When the first Guardians of the Galaxy opened in 2014, the film's delightful irreverence extended all the way to the trademark Marvel Studios post-credits scene: a deliberate throwaway cameo from Marvel Comics curio Howard the Duck.
For Guardians Vol. 2, however, writer-director James Gunn took post-credit scenes to another level, with a record five bonus scenes unfolding after the movie's ostensible final shot.
"Listen, people love the post-credit scenes," Gunn told BuzzFeed News with a laugh. "And so I decided to just give the people what they want, which is a lot of post-credit scenes."
Some scenes deliberately point to future movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even the throwaways hold some intriguing implications. Here's what you need to know.
(Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS!)
Adam Warlock will almost certainly appear in Guardians Vol. 3 — but he definitely won’t show up in Avengers: Infinity War.
In the third post-credits scene, the Sovereign's imperious high priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) is looking as disheveled as her obsession with total perfection will allow. Desperate to redeem herself after the Guardians destroyed her fleet, Ayesha reveals that she has created "the next step in our evolution — more powerful, more beautiful, more capable of destroying the Guardians of the Galaxy." As she gazes upon the giant birthing pod containing her creation, Ayesha says, "I think I shall call him Adam."
That would be Adam Warlock, the golden, nearly indestructible Marvel character who in the comics eventually joins the Guardians of the Galaxy. His fate is also entwined with the "Soul Gem," one of the "Infinity Gems" — rechristened "Infinity Stones" in the MCU, and the catalyst for 2018's gargantuan Marvel Studios movie Avengers: Infinity War. Adam Warlock played a key role in the comics series The Infinity Gauntlet, the underlying source material for Infinity War, so one could easily assume that he would also appear in the movie.
As Marvel comics fans already know all too well, however, the MCU can veer quite far from the original stories.
"Adam Warlock has always been someone who I've been excited about being a part of the Guardians," said Gunn. "But he is not a part of Infinity War."
Gunn noted that while he is an executive producer of Infinity War — to help bring the Guardians into the larger MCU for the first time — he received no instructions from Marvel Studios about setting up that film with the developments in Guardians Vol. 2. "Those guys chose to not have Adam as a part of [Infinity War],” Gunn said before laughing. “I say ‘they,’ but I'm the one who's making the Guardians movies. I love Adam Warlock, but we just didn't have time to tell his full story before Infinity War happens."
The original Guardians of the Galaxy are back — but not necessarily in a separate movie.
Perhaps the most tantalizing — and easily the most confusing! — post-credits scene in Vol. 2 is the second, in which Yondu's Ravager colleague Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) stands before a motley group of fellow Ravagers: the giant Charlie-27 (Ving Rhames), the crystalline Martinex (Michael Rosenbaum), the formidable Aleta Ogord (Michelle Yeoh), the disembodied robot head Mainframe (Miley Cyrus), and the silent amphibious-looking alien Krugarr.
"You know, it's a shame that it took the tragedy of losing Yondu to bring us all together again," says Stakar. “But I think he would be proud knowing that we're back as a team."
"I'm in," says Charlie-27.
"Dope," says Martinex.
"I missed you guys so much!" says Mainframe.
"Hell yes," says Aleta.
Krugarr waves his hands and an image of a thumbs-up appears before him, and then Stakar says they should all go "steal some shit."
Who? Also: What? And: Huh?
Except for Mainframe, all of these characters were once a part of the Guardians of the Galaxy in the Marvel comics, which date back to the late 1960s. Yondu, in fact, was also a part of the original Guardians (though Gunn radically reconceived the character, played by Michael Rooker, for the movies), and Stakar's speech about them being "back as a team" is a nod to that heritage.
Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige said that Gunn initially pitched the idea of bringing back the original Guardians crew early on in the process of writing Vol. 2. "My reaction was, 'Absolutely, let's do it, how cool!'" said Feige. At first, the idea was just to cut to Stakar, Martinex, Charlie-27, and Aleta during Yondu's Ravager funeral at the end of the film, but then Gunn had the idea to bring them together in a post-credits scene, too. "All the actors were thoughtful to come back and shoot that," said Feige. Well, save for Cyrus, who recorded her line as Mainframe after Gunn saw her on NBC's The Voice.
Given the pedigree of the actors involved, the scene also feels like a sly way to introduce the characters for a brand-new Marvel franchise. But Gunn said that is not quite the case.
"I'm excited by the possibility of doing more stuff with that particular set of characters," said Gunn. "I don't know about their own movie." He was clear that these characters almost certainly will show up again in the MCU — it would be a terrible waste of these actors' talents for them not to, for one thing — but Gunn remained vague on how that would happen. One interesting possibility: In the comics, Krugarr often crosses paths with another major MCU character with his own movie, Doctor Strange.
We could be seeing a lot more of Kraglin.
The first post-credits scene features perpetual Ravager sidekick Kraglin (Sean Gunn), who is trying to learn how to manipulate Yondu's arrow after his dear captain's death. (The scene actually plays after the movie is over, but before the main credits roll, so perhaps it should be called a pre-post-credits scene?) Kraglin doesn't quite get the knack of it at first, and ends up accidentally stabbing poor Drax (Dave Bautista). But does the effort indicate Kraglin will be eventually taking on Yondu's mantle?
"I think in some ways, yeah," said James Gunn. "Kraglin is stepping up to do his thing."
In a separate interview, Sean Gunn wasn't quite so sure. "I don't know what that means for future movies," the actor told BuzzFeed News. "Everyone's like, 'Oh, [James] is your brother, of course you'll be in the third Guardians.' But he's got to tell the story he needs to tell first, and if I fit into that, I will be ecstatic."
Gunn wasn't even sure the scene with Yondu's arrow was going to make the final cut of Vol. 2 until just a few months ago. "The funny thing is, [James] told me the whole story of the second movie in July of 2015, up to and including the tag where Kraglin has the fin and the arrow," he said. "I've been sitting on that information for two years, and not been able to tell anybody!"
Say goodbye to baby Groot!
The diabolically cute baby Groot steals every one of his scenes in Vol. 2, but in the fourth post-credits scene, we see he's already become a petulant kid who is obsessed with video games and refuses to clean up his room.
"It's actually tween Groot," said James Gunn with a smile. "Adolescent Groot, we call him. He's a young, snotty, shitty Groot."
Does that mean in Infinity War, we'll see Iron Man having to deal with tween Groot's sass?
"Well, like…it's not even…yeah…I mean…whatever," Gunn said, purposely stammering through an attempt to not say anything definitive. "Whatever version of Groot is going to be in Infinity War, that's sort of where we're going." He laughed. "Maybe."
Stan Lee could be a Watcher, but he is absolutely the coolest.
The final post-credits scene is the second half of Marvel Comics guru Stan Lee's obligatory cameo in Vol. 2. He first appears about halfway through the movie, wearing a spacesuit and telling a group of giant-brained aliens about his days on Earth as a FedEx delivery man (which he plays at the end of Captain America: Civil War). In the post-credits scene — in fact, the only scene that actually plays after all the credits have finished — we see those aliens walking away, apparently unmoved as Lee exclaims that he "has so many more stories to tell!"
Those aliens are a passive race called the Watchers who basically do just that. Lee is credited in Vol. 2 as “The Watchers’ Informant,” but Feige said at a recent press conference that those scenes really suggest that “he’s this same character who’s popped up in all these films.” That would lend some credence to the popular fan theory that Lee is really playing the Watcher named Uatu, which at least makes as much sense as the MCU containing a bunch of guys who all look like Stan Lee.
At least three of Lee’s cameos were shot last year by Gunn back-to-back, the first appearing in Doctor Strange last fall. And Gunn told BuzzFeed News that he just worked with Lee again "on a secret project" in April.
"It's really just one of the high points of my life, working with Stan Lee," Gunn said. "He's 94 years old. He's still completely vibrant. He still gives me shit constantly. I just love the guy to death. He's just so energetic and warm and open to everybody he meets. I hope to live a long time, and I hope to be a nice guy when I'm older. I can't imagine doing what Stan Lee does."
And yes, that is Jeff Goldblum dancing during the credits.
The last stretch of credits are occasionally adorned with GIF-like shots of the Guardians getting down to the quasi-rapping styles of David Hasselhoff in the song "Guardians Inferno," including a brief shot of Jeff Goldblum dancing as his character the Grandmaster from Marvel Studios' next film, Thor: Ragnarok.
"That wasn't even planned," said Gunn. "Somebody said, 'Hey, we have this footage of Jeff Goldblum dancing.' I don't even know what it was from, a photo shoot or something." Gunn laughed. "I'm like, 'Oh! Let's put him in there!'"