James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was one of the many projects Marvel Studios showcased during their Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, and it's safe to say the reaction to what was shown was very positive. Plenty of footage from the highly-anticipated sequel was shown, including a clip featuring Yondu, Rocket Raccoon, and baby Groot escaping from a prison, as well as what amounted to a full trailer. While there was plenty for fans to take in, arguably the star of the show was Groot, who is just as adorable as he was when audiences last saw him dancing to the Jackson 5, but is more than capable of handling himself in a fight.
Little Groot is poised to become one of the breakout film characters in 2017, but there is one big question surrounding his role in the movie. Since this is technically a "new" Groot, will he have the memories of what transpired in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy? According to Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige, the cute tree still knows who all his friends are.
Feige spoke with Collider following the Hall H panel, where he explained Groot's state of mind, comparing it to the original Star Trek movies:
“He remembers. He’s not mentally a baby, he is still Groot… I sort of equate it to Spock circa the end of Search for Spock and The Voyage Home.”
This will most likely come as a relief to many fans, since it means Gunn isn't starting over for the followup. Even though Groot has a very different physical appearance (he now fits on Rocket's shoulder), Vol. 2 can continue to develop the relationships Groot has with his fellow teammates. One of the key reasons why Guardians was so successful was its emotional component, telling a touching tale of family and companionship. Feige stated that this will cary over into the sequel, saying that he found the "amount of heart" between Rocket and Groot to be "awe-inspiring." Gunn has said his plan was to craft a smaller, more character-driven story this time around, and the pitch made Chris Pratt tear up. It got a little dusty during certain moments of the first Guardians (Star-Lord opening Awesome Mixtape 2), so hopefully Vol. 2 can resonate just as strongly.
The cornucopia of Guardians 2 news to come out of SDCC was fun to feast on, but some were frustrated that Marvel refused to release the footage publicly. Gunn explained that it was because the post-production team still needed some time to complete the extensive visual effects, so fans have a bit of a wait ahead of them before they get to see what the filmmaker has in store. However, Feige revealed the general public could get a chance to watch it in a few months time with the premiere of this fall's Doctor Strange, the next Marvel Cinematic Universe film on the docket. That would be the perfect time to start revving up the marketing campaign for Vol. 2, which opens in May 2017.
Guardians of the Galaxy was very much lightning in a bottle, catching many people off-guard with its critical and commercial performance. There are now high expectations for the sequel, with many hoping it can be one of the best Marvel movies to date. Time will tell, of course, but Gunn and company appear to be on the right track and should deliver another entertaining adventure that continues Phase 3 in grand style.
Doctor Strange opens in U.S. theaters on November 4, 2016, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2– May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018;Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.