For the early part of 2014, most fans saw Guardians of the Galaxy as a giant gamble for Marvel. It was a sprawling space epic with little known characters and a director mostly beloved for his cool, hip cult movies such as The Specials, Slither and Super. But Marvel and Disney knew they had a hit earlier on, announcing a sequel at last year's Comic-Con before the movie even opened, confirming a May 5, 2017 release date. Thing is, they had no idea just how big of a blockbuster hit Guardians of the Galaxy would prove to be, or how prophetic that news was. Guardians of the Galaxy turned Chris Pratt into one of the biggest stars in the galaxy. And it excelled at giving us a group of characters who all 'stole' the show. Now, more than possibly any other Marvel movie planned to hit over the next five years, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (the official title confirmed by James Gunn) is the most anticipated. But what do we really know about it Guardians 2 so far? Quite a bit, actually!

Marvel and Disney are very good at keeping secrets. They let just enough information sneak out gradually as the movies near the multiplex. The really big reveals are saved for the big screen, when an audience is sitting in the theater, watching the movie. That seems nearly impossible in this day and age. But it helps to have a director who is as suave as James Gunn. He lets us know just enough to keep us satiated until that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 release date hits. And he is a master at social media manipulation. Over the past two years, he has left a trail of bread crumbs, making the anticipation something that is interactive and worthwhile for fans. He knows how to keep the home fires burning, so fans don't forget about the movie, and move onto the next big thing. It's a giant puzzle. One that is fun to see come together. Each piece will slowly shift into place as photos are revealed. The trailers will offer more insight. Soon, we'll be watching the movie for ourselves, with a comfortable sense that we know what is coming. But for now, the only thing we know for certain is that the entire main cast is coming back. And so is the director, James Gunn. First, let's take a look at the three main captains of the ship.

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The Release Date

<strong><em>Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2</em></strong> Release Date

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will arrive in theaters this coming summer. It hits screens across the world on May 5, 2017. In fact, some countries will even be getting it earlier than most, which is true of most Marvel movies nowadays. The film is essentually kicking of the summer movie going season of 2017. Other studios are so afraid of this movie, nothing else is being positioned against it. There is not one other big movie hitting in this arena at this time. And it doesn't even have much competition in the following weeks, which means it should stay at #1 for most of May. In the meantime, we're sure to get plenty of trailers, TV spots and special Disney sneak peeks to keep us tide over.

Star-Lord

Star-Lord

Chris Pratt channels equal parts Han Solo and Mal Reynolds to create a unique new space pirate that audiences immediately gravitated too. This, despite the fact that he is a thief and womanizer known by many to be a straight up 'asshole'. As a young child, he was abducted by aliens shortly after his mother died from cancer. And the big arc of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will revolve around finding out just who Star-Lord's Dad is. Throughout the first film, Quill experiences some major growing pains, as he learns to be a better person without losing his edge. He also learns how to become a leader, and what it means to make a sacrifice. The rest of the Guardians look up to Peter, and will follow him on many further adventures. While the search for his dad will definitely come into play, it isn't known what his next space quest will entail. During Comic-Con 2016, the idenity of Star-Lord's Dad was announced as Ego the Living Planet, who will be played by Kurt Russell. How he ties into the overall arc of the movie, though, is something that is being saved for the Guardians 2 premiere next summer.

Gamora

Gamora

No stranger to epic space odysseys, with three Star Trek movies under her belt, Zoe Saldana trades her Blue Na'Vi skin from Avatar in for the green hue of Gamora, a badass alien whose parents were killed in front of her as a young child. She's led a pretty rough life, being raised by the psychotic alien who murdered her mother and father. She's found a new home as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and is now pursing something that she never though was possible. And that is her own happiness. Even though she is trying to leave her past life behind, she has accumulated a number of enemies over the years, any of which might come looking for her. She is Thanos' favorite daughter. The most evil being in the galaxy will surely not be pleased to see she's decided to become a superhero. She also left her 'sister' Nebula fighting mad. It's more than likely that both of these forces will be back for revenge in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. How or why that happens, and how it pertains to the story is anyone's guess at this point.

Drax The Destroyer

Drax

It would be easy to say Dave Bautista stole the show as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy. But then there's Groot, and Rocket Raccoon, and Howard The Duck...And that only scratches the surface. Whoever may be your favorite, Drax is easily one of the funniest ass-kickers in the galaxy. Even if he doesn't know it. That doesn't mean he has a hilarious backstory. Far from it. The man's family was killed. And he got his revenge. But helping kill Ronan only helped curb his blind rage and hatred. He's still not over the death of his wife and daughter. With Ronan out of the way, Drax is now gunning for Thanos. And it promises to be an epic showdown. While the Marvel characters most certainly do have a history in the comics, it's not yet clear if their ultimate battle will come in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, or perhaps their feud will stretch into Avengers: Infinity War Part 1. What ever happens with Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, James Gunn has hinted that we will get to know more about his guarded personality and his former life as a loving husband and doting dad.

Rocket Raccoon

Rocket Raccoon

Bradley Cooper did a perfect job of capturing the obscure Marvel character Rocket Raccoon, turning him into one of the most unique aliens in a movie overstuffed with unique aliens. But unlike the rest of the Guardians crew, he is the one sole member who doesn't really have an arc with a forward momentum. We've learned quite a bit about his backstory. He isn't out for revenge. He doesn't have any father issues that we know of. And he's not back from the dead. So how will Rocket move forward in the sequel? How about a love interest? Lady Lylla is a sentient otter hinted at in Guardians of the Galaxy during a brief peek at Rocket's rap sheet. She happens to be the raccoon's soul mate. But their affair is currently on hiatus. Will the star-crossed lovers reunite? That certainly would give Rocket an arc moving forward.

Groot

Groot

The big question on everyone's mind when it comes to Groot is...Did he die? James Gunn has hinted that the Baby Groot we see at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy is actually Groot's offspring. A twig that has sprung to life. Is that true? Or does this Baby Groot still hold the soul and essence of the one, true Groot? A sentient tree voiced by Vin Diesel who can only say three words, the character became a quick favorite, and gets possibly the coolest fight scene in the whole movie as he proves exactly what he is capable of. He also saves his entire team from complete obliteration, a self sacrifice that is for the greater good. Though, it is incredibly hard to kill Groot completely off due to his regenerative powers. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will pick up just a few months after Guardians of the Galaxy. Groot be an adolescent that is still growing, and remains diminuative in size throughout the movie, according to director James Gunn. It doesn't sound like we'll see a full-grown Baby Groot until Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

There Will Only Be One New Guardian

Adam Warlock

While most big budget sequels want to go bigger and bolder than what came before it, director James Gunn promises he is pulling back on Guardians of the Galaxy 2. This means we get less characters than we did in Guardians of the Galaxy. We know for a fact that Ronan will not return. But other characters may be absent as well. In exchange, we will get one new Guardian joining Star-Lord and his team. And that character is Mantis. Rumored to be one of James Gunn's all-time favorite Marvel characters, she will be played by Pom Klementieff. Some believe Adam Warlock is showing up in the movie, but we haven't seen anything that proves that. That character's evil side Magus has been rumored to appear in Avengers: Infinity War Part 1. And Adam's cocoon was spotted in the Collector's menagerie. So, Adam Warlock might be a 'lock' for the sequel. Just because there is only one new character joining the team doesn't mean the movie won't subtly introduce us to other aspects for different sequels and Marvel spinoffs. The story is said to be so huge, and we know another very popular character has already been cut out of the script.

Kurt Russell is Ego the Living Planet, Star-Lord's Father

Kurt Russell

It has been confirmed that Kurt Russell is playing Ego the Living Planet in Guardians of the Galaxy. We know the story will focus on Peter Quill's father. And many believed that Kurt Russell is playing this particular character. That was confirmed during Comic-Con 2016, with a trailer that showed Ego creating his own human body (and Penis). But who is Ego, really? We're not sure.

New Cast Members

Sylvester Stallone in Guardians of the Galaxy

Joining the cast this time out are Elizabeth Debicki and Chris Sullivan, though we don't know who they are playing yet. Perhaps coolest of all is a confirmed cameo from Sylvester Stallone. Finally, we'll get the Tango and Cash reunion we've been waiting for. While the first footage of Sylvester Stallone was revealed at Comic-Con, there is no confirmation on whom he is playing. Though, his character is believed to be tied to Nova Corps. There will also be the introduction of the Sneeper aliens, who are being portrayed aby a group of Motion-Capture actors. These Marvel Extraterrestrials were at first banned from the movie, because there name sounds like 'clitoris' in the Icelandic language. But they were later cleared for use.

Nebula Is Back for Revenge

Nebula

The heroes in Guardians of the Galaxy didn't get to have all the fun. Karen Gillan found her sweet spot as the blue-hued and bald baddie Nebula. And she certainly set fans hearts fluttering with her evil ways. The step-sister of Gamora, the pair certainly have a lot of issues to work out. The first movie had so much going on, we didn't really get to see enough of Nebula. That should change in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The woman survived a fight with her sister, taking off in her spaceship. But to where has yet to be revealed. Is she setting a course for Thanos? Will she fight by his side as he sets out to retrieve the Infinity Gauntlet? Those questions might not be answered in full by the sequel, but they will certainly be teased. While Chris Pratt and the rest of his Guardians team are set for Avengers Infinity War, it's not yet known if Nebula will be around for the epic Marvel ensemble. One thing is for certain, Nebula is confirmed to return in this sequel. Kevin Feige demands it!

Other MCU Characters Need Not Apply

Hulk Captain Marvel apperances in Guardians 2

There has long been speculation that Hulk or Captain Marvel may show up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, helping tie the movie into other Marvel Phase 3 adventures and their storylines. While it is confirmed that the Guardians will show up in the epic ensemble Avengers: Infinity War, none of the other already established Marvel superheroes will be putting in an appearance in thsi sequel, which is being called a true standalone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was at one time believed that Guardians 2 might bring in elements of Planet Hulk, with Star-Lord battling the green goliath as an interstellar gladiator. That rumor has since been vanquished, and it is confirmed that those elemenst of the Planet Hulk storyline are being reserved for Thor: Ragnarok. As for Captain Marvel? Sure, Brie Larson has been cast as Carol Danvers. And it would make sense to see her here. But she is being introduced for the first time in Avengers: Inifity War. That doesn't mean there won't be a Marvel cameo of some kind. But if that's the case, we guarantee it's a surprise that's being kept under wraps until Guardians of the Galaxy 2 hits theaters.There is still an on-going rumor that Vision might show up. But that's never been confirmed.

Guardians 2 Will Help Set the Stage for Infinity War

Infinity War

It should come as no surprise that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will be connected to any number of other Marvel movies Disney has lined up. All of the Marvel movies are interconnected. And while the original Guardians of the Galaxy didn't appear to have any noticeable connections to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the Avengers that inhabit it, we were introduced to one of the Infinity Stones. When collected, these five stones will give their owner the powers of the galaxy in the form of the Infinity Gauntlet. And that's a power Thanos will try to obtain in Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Avengers: Infinity War Part 2. With Guardians of the Galaxy 2 opening in May of 2017, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 will follow the next year, opening May 2018. Of course Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will help set the stage for Thanos' appearance on earth. And Star-Lord will most likely be along for the ride. Chris Pratt is contracted for not only a Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, but at least two other Marvel movies outside of that. It hasn't been confirmed what those other movies will be, but we'll surely see Star-Lord mingling with Captain America and Iron Man before 2020. It's also possible that he will show up in the other space adventures Inhumans, which has been indefintely delayed, or maybe even Captain Marvel.

There Will Be More Dancing

Dancing Baby Groot

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the end scene with Dancing Baby Groot is the most popular in the entire movie. But is there any way to follow that up? Guardians of the Galaxy also has a pretty epic dance-off during it's big finale. But not to worry, the characters aren't danced out just yet. In fact, we'll see someone new dancing this time. Who that is isn't known yet. James Gunn, who provided the dance moves for Groot, will also be providing these new dance moves. About that, he reveals, "I'm not going to say whose dance moves, but we're going to see one particular character's dance moves." Any guesses?

The Return of Thanos

Thanos

Everyone thought, after his brief tease at the end of Marvel's The Avengers, that Thanos would be the big, bad villain of Avengers: Age of Ultron. That wasn't the case. But he did show up briefly in the original Guardians of the Galaxy. He is definitely a powerful force in the universe. And with Drax gunning for him, and Gamora ready to confront her step-father, we are all but guaranteed that this giant rock of a being played by Josh Brolin will return with more screen time in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. But he still won't be the main bad guy. James Gunn previously confirmed that Thanos will only show up if he helps the story. If he gets in the way, though, he'll definitely be cut out of the picture, just like some of the other characters that were planned early on and then discarded. While he'll likely show up for at least a cameo, he won't really inflict much damage on the MCU until Avengers: Infinity War Part 2.

Yondu Gets More Screen Time

Yondu

Michael Rooker's Yondu proved to be another major fan favorite. A surrogate father to Star-Lord, he's equal parts pure evil and undeniably lovable. And he is already guaranteed to return. He will be crucial in the quest to find Peter Quill's real father. Yondu's band of space pirates already know the true identity of this absentee dad. And we'll see most of Yondu's crew return as well, including the director's brother Sean Gunn as Yondu's right-hand man Kraglin (the actor also provided the voice and body-movements of Rocket on set). Outside of the main core group of Guardians, Yondu may prove to have the biggest personal arc in this new story yet. We'll surely learn more about him, and his fondness for truck stop trinkets. At Comic-Con, it was teased that Yondu is now officially a member of the Guardians.

The Collector isn't returning

The Collector

It was confirmed right before production kicked off in Atlanta on the sequel that The Collector, played by Benicio Del Toro, is not returning. This news came despite the fact that some have theorized the fan-favorite character is Star-Lord's father. That, as we know know, isn't true. It is possible that The Collector will be back for Avengers: Infinity War, which reportedly has over 60 returning characters from the entire MCU. While we won't be seeing The Collector in this next Guardians of the Galaxy movie, we haven't completely ruled out an appearance from Howard the Duck, who could show up for another quick cameo. But that has never been confirmed.

The Movie is in Pre-Production

Script

James Gunn confirmed that the first draft was completed for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 way back in 2015 and shooting started in Atlanta earlier this year. That doesn't mean he ever dropped any solid story hints beyond what we already know. Marvel is extremely happy with the direction of this sequel so far. And the screenplay brought star Chris Pratt to tears. He calls it 'so big and so good', claiming that it is 'Perfect'. Of course, just because shooting wrapped this summer doesn't mean the job is over yet. One thing James Gunn wants fans to do is stay away from spoilers before opening night. He likens watching the new sequel to opening a present on Christmas morning. There should be no peeking! James Gunn has gone onto call the story 'very moving'. And it will dive deeper into the character's backstories, offering a more human look at the superheroes. It will definitely be an emotional ride. In his most recent interviews, the director called the movie both bigger and smaller, as it focuses in on the heroes at its core. One theme that will run throughout the entire movie is 'Fathers'. Who they are, what they mean, and how they can affect even the galaxies greatest superheroes.

Awesome Mix Vol. 2

Awesome Mix Vol 2

In Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt stayed connected to his mother through the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 cassette tape and his beloved Walkman. This gave the movie a soundtrack that resonated not just with its main character, but also millions of moviegoers who helped the soundtrack soar to the top of the Billboard charts. Of course there is going to be an Awesome Mix Vol. 2. After all, it was teased at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy. Though, we're not sure yet what is on it. Chris Pratt knows some of the songs already, which are being listened to during script reads. James Gunn believes that the new soundtrack is actually better than the first.

Did you learn anything new about Guardians of the Galaxy 2? We're still 2 years away from release, so more information will surely be revealed in the coming months. Be sure to check back often, as we will keep this updated with the latest news and information about the anxiously awaited Marvel adventure.

B. Alan Orange at Movieweb
B. Alan Orange