Entertainment

The 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' After-Credits Scenes Tease an Epic Future

guardians of the galaxy post-credits scenes
Marvel Studios
This post contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a really, really, really, really weird movie.

Yes, the original Guardians of the Galaxy helped ease audiences who only knew Earthbound adventuring into intergalactic stories, and yeah, there's now a Marvel movie with Strange right there in the title, but there's nothing holding director James Gunn, whose manic creativity can conjure everything from the creepy, crawly Slither to the live-action Scooby-Doo movies, back this time around. The follow-up brings the ecstatic visuals, a peyote dreamgasm of colors and neural fractals, the far-out concepts -- Kurt Russell's plays Chris Pratt's dad, who is also a sentient planet with a goatee -- the humor (yes, Ego the Living Planet does have a penis), the action, owing more to a traveling carnival's Tilt-a-Whirl than Star Wars, and scenes that roll it all together. Nothing this summer will top the eyeball-popping cartoonery of Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Yondu (Michael Rooker) careening through jump gates. There's a story, kind of, about family and friends and history and hugs, but there are rougher patches for the full-thrust forward Guardians, which soars when the crew's standing around bullshitting amid impending doom.

The weirdness trickles down to the most forced aspects of Guardians: the post-credit scenes. Ever since Nick Fury showed up at Tony Stark's door at the end of the original Iron Man, Marvel fans have been trained to stick around for a taste of what's to come. Knowing his audience would be salivating when the credits rolled, Gunn chose to dump a bag of confectioners sugar down its collective throat. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has five post-credit sequences. Five! Chris Evans' Captain America has show up for seven Marvel movies and hasn't earned the right of five, nerd-stoking credit scenes. There's so much to tease out, Gunn relegates Howard the Duck's return to a Mos Eisley Cantina-like flyby.

Gunn's Vol. 2 post-credit scenes lived up to the weirdness of the preceding 120 minutes, which may have tested even the most ardent Marvel devotee. What do they mean for the future of the franchise? Here's what we saw, and what we know.

guardians of the galaxy 2 stan lee cameo
Marvel Studios

The Watchers leave Stan Lee behind on a meteor

There are few prerequisites when it comes to making a Marvel movie, but the top priority is stuffing comic legend Stan Lee into the action somewhere, somehow. Wielding nerd cred, a determined Gunn takes the an opportunity in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 to tie this meta-gag into the fabric of the universe.

Lee pops up first as Rocket and Yondu blast through jump gate after jump gate. Gunn lingers on the 94-year-old icon, who's telling a group of ominous, giant-headed aliens about a time he dressed up as a FedEx delivery man. Those who live and breathe Marvel movies instantly know what he's talking about: in Captain America: Civil War, Lee appears in one of the final scenes as Tony Stark's FedEx man. So either aliens abducted Lee's FedEx man character and dropped him off on a random meteor to be someone else's problem, or Lee's "cameo" character is some sort of Celestial-like being who can come and go from Earth in any form he sees fit, a la Kurt Russell's Ego.

The aliens he's palling around with are known as The Watchers, an invention of another legendary comic figure, Jack Kirby (whose wild, cosmic designs are all over the Guardians of the Galaxy universe). The Watchers are known to readers as an ancient species who travel the universe in a search for knowledge. Lee is listed in the Vol. 2 credits as "The Watchers' informant," leading many to believe that his roles in each movie could be connected.

"Let’s just say he, Stan Lee, is certainly is a different type of entity within the Marvel Cinematic Universe," mega-Marvel producer Kevin Feige told SlashFilm. "[He] can hang out with the Watchers and tell them stories about all his cameos." Whether they'll listen or not is unclear -- in the post-credit scene, we see The Watchers filing out through a portal. Was this the Stan Lee cameo to end all Stan Lee cameos? Probably not; Thor: Ragnarok, due next November, takes the mythological warrior on a road trip through the galaxy -- there's a chance Lee's informant could still be sitting somewhere in space waiting to get picked back up.

kraglin sean gunn after credits scene
Marvel Studios

Kraglin practices with Yondu's telekinetic arrow

After appearing briefly as a Ravager henchmen in Guardians of the Galaxy (not to mention working Rocket Raccoon's stand-in behind the scenes), James threw his brother Sean Gunn, celebrity to all Gilmore Girls fans, earned a bigger role in the sequel. His Kraglin adds substantial heart to the movie; while Pratt's Star-Lord is the surrogate son at the center of the Yondu-Ego agreement, Sean Gunn's number two gives the blue-tinted thief even more dimension. He may have roughed up aliens across the galaxy, but Yondu looked out for his friends. In this jokey post-credit scene, we see Kraglin assuming the role of master whistler. If he can learn to wield the deadly weapon without stabbing Drax too many times, it's reasonable to think he'll join the Guardians for Vol. 3 (or heck, in their battle against Thanos in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War).

stallone guardians of the galaxy after credits
Getty Images

Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) posing with the old Guardians of the Galaxy

The Marvel's no-hand-holding philosophy means each movie is packed with flag-waving Easter eggs and total deep cuts that mean nothing to casual viewers. Stallone's entire role seems to exist in the latter category.

While the Rambo star pops up as Stakar early on the film, knocking heads with Yondu and his fellow Ravagers, his immediate purpose is unclear... until he circles back for a tearjerking fireworks display. He doesn't attend the ceremony alone: In other ships, we're greeted by unnamed aliens played by Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as the warrior Aleta Ogord, Ving Rhames (the Mission: Impossible series) as the giant soldier Charlie-27, Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville) as Martinex, the crystal Plutonian, and a silent, eel-like Krugarr. Oh, and a robot named Mainframe voiced by... Miley Cyrus. The post-credit sequence brings this motley crew together for a tableaux that rivals Star-Lord and company's own standing-around-looking-like-heroes moment.

What's the story? Before Marvel assembled the modern Guardians of the Galaxy that we know and love, there was a team running around the pages of the 1969 Marvel universe under the same team name. Or, rather, an alternate Marvel universe -- the OG Guardians were heroes of a parallel 31st century where they banded together to save Jupiter from an alien race called the Badoon. Stakar  wasn't technically there, but Yondu was, and Gunn, ever the comic enthusiast, wanted to find a way to pay homage to the past within the setting of his modern world. The result is a star-filled post-credit scene that could pay off in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3.

"I'm excited by the possibility of doing more stuff with that particular set of characters," Gunn told Buzzfeed. Maybe not their own movie, but certainly a team-up with the current Guardians. How do you hire Stallone just to stand around and mug for the camera?

guardians of the galaxy 2 adam warlock after credits
Marvel Studios

Ayesha revealing the creation of Adam Warlock

The most baffling post-credit scene could also have the biggest payoff. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 returns once more to the planet of The Sovereign to check in with Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and her royally pissed off, golden race. Fuming over her back-to-back defeats, the empress mutters to herself about her next move, "the next step in our evolution -- more powerful, more beautiful, more capable of destroying the Guardians of the Galaxy." All we see is a cocoon of sorts, but fans of the comics know what's inside: Adam Warlock.

A key member of the Guardians of the Galaxy's comic counterparts, Adam Warlock's movie appearance always felt like a matter of when, not if. His origins are long and convoluted, first created in a lab on Earth, beaten to death by Thor, and later reborn by a mad, genetically altered scientist. The Guardians movies appear to streamline that a bit -- unlike comic Ayesha, Debicki's glowing queen is the leader of her technological society, and now she's overseeing the creation of Warlock, who in the source material is often associated as her equal and foster brother. 

Whatever the case, the character is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and his key trait could play a major part in future movies. Historically, Adam Warlock has possessed the "Soul Gem," one of the infinity stones that The Avengers' looming threat, Thanos, is out to collect. (If you recall, Star-Lord possessed one in the first Guardians: the Orb, aka the Power Stone.)

Simply put, if 2018's Avengers: Infinity War kicks off with Thanos collecting the stones, he'll have to encounter Warlock in one way or another. That could be a post-credits scene unto itself; according to Gunn, the character's expected to pop up in the inevitable Vol. 3, but not Infinity War. But the latter was originally conceived as a two-parter, meaning Thanos could pick up the Soul Gem between Infinity War and the yet-to-be-named final showdown movie, which conceivably loops in every character we've ever seen in these movies.

Whew. The Adam Warlock tease is a can of worms with endless possibilities. But expect at least one to take shape between now and the Guardians of the Galaxy's next appearance.

groot teenager guardians of the galaxy 2
Marvel Studios

Teenage Groot wants his privacy!!

The first Guardians of the Galaxy gave us a post-credit scene teasing Groot's baby form, the iteration we'd see in Vol. 2. The sequel teases the next step in his growth: hormonal, melodramatic, close-the-door-dad! tween Groot. It's a pretty hilarious inversion of the baby tease, but even the goofiest tags can payoff down the road. Will adolescent Groot fight alongside the heroes in the upcoming Avengers movie, where they're expected to at least show up for one major action sequence, then again in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?

"Whatever version of Groot is going to be in Infinity War," Gunn tells Buzzfeed, "that's sort of where we're going."

Gunn, true to a weird-ass movie with five post-credit scenes, loves to tease. Fine by us.

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Matt Patches is Thrillist's Executive Entertainment Editor. His previous work appeared on Grantland, Esquire.com, and Vulture. Find him on Twitter @misterpatches.