guardians meeting up…”
“We talked about all sorts of possibilities [for a crossover] and I kind of know what the basic plan is,” Gunn told Yahoo Movies. “It could always change at any minute. That could or could not include a couple of Avengers and a couple of Guardians meeting up, or all of the Avengers and all of the Guardians. But, we do inhabit the same universe and they’re pretty big personalities that are likely to, at some point or another, run into each other.”
As far as new characters go, Marvel announced a big one during the studio’s panel at 2016’s Comic-Con International in San Diego. After rumors had indicated Kurt Russell would play the father of Pratt’s Peter Quill, the casting was confirmed during San Diego Comic-Con, with the added news that Russell’s character would also be Ego, the Living Planet — leading fans to wonder how Gunn plans to blend Ego (who isn’t Quill’s father in the comics) and Quill’s father into a single character.
Other newcomers confirmed for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 include Oldboy actress Pom Klementieff as Mantis, a powerful alien with a convoluted history in the comics who has been both ally and enemy of the Guardians of the Galaxy at various points; The Knick actor Chris Sullivan as Taserface, the leader of a mutinous group of Ravagers; The Man From U.N.C.L.E. actress Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, a priestess who enlists the Guardians’ help; and Sylvester Stallone, who’s rumored to play one of the members of the cosmic peacekeeper force known as Nova Corps.
Where to go from here?
Guardians of the Galaxy had barely been out in theaters a week before Gunn began dropping hints about plans for the sequel.
As far back as August 2014 — the same month Guardians of the Galaxy premiered — Gunn mentioned a desire to explore the relationship between Peter Quill (Pratt) and his mysterious father, as well as that of Quill and his adopted family, Yondu (Rooker) and the Ravagers. Those themes would continue to be recurring elements in interviews that addressed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with Gunn, as well as Feige.
One thing the sequel won’t do is simply serve as a set-up for 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, according to Gunn and Feige, who both expressed a desire to see the Guardians of the Galaxy heroes operate somewhat independently of The Avengers superheroes for the time being.
“[We’re] trying to make [Avengers: Age of Ultron] affect it as little as possible,” Gunn told Screen Junkies in December 2014. “We really are separate from the Avengers, and I don’t think people should assume too many things about the Guardians’ play in all this. We have our own galaxy to take care of. We have our own galaxy to save. Earth is the Avengers’ province.”
Marvel Studios eventually cleared up quite a bit of the aforementioned mystery surrounding Peter Quill’s father during Comic-Con International in San Diego in 2016.
While presenting a sizzle reel for the film at the studio’s annual panel, Marvel revealed the Kurt Russell will be playing Ego — a character typically represented as a living planet in Marvel Comics continuity — and that the character met Peter Quill’s mother after taking the form of a human. Russell’s costume for the film was on display at Marvel Studios’ booth at San Diego Comic-Con.
The sizzle reel also featured Yondu and Rocket Raccoon (as voiced by Cooper) escaping imprisonment by the Ravagers — Yondu’s team of mercenaries, who apparently mutinied — with the help of a miniature Groot (voiced by Diesel).
A few weeks later, Gunn revealed some early concept art for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 depicting the team battling what appeared to be a massive, tentacled creature in space.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) August 22, 2016
Updated on 01-25-2017 by Rick Marshall: Added James Gunn’s video of recording session for film’s score.