“There have been absolutely no restrictions placed on me in terms of that's too far, that's too artistic, that's too unique, that's too dramatic, or that's too comedic. None of that stuff has ever come up. We're really, really pushing it.” – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn
In the summer of 2014, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy surprised the world by becoming the third highest grossing film of the year and the biggest superhero movie of 2014. This little underdog story about space misfits that Marvel seemed to be taking a big gamble on had paid off big time, and now they’ll make their triumphant return to the big screen this May 6 in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Fandango was lucky to visit the set of Guardians Vol. 2 last year in Atlanta -- and as we toured Kurt Russell’s funky ‘60s-inspired spaceship, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” blared and adequately set the vibe for what’s sure to be one of 2017’s biggest films.
So who’s coming back? Who’s new? And who (or what) are the Guardians fighting this time around? Head down below.
And when you get there, we may also have some goods on the year’s most anticipated movie soundtrack, too.
Fandango’s Awesome Guide to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The returning Guardians
“I really set out to write a more intimate, personal story and I think it is, and then somehow in the midst of writing this more intimate, personal, emotional story the set pieces got five times as big.” – James Gunn
Star-Lord (Chris Pratt)
“All the things that worked in the first movie, those things are all here and certainly the emotion is there, and in many ways [it’s] more complex and even deeper.” – Chris Pratt
When we last left him… Star-Lord had defeated Ronan the Accuser by holding an Infinity Stone with his bare hand like a boss. Upon their victory, he learns more about the identity of his father, discovers a new mix tape full of songs that his mom left him, and heads off with his new allies as leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
This time around… Star-Lord is on a greater quest to locate his father, who could perhaps give him clues as to what he’s actually capable of, aside from being able to hold an Infinity Stone with his bare hand like a boss. He’s also feeling the weight of being the leader of a rowdy crew who rarely see eye to eye on anything.
Pratt on Star-Lord: “He definitely feels a responsibility; feels like he’s a leader, but it’s still a group of misfits. There’s still a lot of fun to be had there. He certainly doesn’t have mastery on how to be a leader of this group, but I think he feels like the leader of this group at the beginning of this.”
Gamora (Zoe Saldana)
“They're all orphans. They were all either taken, abused, or forced into a life of violence. So once you take away all the comedy and all the special effects and everything, the Guardians just seem like a group of runaways that try to find a good a reason to stick around.” – Zoe Saldana
When we last left her… Gamora was reeling from a major confrontation with her sister Nebula that ends with the latter severing her own mechanical hand to get away. Both Gamora and Nebula are the daughters of Thanos, whom Marvel has been setting up for years as the big villain in Avengers: Infinity War, and so needless to say Gamora’s got some baggage she still needs to work out.
This time around… Gamora is going to be working on that relationship with Nebula (Karen Gillan), but something tells us that won’t entail endless therapy sessions. These are women who don’t talk out their issues, they fight out their issues.
Saldana on Gamora: “When it comes to her relationship with Nebula, I appreciate what James Gunn did. He definitely heard what the fans were saying. To see this relationship extensively unfold and see what they're about, and through their relationship you’re getting a closer idea of what Thanos is really about. I think it's really interesting to open up that window, and he certainly has with this sequel.”
Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista)
“At the heart of Drax there's really just a heartbroken guy. He's really heartbroken over the loss of his family. I think he has one mission, and that is revenge.” – Dave Bautista
When we last left him… Drax was assisting the Guardians in defeating Ronan, but he has much bigger titans to slay. Getting rid of Ronan was only a stepping stone when it comes to Drax’s real quest: eliminating Thanos, the one responsible for killing his family.
This time around… Drax is coming into his own as a fully fledged member of the team, and while he’ll never stop looking to avenge the death of his loved ones, he’s making a go at discovering a new family. He may also find a kindred spirit in Mantis. “I think they’re both very awkward,” Bautista said.
Bautista on Drax: “I think that he's just more prominent in this film. I think James really found such an amusement to Drax -- an amusement for writing for Drax. Which is great for me, and he may have developed a bit more faith in me as well. I was still kind of the new guy on set with the last film. I kind of pulled my weight, and he's developed even more faith in me, so he's written for me more.”
Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper)
Rocket's past is very important to the present story, but it's not about how it affects him, it's about how it affects his relationship with the other Guardians.” – James Gunn
When we last left him… Rocket went from being a nasty delinquent raccoon with a giant humanoid tree as his own only friend to a galaxy-saving hero and the most outspoken member of the Guardians.
This time around… Rocket isn’t just watching out for his own tale, but also for baby Groot, who is now under the raccoon’s protection. He also spends part of the film off on another adventure with Groot and Yondu, as the trio grapple with Ravagers and try to reunite with the other Guardians.
Gunn on Rocket: “This is really about Rocket coming to terms with accepting his place within a group of people, which probably seemed like a good idea for two seconds when they were getting along and saving a planet. And now he's just not very comfortable with the idea of being a part of this group.”
Groot (Vin Diesel)
“When I first started thinking about it, when I was jotting down ideas, I thought Groot was maybe going to be an adult. And I thought ‘God, what if I just make Groot a baby for the whole movie?’ That just felt right. I think he's a better-written character than the first Groot in some ways. Not that he was poorly written at all, but I think he's just a more complete character.” – James Gunn
When we last left him… Groot had sacrificed himself in order to shield the other Guardians from the Dark Aster crash-landing all around them. It was one the film’s most heartbreaking moments, but it was later followed by one of the film’s most heartwarming moments, featuring a newly grown baby Groot gettin’ his groove on as Drax sat nearby, oblivious to it all.
This time around… Since Guardians Vol. 2 takes place only a few months after the events of the first film, Groot is still very much a baby Groot. Now instead of Groot being Rocket’s protector, their roles are switched. And you can fully expect baby Groot to steal the entire show.
Gunn on Groot: “He's a unique little fella, and he's pretty great in the movie. There's something really cool about him, and he's funny in the movie. He's a little jerk too. He can kick some ass. He's also an idiot. He's a baby. He's not very smart. So, he's stupid.”
When we pick up with the Guardians of the Galaxy…
“[They’re] getting full of themselves and believing their own hype and fame. They’re also distinguishing themselves visually a little bit, and you see that in the costume design. They are a little more rock 'n roll. They kinda think they're awesome now.” – Guardians producer Jonathan Schwartz
As the film opens, we find the Guardians on a gig to help bring down this giant interdimensional beast that’s terrorizing the Sovereign race (more on them below) by eating these batteries that essentially serve as their power source. In return for assistance from the Guardians, the Sovereign people have something the Guardians want desperately…. Nebula.
Marvel’s Kevin Feige on the monstrous opening sequence: “The Guardians have been asked to come in and dispatch with that thing, and that’s how our film starts. Their legend and their mythology has grown and spread throughout the universe, because they defeated Ronan and because Peter, in particular, was able to hold an Infinity Stone and not die, which also has spread his legend.”
Guess who’s also back in the mix…
Nebula (Karen Gillan)
“I hope people will understand her a little bit more, but her default is very pissed off and that's not going to change.” – Karen Gillan
When we last left her… Nebula was reeling from a confrontation with her sister Gamora, going so far as to cut off her own hand in order to escape the battle. From there, she disappeared.
This time around… Nebula is off looking to repair her damaged hand, and the Guardians might be off looking to repair the damaged relationship they have with her. Gamora definitely has unfinished business with her sister, and we do as well. These are Thanos’ daughters – what in the galaxy was that upbringing like? We need to know things like this!
Gillan on Nebula: [In the sequel] we learn a lot about their backstory and what happened to these two girls growing up, and how awful it was for them; how it's ruined their relationship. And they're sort of going to freely talk about it, which has never happened between these two people.”
Yondu (Michael Rooker)
“Where Peter [Quill] comes from, and who he is, and his lineage, and his straight-up relationship to his father, and his surrogate father, which is Yondu -- all of that stuff is incredibly important.” – James Gunn
When we last left him… Yondu, the Ravager originally responsible for swiping Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) from Earth, was looking like a chump after Star-Lord told him he’d give him the Infinity Stone, but instead tricked Yondu and gave it to Nova Corp for safe keeping.
This time around… Yondu is at odds with the other Ravagers, who all think he’s gone soft on Peter Quill and the Guardians. One Ravager in particular, Taserface, is not happy with Yondu, and that skirmish is what propels Yondu to spend some of the film on a separate journey with Rocket and Groot.
Pratt on Yondu: “I would say Star-Lord kind of finds himself caught between two father figures.”
Feige on Yondu: “He gets a much bigger fin on top of his head [in this movie], which was James’ sort of nod to that bigger fin he had in the comics… and also because he looks frickin’ awesome in that bigger fin.”
Heck yeah, Kurt Russell is in this movie, too!
(Pictured: Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken in 1981's Escape from New York)
Kurt Russell is a mysterious figure, an adventurer from far parts of the galaxy, who has heard the legend that has spread of the Guardians and has come to meet them and check them out for the first time.” – Kevin Feige
Ego, the living planet
That’s right, Kurt Russell has a major role in the Guardians sequel playing a character who, historically, is actually a living planet. In the comics Ego – who, yes, lives up to that name in many ways – typically takes the form of a giant face in the shape of a planet, but he – or shall we say it – can also take the form of pretty much anything or anyone, hence becoming Kurt Russell in the sequel. (And hey, if you were a planet, you’d probably want to look as cool as Kurt Russell, too.)
“He really is a lot like Kurt Russell,” James Gunn said when describing Ego. “So, he's a very interesting guy, and he's a very thoughtful guy. And I think he's a very gregarious guy. We get to see Kurt Russell in his full glory expressing himself!”
We also know Russell’s Ego is Star-Lord’s long-lost father, but we don’t know whether that will be a good or a bad thing. As Pratt told us, “You get to find out who he hopes his father is and who he wishes his father is, and whether or not that is the reality."
What you need to know about Mantis (Pom Klementieff)
“She comes into the story along with the Kurt Russell character, and doesn’t know the other characters and doesn’t know much of the world. She never really encountered other people and other humanoids before, and [she] makes Drax look like the most world-savvy person there is.” – Kevin Feige
Mantis has a rich and complicated history in the Marvel comics, so for the purposes of this movie all you need to know is that she’s an alien and has spent much of her life at the side of Kurt Russell’s Ego.
She also has some interesting powers.
Pom on Mantis: “She feels things, you know, by touching people. So she can feel things and change emotions.”
The part was a fun one to cast, too.
Gunn on Mantis/Pom: “I think Mantis is as odd and strange as Pom is. And I think she is an incredibly unique character. And to be auditioning Asian actresses was awesome. Truly, we screen-tested four actresses who all four of them were totally incredible. It's just Pom happened to fit the role the best, but it was a really amazing experience. And honestly, truly, an example of there's a lot of actors out there who don't get the opportunities of these lead roles that a regular white dude does.”
And everyone loves her.
Pratt on Pom: “Pom [Klementieff] is somebody who will be on your radar for the rest of your life after this. She is crushing it. She’s so unique and I feel like she was totally born to play Mantis.”
Here come the villains!
“They are less grandiose in their ambitions than Ronan was, for instance.” – Kevin Feige
After squaring off against Thanos lackey Ronan the Accuser in the first film, the sequel will find the group dealing with numerous obstacles, including the insane looking Ravager, Taserface (Chris Sullivan), and the mysteriously beautiful Ayesha (Ellizabeth Debicki).
When we first meet the Guardians of the Galaxy in the sequel, they’re on a mission assisting a race of people called the Sovereign, of which Ayesha is a part. Naturally things go awry, and those events are what put Ayesha at odds with Star-Lord’s crew.
As James Gunn explained: “[Ayesha’s] a member of this race called the Sovereign and they're all genetically created by themselves as a self-sustaining race who are perfect. They're created as perfect beings, and they think of themselves as perfect.”
The Ravagers play a much larger role in this film, as does Yondu, the particular Ravager responsible for swiping Peter Quill from Earth, and the same one who’s gone rather soft on Quill ever since (and especially toward the end of the first movie). That softness doesn’t sit well with the other Ravagers, especially Taserface, who wants the Guardians destroyed.
As Marvel’s Kevin Feige told us, both Ayesha and Taserface have that one thing in common: wiping out those dastardly Guardians. “She’s the one who hires the Ravagers to go after Peter Quill.”
And you know all of this action is going to be set to another awesome mix tape…
“We have a couple of songs that are enormous songs, which we didn't have on the first movie. We also have a couple songs that are almost completely unknown, or not very well known at all. So there's a bigger gamut between the popular and unpopular songs on the second album.” – James Gunn
When the first Guardians of the Galaxy dropped, one of its more unsuspecting stars was actually the film’s soundtrack. Propelled by a mix of older classic songs like Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” and Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky,” the soundtrack actually reached number one on the Top 200 charts, becoming the first to do so consisting entirely of previously released music.
So what are some of the songs featured on Awesome Mix: Vol. 2?
We can tell you a couple of the songs, including Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” Both songs were featured prominently in the sequences we observed while on set, primarily as it relates to an early meeting between Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, and Ego and Mantis.
That’s one of the cool ways that Gunn films, blasting the songs he’s envisioning for each scene as he shoots the scene. This way everyone can feel not just the vibe of the scene, but also what, exactly, the music is bringing to it, too.
“I love it and James is really open to it,” Pratt said with regards to blasting music from the movie as they shoot. “And so we’ve been doing that more this time than we did the first time around. In the first movie we were listening to 'Cherry Bomb' when we were walking down that hallway. Those songs were really playing and a lot of the score was playing, too.”
As for what to expect this time around, both Pratt and Gunn say it’ll be a mix of the familiar and the obscure, but all of it will fuel the storytelling.
“There are some really powerful, amazing songs that we’re really excited to have,” Pratt said. “Definitely still very honest and as a narrative tool, there’s never a moment that the music isn’t justified and isn’t a part of the storytelling process. It’s not just an accompaniment or a score. It’s like the songs -- and more so in this movie -- really helped tell the story.
But at the heart of the story…
It’s all about family.
“The first film is about becoming a family, and the second film is about being a family,” Gunn said.
As producer Jonathan Schwartz added, the crux of the film is very much about whether this group will remain together or if they’re just too different and volatile to be in each other’s lives.
“Part of the meta-arc of the movie is what's going to happen to the Guardians family,” he said. “Are they going to stay together? So there is a big split that happens relatively early in the movie, and whether they're going to get back together or remain as a family is, very much, one of the [film’s] big plots, or themes.”
One last thing…
“I don't want to do the same types of things. I think the only tradition is that we try to give the audience what's unexpected and what they don't think is coming next. And mostly just in terms of the story, the characters hopefully being something that's a little deeper than the first movie.” – James Gunn
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