Warning: Major spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ahead
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Star-Lord, Rocket and co. are back to save the galaxy again, and this time the threat’s escalated (which is saying something considering in their first adventure they were taking on a lackey of Thanos and dealing with an Infinity Stone).
Most of the marketing focused on the threat posed by Ayesha and Sovereign, but the movie itself has a much bigger villain to contend with (in all meanings of the word): Kurt Russell’s Ego. Yes, at the end of the film’s second act and after copious teasing, it’s revealed that Peter Quill’s father is Vol. 2‘s true big bad – an ancient being wanting to take over the entire universe.
This shouldn’t be the most surprising development to comic book fans – Ego has long been established as a villain – but in the film itself comes as quite a shock. And compared to Ronan the Accuser, who wanted to enact rather simple revenge, the living planet’s goal is an intricate, massive scheme that has far-reaching implications, and in some ways reframes the plot of the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Here’s what exactly he was up to.
What Actually Is Ego?
Before going into the details of the plan, it’s worth establishing what Ego actually is. Probably the weirdest character introduced in the MCU so far, he is pretty much as described: a living planet. In the movie version, Ego’s actually a Celestial – one of the ancient, near-god-like beings (lower-case “g”) seen wielding the Infinity Stones in The Collector’s slideshow. Tangibly a giant brain, he’s able to control the elements around him and construct matter, over time creating the harmonious planet around him and a human avatar to inhabit it (as well as, possibly, other alien species).
Overall Ego’s abilities are kept vague, allowing for escalating stakes as the movie progresses, although some specific limitations are established. The Kurt Russell-looking avatar he creates has a limited draw distance, unable to survive for too long away from the planet. Due to his immortal, ever-present status, Ego is also unable to sleep naturally and so enlists the help of his assistant/hostage Mantis to send him off at “night”. These two traits build up a sense of loneliness within him that play an essential part in his motivation.
In the comics, Ego was quite literally just a living planet and, despite a similar “biological” makeup to his movie counterpart, has no direct link to Star-Lord or the Guardians (in fact, he’s technically a Fantastic Four character, which led to some tricky rights-swapping between Marvel and Fox). This makes the MCU take something of a repurposing, with the biggest departure being that Celestial nature, gifting the already psionically powerful being with even more strength.
That said, what does remain is the character’s high intelligence and, as the name suggests, sense of self-importance. Indeed, as time slowly wore on, Ego developed a fascination with life; believing that he couldn’t be the only living being, he set out across the stars to find others. And that brings us to his plan.