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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Panel Vision - Top 8 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Easter Eggs

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So, if the Box Office is anything to go by, you’ve now seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  I mean, if we're honest with each other that was probably always going to be the case- Marvel is the world’s cinematic guardian now, on the level of Pixar, what they make we watch and this was a sequel to one of their biggest cultural successes.  However, because this is a Marvel movie we all know the story doesn’t just end with the credits or even the after-credits scenes.  

Now comes the weeks of box office reporting and, most important, dissecting the film for Easter Eggs and hints about the broader Marvel cinematic universe story as part of generating hype for the next installment.  Let it never be said I won’t give the people what they want so, in that spirit, I’ve compiled my list of the top 8 Easter eggs from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, from surprise cameos to cheeky little references buried in the Marvel arcana on display.   

This is probably the biggest revelation that the film just plays for comedy- the existence of the Watchers in the MCU.  In the comics, the Watchers are a race of gigantic, bald beings that make it their duty to observe the events of the universe.  Each solar system has its own Watcher, with Earth’s one known as Uatu.  

For the longest time, there was a fan theory that all of Stan Lee’s cameos were tied together and that he was actually Uatu, appearing in disguise throughout the Earth.  Apparently, Marvel took notice of that theory and decided to make it quasi-official in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, thanks to a brief cutaway scene of Stan regaling the Watchers with stories of his past cameos.  

This is a really fun moment and a great gag though I do hope we see more of the Watchers going forward.  Uatu is a really solid character in his own right and his headquarters on the “blue area of the moon” is one of the really cool comic book locations that hasn’t come to film yet.  

Actually, I’m just surprised Marvel had the rights to show the Watchers, they originated in the Fantastic Four books, and I had assumed were part of that rights bundle, maybe there’s something to that but I guess we’ll see. 

One of the most surprising actor cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is Sylvester Stallone as a space mercenary and former colleague of Michael Rooker’s Yondu.  It seems like a throwaway role but a fun one, a neat look at the power structure of the mercenary group the Ravagers.  It also sets up one of the post-credits scenes where we meet the various founding members of the Ravagers as the old gang reassembles.  However, keen-eyed Marvel fans will note that these original Ravagers are also the original Guardians of the Galaxy. 

See, the team we know as the Guardians of the Galaxy weren’t actually created in the comics until 2008, but the team name predates them.  The first team of Guardians came together in 1969 and was mostly reassembled here.  In the comics, the original Guardians were a group of freedom fighters from a future where humanity was conquered by evil aliens called the Badoon, but obviously, that’s not the case here.  

For the curious, those on hand are Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex, a crystal being designed to channel heat on icy planets, Ving Rhames as Charlie-27, a giant humanoid designed to withstand high gravity, Stallone as Starhawk and Michelle Yeoh as Aleta, a husband and wife pair of cosmically aware types.  I don’t know if there’s any plan for these original Guardians to come back for the third film but I do really hope so.  I admit, this is going to sound pretty hipster, but I was into the original Guardians before the new team even came together so it’d be a real treat. 

Here’s another Easter Egg from the same sequence that gave us the Watcher cameo, a scene in which Rocket and Yondu’s ship is pinging around the galaxy at high speed.  They pop into a number of alien worlds as they warp around at high speed, one of which happens to be a desolate rock planet where we can make out a pair of big, rocky beings.  These are a race called Kronans, big yellow rock men who were the villains in Thor’s first comic book appearance.  

You might remember them from when one of them appeared as a monster in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World.  Outside of that first appearance in the Thor books, the Kronan’s are most memorable for the character Korg.  Korg was a major part of the ‘Planet Hulk’ storyline that’s currently getting partially adapted in Thor: Ragnarok.  I don’t think there’s really much more to this Easter egg than a fun shout out for the fans with a quick eye, which it definitely is. 

One of the primary antagonists of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a group called the Sovereign, a powerful race of golden aliens with a strict genetic hierarchy to their society.  They spend the whole film trying to hunt down the Guardians to no avail.  In one of the post-credits scenes, we see the leader of the Sovereign, Ayesha, has developed a kind of birthing pod to create a new form of Sovereign citizen to hunt down the Guardians.  As the camera focuses ominously on the cocoon, Ayesha says that her new being will be named “Adam.”  The whole sequence is part of an ongoing reference throughout the Guardians films to the character Adam Warlock. 

In the comics he was created to be a massive leap forward in evolution, a perfect being that emerged fully formed from a cocoon and eventually became the steward of the Soul Infinity Stone.  I’m not sure how much of that will make it into the movies.  A version of his cocoon appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy in the background of the Collector’s menagerie, one that was more organic and looked a lot more like the one from the comics.  This steampunk, mechanical one from Vol. 2 is a significant departure and could be hinting at Adam’s evil counterpart the Magus as a possible new villain. 

All of this is even more complicated by the fact Ayesha in the comics is a female counterpart to Adam Warlock who has ALSO gone evil.  She was behind the event Infinity Crusade, in which she tried to wipe out all life in the universe.  Safe to say, this could be setting the stage for just about anything with Adam Warlock, Magus, or Ayesha herself. 

This one’s a bit more ethereal and easier to miss, but it’s actually pretty standard for the Guardians as a franchise.  There are two sequences in the film where the Guardians end up interacting with stuff from beyond this earthly realm.  First is the film’s opening where a big, Lovecraftian monster emerges from a neon rainbow dimension to menace our heroes.  Later in, the sequence where Rocket and Yondu are bouncing through various cameos, we see that same kind of visual design.  

That’s because this kaleidoscope looking design is a reference to the multiverse stuff experienced by Dr. Strange in his movie.  This is one of the cooler ideas in the MCU, a kind of persistent physics design between films.  For instance, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, the design of the tractor beam used by the Ravager’s ship looks exactly the same as visual design for the Bifrost from the Thor movies. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s closing credits is easily one of the most fun and light parts of the whole movie.  It’s a musical sequence that works its way through three different songs and all kinds of great background graphics.  At one point, various characters from the film appear in little, ‘70s colored circles doing their own various dances.  Viewers paying close attention to this sequence will be able to spot Jeff Goldblum’s character from Thor: Ragnarok, the Grandmaster. 

This is something Marvel does pretty often with their films, getting whichever actors are available that day to film fun little appearances.  For instance, the ending scene of First Avenger where Cap meets Nick Fury only happened because Samuel L. Jackson happened to be in New York that day.  In the case of Jeff Goldblum, there’s also the added layer of Guardians and Thor both carrying the Marvel cosmic banner these days, especially with how ‘80s Ragnarok is looking.  There is one other connection his character has to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which brings us to our next entry. 

This is a bit of a weird one to parse out because it involves a lot of with the comics in terms of lore and mythos.  So, at one point in the film Kurt Russell’s character Ego, the living planet, is explaining to Peter Quill that he’s what’s called a Celestial, a god-like cosmic being.  This is kind of a confusing point as Ego in the comics IS a powerful cosmic being but he’s not one of the Celestials, the Celestials are a specific race.  

In the comics, the Celestials are the race of beings that appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 as the eldritch keepers of the Infinity Stones.  Ego is instead part of a group known as the Elders of the Universe, the last survivors of the Universe’s first races.  They draw their energy from something called the Power Primordial, residual energy from the universe’s creation.

I think Marvel has decided to just re-appropriate the term Celestial to mean what the Elders meant in the comics, as Ego’s description of his typical state fits much more with the Elders than the Celestials.  As Ego says, eternity would be unbearable for him without the purpose he’s set for himself- that’s precisely the rationale used by the Elders of the Universe in the comics.  

What’s more, Marvel has already set-up two other Elders in the MCU; the Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and Grandmaster from Thor: Ragnarok.  I don’t know if we’ll see others like Champion or The Runner anytime soon, but I certainly hope so.  In the comics, the Guardians were the stewards of the Infinity Stones before Thanos assembled them so it would certainly fit to see more of them. 


The final Easter Egg is another hold over from the first Guardians movie.  In case you forgot, that film’s post-credits scene featured a cameo from the character of Howard the Duck, an anthropomorphic duck infamous for his live action ‘80s movie.  Well, it turns out Howard is still knocking about the MCU as we see him again here, hanging out with the Ravagers on a snowy pleasure planet.  Another member of the Collector’s menagerie to pop up again this time around was Cosmo, a psychic cosmonaut dog who also featured heavily in the first film’s post-credits scene.  

Though Cosmo doesn’t appear in Vol. 2 proper, he does pop up amid the dancing cameos during the closing credits alongside the Grandmaster.  Both of these characters are actually a lot more developed in the comics with an inner life and agency that I hope we eventually see brought to the big screen.  At the very least, I hope we get a full on scene between Howard the Duck and Rocket Raccoon in the next movie, that’d be too good to pass up. 

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