Guardians of the Galaxy was a significant film for Marvel Studios for a number of reasons. Not only was it a serious departure from what had come before, but it also marked the first proper introduction of the MCU’s Big Bad, Thanos. Josh Brolin inhabited the role via motion-capture for writer/director James Gunn’s sci-fi epic, and while Thanos didn’t have a ton of screentime in the movie, his presence loomed large.
Naturally, since he hasn’t made another appearance in the MCU since (aside from the Age of Ultron tag), when it came time to talk Guardians of the Galaxy 2 fans were curious if Thanos would be back. The answer is a resounding “No,” with Gunn himself rather pointedly saying that Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is very much its own story, and thus had no need for Thanos to come in and tie things into the larger MCU as a whole.
But what was the decision-making process that led to excluding Thanos from Guardians 2? This question was posed to Gunn last year when Collider’s own Perri Nemiroff visited the set of the sequel in Atlanta. Here’s what the filmmaker had to say about why Thanos isn’t in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2:
“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. You know, I kind of go with my gut on these things and it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. 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. And again, the relationship with Thanos has nothing to do with it. It’s not about their relationship with Thanos. It’s about their relationship to each other, and what is that? And that was interesting to me, and I thought that was important to our story, and that was important to our characters. What happened with them in the past—there’s a lot of stuff that happened with them in the past that affects our characters presently.”
So it sounds like the focus will be on Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) without their father in the picture to muck things up. That’s actually pretty sound reasoning, and it’s far more interesting to see this relationship play out without cutting to this giant purple CG dude every so often.
But while Thanos was never really considered for Guardians 2, another character was. During the same set visit, Gunn revealed that he had another major character as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 ensemble in the treatment phase:
“One major thing that happened during the treatment phase— not even during the script phase, during the treatment phase— 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. There’s been other movies that have come— I think Civil War has a lot of characters really well, but they’re minor characters and in this movie every character kind of has their own arc, their own thing, and I thought it was one character too many so I took one of the characters out of the story about halfway through the treatment phase.”