While certain Marvel Cinematic Universe movies served to set up future MCU flicks (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Iron Man 2, for example), Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 was nearly free of connections with other movies set in this shared universe. Of course, there were hints of connections here and there. In contrast with Iron Man 2, James Gunn had free rein, and was able to further develop his characters from 2014’s first installment.
Scenes that did reference other movies or set up future MCU installments weren’t at all intrusive, as they fit almost organically into the film. Just compare the infamous Avengers: Age of Ultron scene in which Thor had his vision with Nebula's revealing backstory about Thanos.
So what were these references with which Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 set up future MCU movies? Well, check it out, but only if you’ve seen the movie!
Death in the MCU
As in the comics, nobody (that matters) stays dead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain America didn't die in The First Avenger, and the same thing happened with his pal Bucky, who then became the Winter Soldier. Nick Fury faked his death. Loki couldn’t even manage to stay dead; he was revived for The Avengers.
Only Quicksilver bit the bullet. However, his introduction was so brief that audiences really hadn't had time to connect with him.
In the movies, the absence of death (the ultimate peril, so to speak) sets the stakes very low. But in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, Yondu's death/sacrifice might usher in a new era in which we can't say who will make it out to appear in the next film. We feel that this uncertainty would benefit the shared universe.
Our first list item was about the influence Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 might have on future MCU films, but this next point actually teased a coming movie. As a simple cameo, shown during the credits, it didn’t distract from the movie.
As the credits rolled, we saw various characters, including Star-Lord, Groot, and even Howard the Duck, dancing to David Hasselhoff's Guardian Inferno. And they’re not the only ones! Yet another character appears, set to be fully introduced in Thor: Ragnarok!
Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster showed up, and he was dancing, too! Nobody saw this coming, and it was quite a treat! But why was he included?
We believe that this wasn’t just a hint of Grandmaster as he’ll appear in Thor: Ragnarok (basically, the opposite of the Collector). It could also be an early signal that the MCU will gradually switch its focus from Earth-based to cosmic superheroes!
Of all of the arcs in in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, Nebula's could be considered the weakest (her transformation from Gamora's biggest enemy to her ally, just because she wanted a sister, was a bit cheesy). But it did provide us with some insight into how terrifying Thanos was and how deeply she hated him.
Given her plan – as revealed to Kraglin - we can assume that Nebula will be one of the biggest enemies of the Mad Titan in Infinity War and Avengers 4. We can also assume that she’ll find common ground with Drax, who blames Thanos for killing his family.
It would be pretty neat if Drax and Nebula were the ones to bring the Mad Titan to his knees. We doubt that this will happen, especially with Drax relegated to providing comic relief.
Back to Earth
Although we heard that Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 would be an emotional film, we didn't really expect that it would be. But we were wrong. Star-Lord and Yondu’s arcs were both excellent, with Star-Lord’s answering a major question from the first installment: Why didn't Peter Quill go home once he had his own ship?
We learned the answer during an exchange between Star-Lord and Ego. If Ego refused to return to a planet where there was no Meredith (this is later revealed as a lie), Peter refused to return to a planet where he saw his mother die.
But in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, Star-Lord learned that he was never alone, since Yondu was his Mary Poppins (or daddy, if you will). This, along with his new family, gave him the resolve to head back to Earth.
Unfortunately, besides his grandfather, the Infinity War was also expecting him (so to speak).
The biggest Easter-Egg of them all revealed that Adam Warlock is joining the MCU! His arrival will take place a little later than expected, since he’ll skip both Infinity War and Avengers 4. He’ll be introduced in 2020 when Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is released.
One of the GotG2 credits scenes showed Ayesha planning her revenge on the Guardians. She created a weapon more powerful and more beautiful than anything that came before, and she called it Adam. Of course, given the fact that the Sovereign were a genetically engineered people, this weapon was Adam Warlock.
So he might be one of the Guardians’ main antagonists; that is, until he joins them or goes on his own quests.
This also revealed that Ayesha and the Sovereign would return as main antagonists!
Stakar and Co.
Sylvester Stallone's role in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 was revealed a couple of weeks before the movie’s release. Fans were excited to learn that his character was Starhawk, a comic book superhero and one of the original Guardians of the Galaxy. But when the movie arrived, his reveal was a bit underwhelming. In a cameo, Stakar butted heads with Yondu, providing the latter with a bit of backstory and expanding on the mythology of the Ravagers in the MCU.
It all turned around when additional original Guardians were revealed as Ravager leaders.
Of course, this could have ended with just a simple cameo. However, James Gunn said that it was actually quite a major reveal, since Stallone's character’s role (and presumably his buddies’) will expand in future MCU movies. And, while we can expect these characters to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy 3, we believe that other cosmic installments might welcome them before that (Thor: Ragnarok, Captain Marvel, Infinity War).
As everyone expected, Baby Groot stole the show whenever he appeared onscreen. It’s no wonder that James Gunn decided to use this version of the hero, besides the timeframe (it rhymes with merchandise). However, the post-credits scenes revealed Groot as a teenager, which led Star Lord to realize what Yondu went through when he was in his teens. Given the MCU timeline (four years will pass between Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 and Infinity War), can we assume that the adolescent Groot was seen as the team headed to the Milky Way and Earth?
We can assume that.
We can also say that by the time they reach Earth, Groot will be a young adult with fully restored powers. So he'll be an actual enemy for Thanos, whatever he might throw at the Avengers.
Stan Lee has reportedly already shot his cameos for a couple more MCU movies, including Thor: Ragnarok. Kevin Feige said that contrary to what we believed, these weren't random scenes, and given the Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 big reveal"¦
The legendary Lee, who has so far portrayed a single character through all of the Marvel movies, could end up becoming one of the more powerful beings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without actually interfering.
Lee was credited as just an informant in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, but the fact that Feige said that his roles weren't random made us wonder. We wouldn't be surprised to see Stan Lee's true identity revealed in Infinity War or Avengers 4.
In the comics, The Watchers were one of the oldest species in the universe. And, without interfering, they accumulated all existing knowledge, and were capable of extraordinary feats that dwarfed anything we’ve seen to date in the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 proved that they do exist in this shared universe.
Of course, Kevin Feige said that the Watchers were part of the 20th Century Fox deal, so the characters were available for both studios to use. But we believe – and hope – that there was more to this than just a simple sharing of characters.
The fact that Feige hasn't revealed what will happen after Phase III makes us wonder whether this deal involved other Fox characters. We can't bet on it, but maybe this was the first hint that the Fantastic Four (or, at least, some of their most well-known enemies) will make an entrance into this shared universe.
Celestials and More
Of course, as James Gunn said, the presence of the Watchers also signified that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is gradually becoming the Marvel Cosmic Cinematic Universe. So the Watchers (who collected all the knowledge in the universe) foreshadowed the introduction of additional alien species.
Ego, as a Celestial, represented one of these species. And he wasn't the only Celestial out there. The Grandmaster and the Collector were just two of the Elders of the Universe, and Eternity was mentioned for a second time in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. Based on these characters, we feel safe in saying that this movie marked the beginning of the cosmic expansion.
If we add Ego's flower (you know, the one that threatens to destroy Earth), we can say that the MCU isn't just cosmic, especially if we regard it as a consequence of Strange's use of the Time Stone rather than as plot-hole. We can even add that alternate timelines have been established.
Sure, this is just the beginning of a theory, but it sounds great to us!