‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’: 40 Things We Learned from Our Set Visit

It’s been over two years since Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters, defying expectations critically and at the box office, but thankfully it’s almost time to reunite with our favorite group of deadly and irreverent deep space misfits. What can we expect from round two? I was lucky enough to get to visit the Atlanta set of the film back in April 2016 and get the details straights from the cast and crew.

When Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 kicks off, it’s only been a couple of months since they saved the universe in the war over Xandar, but they’re already full of themselves. They defeated Ronan and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) was able to hold an Infinity Stone and live to talk about it, so their legend is spreading while their little family is changing.

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As explained on set, the first Guardians was largely about forming this “rag tag, adopted family.” In Vol 2. however, Peter Quill meets his biological father, so what does that mean for the Guardians and his adopted father, Yondu (Michael Rooker)? And how about Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana)? The first movie established their relationship, but never even scratched the surface of their history. That’s going to change big time in Vol 2, as will the connection between Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot. We’ve also got newcomers on the way like Kurt Russell’s character and Pom Klementieff’s Mantis who strikes up a special connection with Drax (Dave Bautista).

The group will change, their dynamic will change, we’ll get new music, ships, planets, villains, and set pieces. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is brimming with promise, something you’ll hopefully be able to see in my overview of the key points highlighted during the set visit.

The Story

Theyre pushing the boundaries even further with the sequel. Director James Gunn explained, “I was scared last time and this time I’m not really scared because I know that people wanna go see the movie and they probably will go see the movie, you know?” He continued, “This is truly my movie from start to finish and there have been absolutely no restrictions placed on me in terms of, ‘That’s too far, that’s too artistic, that’s too unique or that’s too dramatic, that’s too comedic.’ … we’re really, really pushing it.”

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Gunn is narrowing the focus of the narrative this time around. As described by Gunn, the first Guardians had “Ronan taking over this planet and then murdering the universe and then there’s these guys who through that journey get to know each other and come together.” In Guardians Vol. 2 however, Gunn is delivering a narrative wherethe personal story of the Guardians and the villain agenda plot [is] all about one thing.”

So what exactly have the Guardians been up to between films? Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige explained, “I think they’re giving it a shot at being more organized heroes. They are available for do-gooding, so to speak. It doesn’t always go well, but they try that.”

That brings us to the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Feige continued, “And when we first meet them in the beginning of the movie, they’re on a place called Sovereign where they’ve been asked to help with this giant, sort of inter-dimensional beast that comes out and eats their batteries, their power source, and wreaks havoc on their planet. And the Guardians have been asked to come in and dispatch with that thing, and that’s how our film starts.”

Peter Quill

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What can we expect from the relationship between Peter and his father? Here’s how Pratt put it; “You get to find out who he hopes his father is and who he wishes his father is, and you get to find out whether or not that is the reality.”

What’s the deal with Peter and the Power Stone? Pratt teased that Peter’s encounter with the Power Stone does play a certain role in the new film. “His interaction with the Infinity Stone in the first movie becomes – there’s a thread there that gets pulled in the second movie, like you get to know a little bit more.” Gunn also added, “There’s a question as to why Star Lord was able to hold the Infinity Stone and not be completely and immediately destroyed. We learn a little bit more about why that’s the case in this movie.”

Drax

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The key to Drax’s make-up process? A sauna. Bautista explained, “It takes like an hour and a half now. The last one, they got it down to four hours and everybody was celebrating. This, literally, they attack me with paint rollers just all over, and it looks better too.” He went on, “The problem was it goes on really great and it looks really great. It’s really hard to get off. So they came up with this idea – they stick me in a sauna at the end of the day. [Laughs] They literally have to melt it off of me so that was the thing, because during the test we found out it’s so abrasive they literally have to scrub it off of me. So after two days, my skin was like hamburger. So they came up with the sauna thing, and I literally have this portable sauna that travels around with me and I get in at the end of the day, and I get three guys who come in and attack me. Nothing weird there. [Laughs] Four guys in a sauna, just being men.”

Rocket & Groot

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They’ve got a reverse relationship this time. Feige broke it down, “Whereas Groot was Rocket’s protector in the first movie, Rocket is Groot’s protector.” He added, “From the moment we were shooting and animating Rocket on Groot’s shoulder, we were saying, ‘Well, in the next one, you know, we’ll reverse it. In the next one, the other way around!’ [Laughs] ‘Wouldn’t that be cool?’ And that’s what we’re doing.”

Is Rocket going to have second thoughts about being part of the team? Gunn explained, “I relate to Rocket more than any of the other characters and 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 kind of getting along and saving the planet, and now’s it’s like, he’s just not very comfortable with the idea with being a part of this group.”

Probably no surprise here, but apparently Groot will steal the show. “Baby Groot, he’s very different. He’s a unique little fella. And he’s pretty great in the movie, even though he’s not even there.” Gunn continued, “All the time Chris is like, ‘Goddammit, he’s gonna steal the f*ckin’ movie!’ [Laughs] You know, and it’s nothing, it’s nothing there! But he’s funny even watching, in the dailies we’re watching, and we got the guy on a stick and people are laughing. There’s something really cool about him. And he’s funny in the movie. He’s a little jerk too.”

Yondu & The Ravagers

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Some of The Ravagers are pissed at Yondu. At the end of the first movie, Yondu opens up the orb expecting to see the Power Stone, but instead finds a little Troll doll. But he doesn’t get angry. Instead, he smiles. Feige noted, “I think it shows that he cares about Quill maybe more than he even admits, but there are other Ravagers who think that was shitty and think they should have hunted him down and killed him right on the spot.” Apparently there’s an incident in the first act of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that sees The Ravagers hired to take down the Guardians. Yondu is against it, but Taserface and some of the others suspect that it’s only because he’s soft on Quill. That disagreement leads to a mutiny and a subplot that sees Yondu, Rocket and Groot teaming to escape the mutinous Ravagers.

Yondus Ravagers arent the only Ravagers. Here’s how Feige put it: “We learn that there are many Ravager factions of which Yondu controlled one large faction, and a faction that frankly was not necessarily beloved by the other Ravager factions, in large part because they did things like traffic kids from one place to another.” Not only is Taserface against Yondu, but he also doesn’t care much for these other Ravagers. Feige further explained, “Taserface thinks, ‘Yeah, who cares about those other Ravagers? And this guy getting soft, we’re gonna be …’ we never say pirates of course, but that’s sort of the inspiration for them regardless.”

Taserface and Ayesha are working together. Feign told us, “She’s the one who hires The Ravagers to go after Quill.”

Taserface works with Nebula, too! Feige stated, “She does spend some time teaming up with Taserface through much of the movie too.”

Kurt Russell & Pom Klementieff

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Who is Ego? Gunn dubbed him “a very interesting guy and I think he’s a very thoughtful guy, and I think he’s a very gregarious guy, and I think we get to see Kurt Russell in his full glory expressing himself.”

We’ll have more to share from our on set interview with Kurt Russell closer to the film’s release.

Who is Mantis? Here’s how Klementieff described her character: “She’s spent her life with Kurt Russell’s character, and she was pretty lonely and then she meets the Guardians and, that’s it.” She also highlighted that Mantis has empathic powers, which means she can tap into and manipulate feelings and emotions. “She feels things by touching people. So she can feel things and change emotions.” Mantis can also be a bit awkward. “She was really lonely and by herself, so it’s a completely new thing to meet these people and to discover new things and new emotions and a new way of sharing things … I think it’s like a kid, you know? You discover things and you’re curious about things and you make mistakes and you say, like, weird things or you’re awkward.”

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Where does Mantis fit into the story? Feige explained, “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.” Gunn added, “She works for him basically. That’s it. You know? I think it’s very interesting to watch the relationship between Mantis and the other characters because like them, she’s an outcast.”

Mantis has a special connection to Drax. Feige noted, “I think the relationship between her and Drax is very interesting because they’re both complete odd balls.” Gunn pointed out that she and Drax spend a lot of time together in this story and Bautista added, “At the very core of Drax, he’s really just heartbroken. There’s a real innocence about Drax, and I think Mantis has that as well, and I think that’s probably where the connection would be the most. There’s just a very child-like innocence with both characters.”

Mantis will shine in the movie, but it’s also worth keeping an eye on actress Pom Klementieff in general. Pratt highlighted, “I can tell you that Pom is somebody who will be on your radar for the rest of your life after this. She is crushing it.” He added, “… like Dave was born to play Drax, I feel like she was totally born to play Mantis.”

Gamora & Nebula

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Gamora is still the mom. Saldana began, “We know where that line is of her turning into like a Mom, you know? And her just being just a meticulous, detailed, professional individual.” She continued, “But now it’s like, ‘Okay, if we’re gonna be sort of like bounty hunters or whatever it is that we’re gonna do in the universe, let’s just establish some rules and let’s stick by it.’ Like, what’s your title? What’s your title? She’s definitely really OCD about that. Hasn’t changed. I think it’s gotten worse. She should probably go talk to somebody.”

What’s up with Gamora and Peter? “They’re becoming a really good team, in the way that like oil and vinegar are [laughs], where it’s good together, it tastes good together, but they tend to still stick to their own things.” Saldana also added, “And I think Peter may have gotten a little more annoying. [Laughs] And Gamora’s just a little too rigid sometimes. So through the dynamics that are happening around her, she learns to relax.”

Where does Nebula come in? We’re going to see Nebula early in the movie when we learn that the payment for the Guardian’s mission on Sovereign is to get Nebula back. Feige continued, “The Sovereign have captured Nebula, and are exchanging her for the services of the Guardians helping them. And they want to take Nebula back to Xandar to have her arrested. Things go awry on that journey and she becomes a much bigger player in the film than she was in the first one.”

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Well empathize with Nebula. Gillan began, “When you understand anyone’s motivations for anything, I think you can empathize with them and that’s exactly the case with Nebula here.” She continued, “I think I’d probably describe it as that you might love to hate her. She definitely doesn’t cross over to the good side completely, because where’s the fun in that? But we will understand, we might feel sorry for, and she might – you know, this hard exterior, we’re gonna chip away at that and we’re gonna see the cracks in her sort of whole façade.” Gillan also threw in, “[Gamora and Nebula are] at each other all the time, and I think that it’s going to be, ‘Is Nebula the bad one?’ That’s definitely going to come into question because they went through a lot when they sort of went through their training and modification and battle when they were children.”

She’s also trying to get a new hand! Apparently one of Nebula’s missions in the movie is to fix her hand. Gillan explained, “So she at some point makes a deal with someone to sort of fix that. Might be linked to this costume.” During the interview she was wearing something that looked a bit like Ravager garb so when someone suggested that “someone” is Taserface, she replied, “Oh! Maybe Taserface is involved, maybe. I’m not committing to this mysterious hand spoiler that no one will care about.”

Get ready to learn more about Nebula and Gamora’s backstory. Gillan teased, “We learn a lot about their backstory actually and what happened to these two girls growing up and actually how awful it was for them and how it’s ruined their relationship and they’re sort of just gonna freely talk about it, which has never happened between these two people.” Saldana also added, “… 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.”

We’re not getting any Gamora & Nebula flashbacks. But they do talk about their past. 

Here’s why we’re not getting any Thanos in Guardians Vol. 2. Gunn began, “It’s about two sisters. It’s not about the sisters and their father. It’s about two sisters and what were the sisters’ problems with each other? And, you know, some of those things were caused by being raised by the ultimate abusive father. But it really isn’t about Thanos, and frankly, I just wasn’t inspired to put him in the movie.” He continued, “It wasn’t the most fun part of the movie last time for me and I just didn’t really wanna do it this time.”

Planets & Vehicles & Music

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Where are we going in Guardians Vol. 2? Here’s what Kevin Feige name dropped: “Sovereign’s a planet, Berhart’s a planet, Contraxia’s a planet, J’son’s a planet, so four/five. We see glimpses of two or three other worlds, but these are the major locations.”

Earth will be in the film in some capacity. Feige told us, “There’s a little bit of Earth in this film, but it’s not these characters going to Earth.”

The Milano might seem a little different this time around. As explained by Jonathan Schwartz, the Milano might look a little more lived-in in Vol 2. “It’s not really a ship made for that many people, so to the extent that their high egos and rock ‘n roll sensibilities are starting to intrude on the family dynamic, that’s sort of reflected in the state of the Milano when we find it.”

We’re also going to see The Eclector and The Quadrant. The Ravager ship The Eclector will be back for the second film and we’ll also see one called The Quadrant as well. Here’s how Schwartz described it: “The Quadrant is another ship that we end up seeing in the movie that has a lot to do with the Eclector. As Rocket and Groot and Yondu make their escape, they end up on Taserface’s ship – possibly – not really.” 

The other characters are getting in on Peter’s love of music. Feige said that in one scene, Baby Groot sets up outer space speakers because Quill likes to hear music when he’s fighting. He also added, “It does go more than just his headset, but it’s all based off of Volume 2. And I would say that a couple of the songs, and particularly one song, has very unique lyrics that play a much more specific part into the plot than any song did in the first film.”

The Movie's Place in the MCU 

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Guardians Vol. 2 is part of the MCU, but it’s a standalone movie. Feige explained, “Civil War is a standalone story. This is even more of a standalone story than that. This is about the characters, this is about their evolution as heroes, as their own internal family, as a group of characters known as the Guardians of the Galaxy. The way this film ends and the team at the end will inform future things, but there’s nothing that nods directly towards that.”

However, Guardians will effect what we see in the rest of the MCU. Feige said, “The upcoming movies will be as much out here as they are on Earth, starting with Thor: Ragnarok. There are three scenes on Earth in Thor: Ragnarok. Everything else is Asgard and not any of these worlds, but worlds that certainly – let’s put it this way, in Thor lingo, it’s beyond the nine realms. There are other planets that we spend a lot of time on in Thor: Ragnarok that certainly people would say, ‘Oh, that’s sort of like a Guardians world.’ But they’re just other areas of the Marvel Cosmic Universe.”

There was actually a main character featured in the treatment who never made it into the script. Gunn explained, “There was another character that was a major character that was a part of the treatment. And although it kind of worked generally in the story, I got to the place where there were too many characters.” When asked if that character was a “classic Guardian,” Gunn replied, “I don’t know what you think is a classic Guardian. Do you mean Yondu/Starhawk-classic Guardians? No.”

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Keep an eye out for Easter eggs! Gunn teased, “Our Easter egg obsession is insane. In fact, I have the dumbest Easter egg. We have so many incredibly obscure Easter eggs in this movie that it’s ridiculous. We’ve been working hard on the Easter eggs. I feel like this need to do it now since people have been pouring over stuff so much.” 

Take away the comedy and special effects, and you’ll find some real truth in Guardians. “Don’t be fooled by this, but despite how fun it is to get to get paid to come do a Marvel movie where you play a green alien, we do try to seek some truth to what these individuals have gone through.” Saldana continued, “So we’re living through times right now with so many refugees fleeing from their homelands, trying to better their lives and just survive in other lands, like these are orphans. They’re all orphans. They were all either taken, abused, forced into a life of violence. So once you kind of take away all the comedy and all the special effects and everything, it seems like a group of runaways that try to find a good, a reason to stick around.” She went on to credit James Gunn by saying, “This movie and what James Gunn has created and the story he’s given each and every one of us, like he just has my heart for life because you can very well grab something like this, like a Marvel movie and make it so superficial that a knife couldn’t cut through you. I mean, you’re just so insensitive to anything. It’s all about jokes and punchlines and muscles and lubricated muscles and good shots and bigger muscles and other sequels and great f*cking hairdos that never come undone, and nobody cries, nobody bleeds, nobody feels a tremendous loss or void. And these guys are aching all the time, and they’re trying. They’re just trying to not be so f*cked up. Every day they’re trying to do one less bad thing.”

The main reason Gunn makes movies. At one point during the visit, someone brought up how a young boy with Autism identified with Drax in the first Guardians and asked if that impacted Gunn while writing Vol 2. He responded, “Yeah, not only Drax but the characters in general. Groot, and I think outsiders as a whole reacted to the Guardians, which is – listen, I mean, that is what I am. That’s what I feel like. But it’s being able to tell those stories for those people is the only reason I give a shit about any of this, frankly. And the only reason I would ever put myself through this is to be able to bring people together and make people feel like maybe they belong a little bit more than they would feel before they saw the movie.”

For more on Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, peruse all of our set visit coverage in the links below. The film opens in theaters on May 5th.

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