guardians of the galaxy 2 ending

Major spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 lie ahead. Don’t read any further if you haven’t watched the movie!

It was a sorrowful ending that reverberated through the galaxy, and cemented Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as a worthy and emotional follow-up to its predecessor.

And the ending of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t — yet — fall into that old Marvel habit of bringing back once-deceased characters and cheapening their sacrifice. But while the loss of a beloved character is hard on the audience, it’s even harder on the director and crew behind the film — so much so that writer/director James Gunn almost didn’t make this the film’s ending. Let’s talk about that ending, and how it came to be.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

What Happened at the End?

After finding out that his biological father, the living planet god Ego (Kurt Russell), was actually a villainous deity who intended to remake the entire universe in his image — destroying all life in the process — Peter (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) set out to stop him, with the aid of their new allies and old friends/enemies, Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Yondu (Michael Rooker).

Realizing the only course of action is to set off a bomb at Ego’s core, Peter and the Guardians fight to distract Ego and the fleet of the Sovereign, who have pursued Rocket for stealing their precious, explosive batteries. It’s those pilfered batteries that Rocket uses to arm the bomb that Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) has to plant at the center of the planet, with a five-minute timer that would allow the Guardians to escape before the entire planet explodes.

The entire gang is able to make it out before the timer runs out — except for Peter, whose battle against his father remains too close for him to make a quick getaway. Yondu, wracked by guilt for trafficking all of Ego’s previous children to him except for Peter — who he had kept in an effort to save him from his siblings’ fates — stays behind as well, armed with Rocket’s last jet-pack and space suit. As the bomb goes off and Ego is defeated, Yondu saves Peter and gives him the one suit as they jet off into space and away from the dissolving planet. In a touching and heroic scene, Yondu dies in the vacuum of space, giving his life for Peter — who ultimately realizes that while Yondu wasn’t his father, he was certainly his dad.

The film ends with the Guardians bidding goodbye to Yondu and the Ravengers, led by Sly Stallone’s Sakar, arriving to hold a bombastic funeral for him after Rocket had informed Yondu’s old friends of his sacrifice.

james gunn on the set of guardians of the galaxy vol 2

James Gunn and Michael Rooker Almost Couldn’t Give Up Yondu

Yondu’s redemption arc and his development into one of the best characters in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 made his sacrifice all the more tragic — and made it that much harder for Gunn to let him go. In an Uproxx interview with Gunn and Rooker, the two of them talked about building Yondu up to be the hero of the sequel, and how they almost didn’t kill him off at the end. Gunn told Uproxx:

“I didn’t want that to be the ending, and I kind of refused to put that in as the ending for a long time. It wasn’t how the movie ended… But, at the end of the day, I knew that’s where it needed to go. I knew that we need to have real stakes in these movies. We need to lose characters. And not everyone who sees Marvel movies loves that.”

What would the ending have originally been if Gunn hadn’t stuck to his, well, guns and killed Yondu off? We can’t know for sure, though Rooker, who seems really regretful that this would be his last hurrah as Yondu, would probably have preferred it. But the actor seems to have made his peace with it, especially since his sacrifice means that he’ll be the reason that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 packed such an emotional wallop. Rooker said:

“The hero of the movie ends up being remembered. And the hero of the movie ends up being, well – you’re the hero of the movie! You know, they’ve done something! They’ve given up something that most of us would not even come close to having the balls to give up in real life, and in the movies as well.”

Gunn added that it wasn’t just about killing off a character for the stakes, it was something that the narrative demanded for Peter to realize the true nature of his relationship with Yondu:

“The whole movie led to that one moment. It seemed to be calling to me. And that’s what fulfills this true story. This is a story about a father’s love for his son, his ultimate love, so much love that he sacrifices himself for that, and that’s what Yondu is. He is 100 percent Peter Quill’s father. And Ego is 100 percent not his father. Just because Ego is biologically his father, that isn’t who he is.”

kurt russell guardians of the galaxy interview

Chris Pratt’s Last-Minute Addition to the Final Scene

Even after the script was finalized — Yondu’s death intact despite Gunn’s hesitation — the ending was constantly being tweaked by the cast and the crew.

One moment that originally wasn’t included in the finale was Peter’s eulogy for his father figure, which Pratt and Gunn had thought up after they had already shot the funeral scene. Cinematographer Henry Braham, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, described how Pratt’s last-minute fix to the final scene ended up becoming his favorite moment of the movie:

Sometimes some of those moments are completely unnoticeable, and actually one of them is after Yondu’s funeral, Chris’ speech; we shot it on the set and the next day James came to work — and he and Chris had thought of something that they’d missed — so they wanted to reshoot it. And actually Chris is inserted into that scene. He shot against bluescreen, and we had to match the lighting, match absolutely everything perfectly from the shot we did before. We have to match the timing of the camera’s moves in and around the scene, perfectly with his dialogue and everything else. It’s complex. But of course hopefully for the audience it should be absolutely seamless. It’s the bits you don’t see are sometimes the most complex.

What did you think of the ending? Did it leave you in tears? Or were you upset that a great character like Yondu is no more?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is currently playing in theaters.

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