At this stage in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is somewhat difficult to look at any of their films as single movies. In almost every instance, these films do tell their own individual stories, but also spend a great deal of time setting up what is to come. This has worked well in the past, with Captain America: Civil War for example having a great standalone story while also setting the stage for Phase 3. However, it has also seen movies like Iron Man 2 or Avengers: Age of Ultron spend a great deal of timing just setting up what else is coming.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the best example so far of a movie that exists largely on its own, but even then, an appearance by Thanos and the presence of Infinity Stones bridges the cosmic adventure to the core MCU storyline. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will have neither Thanos nor the Infinity Stones, it was still thought that it would set up what else is to come, like the team’s next appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, in some regard. But, director James Gunn says that will be far from the case.
Gunn spoke to The Daily Beast about a variety of topics, but was specifically asked about how connected the sequel would be to the MCU at large. In a somewhat surprising response, he states that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does not service the larger universe in any way, but also that he’s never been asked to do so:
There is not a single thing in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which was ever dictated by the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are things that I did in the movie that they’re going to have to deal with, now, in Infinity War. But it was pretty much understood that the Guardians are my guys, so they’d have to deal with whatever came from that. So there was nothing. It’s a 100 percent self-enclosed story about the Guardians of the Galaxy, very much like Dr. Strange was.
Never has [Feige] told me that anything has to be in my film. I mean, I know what their plans are. But there’s just nothing I do to service that within Vol. 2’s story; all that’s important is Vol. 2. Everything about Vol. 2 is what’s important. He’s never told me anything hasn’t fit in on the second movie. On the first movie, there were some more technical weird things that we had to deal with, and I was a bit more bashful about getting my way. But now, it’s not part of the conversation.
It would not have come as a surprise to many if he simply said this is a standalone movie, but Gunn makes it clear that people expecting heavy handed setups to these characters’ futures in Infinity War and beyond will be disappointed. However, this lack of connectivity is not coming at the expense of the MCU. As he says, he knows what Marvel Studios is planning, especially since he will serve as an executive producer on Infinity War and the Untitled Avengers followup, so any worry that he will surprise the creative team in charge is unwarranted.
Surely there will be some that wish some small nods to the larger universe could be included, but that may not have been best for this story. Guardians of the Galaxy was a massive hit because it was self-contained, so Gunn doubling down on this concept for the sequel should not be surprising. Plus, audiences have recently responded extremely positively to superhero adventures like Logan and Deadpool, not just because they are R-rated, but because they are single stories that don’t require a universe to support them.
That all said, while the film itself may not spend time teasing the future for these characters or introducing characters/locations just for them to be used in Infinity War, that does not necessarily mean that the mid- and post-credits scenes could not provide this service. Gunn recently confirmed that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will include a post-credits scene, and with Infinity War being just a year away upon this film’s release, while also being the Guardians’ next appearance, a subtle tease of their larger future could be in play and still prove these statements to be true.