Posted on Monday, February 6th, 2017 by Peter Sciretta
On April 22nd, 2016 I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to visit the set of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. What follows is everything I learned while on the set of James Gunn‘s galactic sequel.
Filming Guardians Vol 2. In Atlanta
To give some perspective, we visited the set the day after music legend Prince died. Marvel was shooting a lot of the movie at Pinewood Atlanta Studios, and was also prepping Spider-Man: Homecoming to shoot on the same studio lot. One thing I learned about Pinewood Atlanta Studios is that they actually have their own private Home Depot on the lot just for the movie productions.
The working title for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is “Level Up.” There were multiple funny flyers posted all around the Guardians offices warning crew members not to feed director James Gunn’s dog Wesley, with a photo of the dog looking almost like a Wanted poster. Signs around the set show an illustration of a Hellicarrier crashing into Earth with the words “Loose Lips Sink Ships, Keep Our Secrets Safe!” The posters include a phone number for Marvel’s security team for anyone working on the movie to report something that doesn’t seem right.
We watched them film a scene at the abandoned Georgia Convention Center. They had run out of room at Pinewood, and with Spider-Man gearing up they’ve lost some of the stages at the studio. So they have constructed six sets at this former convention center. Imagine the big halls as Comic-Con converted into make-shift Hollywood soundstages.
We watched them film a sequence on Ego’s spaceship. The set is surrounded by LEDs glowing orange; the structure is modern, round, smooth and white. James Gunn describes the ship as Kurt Russell’s “freaky, creepy, sixties pop-art spaceship.” The scene we saw them film involved Ego welcoming Quill onto his ship, followed by Gamora, Drax, and Mantis. They are bringing their bags/luggage onto Ego’s ship. He seems very welcoming, but Quill looks very unsure of himself. The day before, they turned the lighting for the set to purple and played “Purple Rain” and danced on the set as a tribute to Prince who had died that day.
They are shooting some scenes in IMAX, and the aspect ratio will expand for those scenes.
After they were done with the first film, James Gunn came in and pitched his idea for a sequel. On spec, James delivered a 64-page treatment that Feige says “was amazing.”
James Gunn’s original treatment mostly became the fundamental ideas for the final shooting script, but one significant change was made: Originally there was a major character who was removed from the film because it felt like the story had too many characters. Gunn admits that the new character was another Guardian team member who might eventually join the team in a future movie, teasing “I love the character actually. I loved everything about the character; I just didn’t have room for him.”
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. takes place just a few months after the events of the original film, which also explains why Groot has not yet fully grown back to full-size Groot. James Gunn says he set the story three months later because he felt the group are just such fragile egos and he didn’t think this story could start years later. At the beginning of the movie, the Guardians are so annoyed at each other. They have been living aboard The Milano together in close quarters and are becoming annoyed with each other.
Baby Groot is just dumb as large Groot was and he isn’t a baby in mental capacity. Groot gets just as mad at people and says the exact same thing. Groot was Rocket’s protector in the first movie, but this film swaps that role as Rocket is Groot’s protector. Baby Groot started as an idea on the set of the first while they were shooting Rocket on Groot’s shoulder they thought it might be fun to have it reversed on the next one. James Gunn believes that Groot is a “better-written character than the first Groot in some ways,” calling him “a more complete character.”
The Guardians have decided to become a more organized group of heroes, but it doesn’t always go well. When we meet them at the beginning of the sequel, they’ve traveled to do a mission on a planet called Sovereign.
They’ve been called to the planet Sovereign to help with giant inter-dimensional beasts that wreak havoc on the world and is trying to eat their power source. The Guardians have been asked to destroy the beast and recover the expensive batteries. The Guardians are doing the mission in exchange for a payment of personal value: The Sovereign has captured Nebula and is willing to trade her for their help in this matter. The Guardians are hoping to take Nebula back to Zandar, to have her arrested but “things go awry on that journey, and she becomes a much bigger player in the film than she was in the first one.”
After having defeated the monster, Rocket reveals to Drax that he’s stolen a few of these batteries because they’re really expensive and the Sovereign are not going to notice. Of course, the Sovereign do find out and end up chasing after them, less because they want those batteries back, but more because they have insulted the honor of the great Sovereign people.
The Sovereign are a very pompous race of alien beings. They are genetically created by themselves as a self-sustaining race who are perfect. They’re created as perfect beings, and they think of themselves as perfect. They’re gold, and there’s a very particular way you need to deal with them otherwise they’re easily offended. You need to be very delicate in the way you speak with them, which is not easy for the Guardians.
Elizabeth Debicki plays a Sovereign named Ayesha who hires the Ravagers to go after Quill. Yondu tries to convince the Ravengers not to take on the task, telling them that they would endanger themselves if they went after the Guardians of the Galaxy as the entire Nova Corp would be on their side.
The Guardians team will be split up early in the movie, and the question driving the plot is: will the group get back together as a family?
Yondu has a soft spot for Peter Quill, and as we saw at the end of the first movie, he thought he was given the Orb but inside found not an Infinity Stone but a little troll doll. He wasn’t mad but smiled. Yondu cares about Quill maybe more than he even admits, and some of the Ravagers think that what Quill did was not right and that they should have hunted him down and killed him right on the spot for being tricked. Some of the Ravengers believe Yondu has gone soft.
One Ravenger named Taserface (played by Chris Sullivan) leads a group of the space pirates to cause a mutiny against Yondu. Yondu, Rocket, and Groot have to team up to escape from that mutiny to go help Quill.
The villains in this sequel, Taserface, and Ayesha, were described by producer Kevin Feige as being “less grandiose in their ambitions than” previous Marvel villains like Ronan. Ayesha wants to kill the Guardians for slighting her people, and Taserface wants to overthrow Yondu as the leader of the Ravagers. It was imperative to James Gunn to “make the story one where the personal story of the Guardians and the villain agenda/plot, all about one thing.” He admits that while he set out to write a more intimate personal story, somehow the set pieces got five times as big.
The movie is both about Peter Quill’s relationship with his father and also his relationship with his adopted father, Yondu. The Ravagers’ role in the film has been largely extended from the first movie. The group is composed of some of the same actors from the first movie, and a lot of new actors playing new characters. The Ravengers operate a drill ship called the Quadrant. There are many Ravager factions in this galaxy. Yondu controlled one large faction and a faction that was not necessarily beloved by the other Ravager factions, in large part because they did things like traffic kids from one place to another, which the other Ravagers didn’t love necessarily and set Yondu apart from them. There is one sequence where the Revengers make someone “walk the plank” into the deadly vacuum of space.
Yondu has gotten a much bigger fin on top of his head, which is James Gunn’s nod to the larger fin the character has in the comics.