Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a 2017 film in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is the sequel to 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, the sixth film in Phase 3 and the 21st film overall in the MCU. The principal cast from the original Guardians returns in this one as well, with Sean Gunn also returning to provide motion capture for Rocket and Baby Groot. The film was a critical and financial success, earning over $860 million dollars at the worldwide box office, almost 100 million more than its immediate predecessor.
Director and Writer James Gunn had come up with plans for a second Guardians of the Galaxy film during production of the first film, and negotiated a contract to direct a new Guardians film if the first was a box office success. However, Marvel renegotiated this contract with Gunn in early 2015 when they decided to save much of his script for Part 3 (mostly the parts dealing with Peter Quill's parentage, which were hinted at in the first Guardians film), forcing Gunn to rewrite most of his script to incorporate elements necessary for future Marvel films, such as Adam Warlock and the Soul Stone. All major actors were brought back for their respective roles, with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau cast as Adam Warlock following an extensive casting search.
Filming on Vol. 2 of Guardians of the Galaxy began in March of 2016, and wrapped in July of that year.
We begin with a flashback to 1995. A harried scientist and his lab assistants are trying desperately to complete research into some new breakthrough genetic research involving human and animal DNA. The scientist, identified as Herbert Wyndham, continues working with some kind of technology known as Neogenics. However, the research is suddenly stopped by a young Norman Osborn. Norman claims that he hired Wyndham and his team to conduct research into sequencing genomes, not finding ways to alter human DNA. Wyndham says that he is close to a breakthrough the likes of which Osborn has never seen, that he is close to creating the perfect human being, but Osborn doesn't seem to care, saying there's no profit in the work Wyndham was engaging in. Wyndham claims his work is more important than profit, but Osborn replies that nothing works that way in this world. He orders an intern, named Richard Parker, to destroy the data overnight. Wyndham, however, takes a copy of his data on a large hard drive nearby, surreptitiously.
Wyndham is distraught as he walks through Central Park, when he sees a crash off in the distance. He runs over to check and see if anyone is hurt, and is amazed to find a blue skinned alien near the crash site, comatose. He then looks at the ship and slowly climbs into the cockpit. By happenstance, he presses the wrong button and triggers an autopilot response, which causes the ship to take off. Wyndham, clutching at the hard drive he had taken earlier, is at first petrified by what is happening, but eventually is brave enough to press more buttons to try and land the craft. He finds himself in space for a brief moment, flying past our sun at a rapid speed, before winding up in orbit around another planet that looks remarkably like Earth. The ship begins falling from orbit as Wyndham looks at some of the instrumentation. Apparently deducing something amazing, he looks at the hard drive and then back to the planet, smiling as he does so.
20 years later, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot are in the middle of a firefight, being chased down by Yondu Udonta and the Ravagers after double crossing them at the end of the last film. Exposition is given about the Power Stone, currently in the hands of the Nova Corps, as Yondu and Star-Lord banter back and forth over the radio. After several minutes of this, Rocket is able to repair the ship's hyperdrive enough to escape from the Ravagers for the moment. The Guardians take stock of the situation; their ship is damaged, they are low on money and have been run out of most safe ports in the galaxy due to the bounty the Ravagers have on them. They identify that they could head for Xandar, but they need to refuel first, and Yondu knows that's the one place they could go safely. Drax suggests they had for a primitive world...like Earth. Peter is initially intrigued by the idea, but dismisses it for the moment. At Gamora's prompting of whether or not Peter has ever been back to Earth, Quill is mum on the subject. Before anything else can be said, the Ravagers enter their segment of space. Left with no other option, Rocket takes it upon himself to program the computer to take them to Earth.
Upon reaching the solar system, they are suddenly dropped out of hyperdrive and begin to slowly descend to the planet below. Quill looks at Earth briefly, but realizes that it's not quite as he remembered it, given the different landmasses that are below. Despite this, the group set down in a forested area and turn off the entire ship, so as not to attract attention from the locals or anyone who might be hunting them. There is a brief argument over what to do next, rehashing the discussion at the end of the last film as to whether or not they are heroes or villains. Off in the distance, Gamora and Quill spot a small village, and begin making their way there on foot with Drax, while Rocket stays with Groot and attempts to repair the Milano's damaged systems.
In the village, Peter and company are shocked to find it populated by anthropomorphic animals, as well as some humans. Trying to ask for information about where they are leads to them being stonewalled by the creatures, and eventually a fight breaks out between Drax and two of the locals. They are eventually surrounded by a group of armed creatures, calling themselves the Knights of Wundagore, and they are to be taken to the High Evolutionary's Tower for questioning. Elsewhere, Yondu and Kraglin are discussing amongst themselves what to do about the Guardians when they receive a message from Nova Corps Commander Rhomann Dey. Dey tells the Ravagers that they are officially canceling the bounty on the Guardians, causing Yondu to become annoyed by them. Dey orders the Ravagers to leave Xandarian Space, or be taken in for questioning on some other charges, including human trafficking. Yondu momentarily backs off, but tells Kraglin to keep up the search for the Guardians when Dey is called away off screen to deal with an incoming threat.
In the High Evolutionary's tower, the three Guardians come face to face with a pink-armored man who is apparently the ruler here. At first he is not fazed at seeing them and he knows they are not from this planet; ships apparently crash-land here semi-frequently due to the nearby gravitational disturbances. He is more amazed by the fact that they claim their ship was not destroyed, and then later by the fact that Quill says he is from Earth originally. The High Evolutionary then gives a bit of his backstory: that he was a genetic scientist who stumbled upon a crash-landed Kree ship and accidentally sent it into space. He himself then crash-landed on this planet, which he named Counter Earth. It was an artificial satellite created by the Kree on the opposite side of the sun, and thus never visible from Earth, he learned, when they were conducting genetic experimentation on early man centuries ago. Using salvaged parts from his ship combined with the primitive technology the local population had built prior to his arrival, he had managed to crudely perfect his Neogenics project and create the New Men, setting up in this village called Wundagore and eventually conquering the whole of Counter Earth. He offers the Guardians a place to stay, and to help them fix their ship, provided they help him fix some of the technology that he's been lacking all these years to continue his research. Gamora outright refuses, but Drax and Quill eventually agree. They do notice a peculiar cocoon off in the distance, glowing orange in the darkness.
In the forest, Groot and Rocket are working on repairing the Milano (mostly Rocket, due to Groot's infancy). They are suddenly confronted by Nebula, brought here from Xandar by the High Evolutionary. Rocket and she start fighting briefly, before Nebula confesses that she is being held here against her will. While she still harbors anger at her sister for abandoning her on Xandar, Nebula wishes for safe passage off this Godforsaken rock. Rocket agrees, provided she help him finish repairing the ship (he also demands her arm, but Nebula doesn't fall for the joke.) Nebula agrees, but says the parts they need are likely back at the High Evolutionary's tower. Back in Wundagore, Gamora and Quill speak a bit about his reluctance to return to Earth, with Quill saying that it's a planet he doesn't know, and Gamora explaining that she would give anything to return to her homeworld if she could. Quill points out that, with their ship, she could have already asked for that. Elsewhere Drax is touring the barracks where the Knights of Wundagore train. There he is met by Cana Denis, a hybrid of a ram and a human, who explains that all the New Men and many of the residents of Counter-Earth are a direct result of the High Evolutionary's experiments. Drax asks if that makes him a man or a monster, which Denis replies neither. He is made only to serve the High Evolutionary. Drax isn't moved, and suggests service without honor is not a great existence. Denis considers this, but notes his service is required by the implant on his neck that all the New Men have. If it is triggered, it will destabalize their DNA and kill them, thus ensuring their loyalty to the Evolutionary. Off-World, Kraglin tells Yondu they've gotten a lead on the Guardians and suggests heading back for Earth.
Rocket, Groot and Nebula attempt to sneak into Wundagore castle, but are quickly discovered by the New Men. As suddenly as they begin to fight, Nebula turns on Rocket, claiming her actions are not her own. However, Groot is able to sneak away from the fight. Upstairs, the High Evolutionary is informed of this action, and seems to spring his trap, having the Knights capture Gamora and Quill, while Drax barely manages to escape. Rocket, Gamora and Quill are led to a laboratory, where Rocket tries to explain they were looking for parts for their ship. The High Evolutionary replies that if he had parts, then he would have left this world ages ago. The only reason he managed to get off this rock once before was by salvaging parts from other ships that had crash landed here, which was how he found Nebula and brought her back. Quill asks the obvious question: why did he come back if he made it all the way to Xandar? The High Evolutionary explains that he had some unfinished business. He had hoped the cybernetic implants in Nebula would help his research in creating the perfect human being, a true lifeform of power and glory. But alas, they were not helpful in the slightest. The only thing Nebula could do was lead him to a power source to create his new lifeform, an inget known as the Soul Stone, which Gamora instantly reacts to. She yells at the Evolutionary, claiming that he has put the whole galaxy at risk by finding that stone, but the Evolutionary pays her no mind. Nebula, incensed that she's been used this whole time, attacks the Evolutionary and is quickly taken out by the Knights in the room. He orders them to "launch her into the sun." He remarks that maybe he'd cross the raccoon with Gamora...or Quill...just for scientific curiosity. He flips a machine on, scanning Quill, and then remarks that there is something odd about him.
Outside the castle, Groot and Drax try to plan an infiltration to free their friends and recapture the Milano, which they see has been taken in by several of the High Evolutionary's Knights ostensibly to be stripped for parts. Before they can implement their plan, though, they are caught unawares by Yondu and the Ravagers. Drax explains the situation to Yondu, trying to convince him to help, but Yondu is wary of being taken advantage of again. He says Quill's betrayal didn't bother him at first; he commended him for his ingenuity. However, a captain has to make an example of wayward crewmen like Quill. Drax immediately says it's not that, saying that it's not because Quill duped him on Xandar that Yondu has chased them all this way, but rather because Quill left Yondu entirely, which Yondu admits was hurtful after everything he had done for the kid, but doesn't elaborate further. Inside the laboratory, the High Evolutionary asks about Quill's father, which Peter can't explain other than to say "he's a deadbeat who left my mom and I when I was a year old." The Evolutionary laughs at this, saying that makes a bit more sense, given that his father isn't human at all...but something far older. The High Evolutionary begins probing further, trying to examine more of not only his genetic material, but Gamora's as well, saying that he intends to take whatever valuable traits he can find in this older DNA and incorporate it into his perfect being, which he has named Adam Warlock. Outside, the two New Men assigned to dispose of Nebula are defeated by her suddenly, and she slinks off in the Escape Pod, managing to break free of the gravity well around the planet.
It is at this point that Cana Denis storms into the room, informing them of intruders near the Tower. The High Evolutionary appears unconcerned with it, as his DNA machine continues to scan and physically hurt Quill. He keys in some more lines and the pod containing Warlock is brought online. He also throws a very old switch located in the corner, causing a readout of the planetoid to come online. Downstairs Drax, Groot, and the Ravager crew is fighting with the Knights of Wundagore. Groot manages to get free from the battle and head upstairs. He sneaks into the laboratory, Rocket struggling to explain to him what he needs to do to shut the machine off of Quill. Eventually he succeeds, but the pod with Warlock opens up suddenly, and a man comes out with an orange gem located in the armor he is clothed in. The High Evolutionary looks upon his work, disappointed because Warlock was not yet ready to be released. Warlock asks who he is and what this place is. The High Evolutionary explains his purpose, to be the most perfect form of organic life ever created, the culmination of his life's work, but he is yet incomplete. Warlock disagrees. He is a form of life, he is supposedly genetically superior, but he is not perfect, nor can he ever be. The Evolutionary takes offense to this and backhands him, saying he will be perfect with more work. He activates an implant on his neck to try and kill him so he can rebuild him, but the Soul Stone in his armor prevents the implant from working. In the meantime, the other Guardians are freed, though Quill is still incapacitated. The Evolutionary, not wanting a confrontation, flees Wundagore and activates the switch from before further, causing earthquakes to begin shaking the planet.
Downstairs, the surviving Knights and Ravagers notice the earthquakes, and Cana Denis seems to realize what is happening. He remembers his conversation with Drax from before, and they plot to save their world, as the Evolutionary has triggered some kind of self-destruct mechanism on this Counter-Earth. Upstairs, Warlock is cautiously approached by the Guardians. He explains that he is neither friend nor foe, but must understand his role in the world. The Evolutionary is the only one who can answer those questions for him, so he sets out after him. The Guardians try to follow, but quickly realize they do need to get off the planet. Rocket and Quill agree to go find the Milano, while Gamora and Groot join up with Drax. Outside the Evolutionary enters a lit-up hanger, retrieving the ship he had used to flee to Xandar. Along the way, though, he encounters some of the revolting subjects of Wundagore, causing him to trigger their implants and cause them to immediately collapse into seizures as they die, muttering under his breath that they were all failures. Setting the ship for an automatic take off, he heads back to Wundagore to secure Quill, so that he could finish acquiring his ancient DNA.
Rocket and Quill find the Milano, but are immediately confronted by Yondu and the surviving Ravagers. After some brief back and forth about the nature of family, they set aside their differences for the moment in order to escape, Yondu and the crew helping Rocket finish repairs on the Milano even as the planet starts to break up around them. The Evolutionary enters the hanger in the Tower and begins a fight with the Guardians and Ravagers, easily besting them, but finding his armor somewhat damaged. Cana Denis, distraught over his master's betrayal, fights alongside the Guardians, and the Evolutionary can no longer activate his implant. However he is quickly killed as the Evolutionary crushes Yondu's arrow and proceeds to collect Quill and take him with him. However, Warlock intercedes at this point and stands with the Guardians, driving the Evolutionary back into the planet. The Guardians and the few surviving Ravagers, including Yondu and Kraglin, depart on the Milano as the planet falls apart, the gravity well collapsing too.
Yondu's ship, which had steered clear of the planet, contacts them for their immediate surrender, but Yondu calls it off and says that they are off the hook, for now. The Guardians check back and find that Warlock had survived, with the Evolutionary supposedly destroyed. Warlock departs, searching for meaning and a home. Quill says that maybe he should check in on Earth, but Gamora repeats his lines from before, saying that home is wherever he feels the most comfortable. He smiles and says that maybe he'll just visit...some day...as they depart.
[We cut on the open blackness of space, before we see a small warphole open in the distance, a faint figure in pink armor slowly tumbling through the endless void. The High Evolutionary, apparently having survived the destruction of Counter-Earth. Slowly we fade in on a close up of the Evolutionary's human face, his armor stripped away from him. His eyes blink open in the bright light.]
Wyndham: What...What is this? Is this Xandar? Why didn't I make it to Xandar?
Thanos: You are at Xandar.
[Wyndham's eyes open like saucers as he stares out the open viewing window to see the planet Xandar besieged by ships from all sides, the few remaining forces of the Nova Corps attempting to flee in the distance. We see a singular helmet launch itself into the void of space, before Wyndham turns and faces the Mad Titan Thanos, flanked by his Black Order and his daughter Nebula.]
Thanos: Or at least what will soon be left of it.
Wyndham: No...no this cannot be.
[Thanos smiles at his fear before leaning down and glaring at the Evolutionary. We can already see encased in the gauntlet on his hand a singular purple stone, the Power Stone, glowing.]
Thanos: But you have a higher purpose for being here. You're going to tell me everything you know about the Soul Stone.
[Wyndham frightfully looks down at the gauntlet before we sharply fade to black.]
Summary of Changes
While there is a mainline counterpart to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in the main MCU, many of those plotlines are transferred over to Vol. 3 in this timeline, making Vol. 2 more of an original film than anything else, which serves as more of an introduction to the Soul Stone.
- Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord- A former member of the Ravagers, an intergalactic pirate organization, turned into the leader of the Guardians, who was abducted from Earth at a young age.
- Zoe Saldana as Gamora- An orphan raised to be a daughter of the Mad Titan Thanos and his chief assassin, now a member of the Guardians on the run from her father.
- Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer- A former criminal who's family was killed by Thanos.
- Bradley Cooper as Rocket- A cybernetically enhanced raccoon and former bounty hunter who serves as the weapon's specialist of the team. Cooper provides the voice for the character, while Sean Gunn provided most of the motion capture.
- Vin Diesel as Baby Groot- A Flora Colossus who, at the end of the last film, was reborn after sacrificing himself to save the team. Diesel provides the voice of Baby Groot, while Sean Gunn provides most of the motion capture.
- Karren Gillian as Nebula- The cybernetically enhanced sister of Gamora, who is taken in by the High Evolutionary.
- Jeffrey Coombs/Sala Baker as The High Evolutionary- An earth geneticist who left the planet decades ago and became one of the foremost scientists in the galaxy, due to having evolved his brain to the level of cosmic intellects, and now seeks to create the perfect lifeform. Also the creator of the New Men who act as the Knights of Wundagore. Sala Baker provides the physical presence of the High Evolutionary, while Jeffrey Coombs provides his voice (and appears as his human alter-ego Herbert Wyndham, in the opening scenes of the film.)
- Christopher Judge as Cana Denis- A human/ram hybrid who serves as the leader of the Knights of Wundagore.
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Adam Warlock- An artificial human created by the High Evolutionary as the Perfect Lifeform.
- Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta- The leader of the Ravagers, in pursuit of the Guardians at the start of the film.
In addition to providing motion capture duties, Sean Gunn returns as Kraglin, the firstmate of Yondu and the Ravagers. John C. Reilly also returns as Rhomann Dey in the film. Several unnamed actors cameo as members of the Knights of Wundagore and the denizens of Counter-Earth. Josh Brolin reprises his role as Thanos in a Post-Credits Scene of the film. A CGI version of Michael Keaton debuts as a young Norman Osborn as well. Stan Lee cameos as one of the few human denizens of Counter-Earth, who complains about it smelling like a pigsty to Rocket.
The film generally received favorable reviews upon its release, though paling in comparison to its predecessor. The review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 73% based on 341 reviews with an average score of 6.8. The site's critical consensus read "Doubling down on the irreverent humor at the expense of all out action, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 provides a thrilling, if not wholly original, interstellar experience." Critics praised the film's overall tone and humor, while criticizing the lack of action in the film's middle portion, the somewhat unfocused third act, and the once again lackluster villain.
Despite not being as critically acclaimed as its immediate predecessor, the film was a huge success at the box office, earning $146.5 million dollars at the domestic box office in its opening weekend. The film would surpass the original film's worldwide gross by Memorial Day weekend, en route to a final box office tally of $863.8 million dollars.