Despite being one of Marvel's most popular films, Guardians Of The Galaxy looks like the odd man out due to its lack of connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director James Gunn has stated that he's more interested in making a good stand-alone movie than shoehorning Easter Eggs into the plot.
That's not to say the galaxy's friendliest criminals will not play a major role in upcoming crossovers for the shared universe. As rumors swirl about Marvel's upcoming movies, here's a look at a few ways the MCU's space-faring team may finally fit into the greater Marvel narrative.
The Time Stone
Ever since The Collector, played by Benicio Del Toro, explained the origins of the Infinity Stones in Guardians Of The Galaxy, the Stones stopped being random McGuffins and could be seen as hand-held weapons of mass destruction.
Four of the six Infinity Stones have appeared in the MCU. The latest Doctor Strange trailer now hints at the possibility of the fifth stone -- the Time Stone --coming into the fray. If images of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) bending time to his whims, or the repeated use of the word "time" in the TV spot's narration are not a strong enough hints that point to the Time Stone, then I don't know what they are.
Gunn already said that Volume 2 will not feature the Infinity Stones, but the ramifications of his revised backstory for the Stones are still felt in the MCU at large. It won't be a surprise if the the Infinity Stones, their expanded origins and other bits of cosmic history that were implied in Guardians Of The Galaxy play a part in the dimension-hopping mystical power struggle at the heart of Doctor Strange.
The Elders Of The Universe
Currently, the only other Marvel movies Guardians Of The Galaxy has in common with are the Thor movies due to a space setting and the acknowledgment of the Infinity Stones. This connection may deepen by the time Thor: Ragnarok hits cinemas because of the characters it could share with Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 2.
According to Schmoes Know, one of Volume 2's most integral factions will be The Elders Of The Universe, a group said to be the instigators of the Guardians' quest to locate Ego The Living Planet. (Kurt Russell plays Ego.)
In the comics, The Elders are a group compromised of the last known members of long-extinct races. Each Elder is defined by their obsession, resulting in their self-explanatory nicknames.
As a group, the Elders often changed depending on each comic's writer, but notable members include characters who are already in the MCU. Specifically, The Collector and Ego from Guardians Of The Galaxy and Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) in Thor: Ragnarok. Gunn has said that The Collector won't be appearing in Volume 2 but the Schmoes Know report seems to contradict this.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 will reportedly introduce Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and Ego as Elders in the MCU. Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone are said to be playing other Elders, but their characters have yet to be identified.
The Elders' roles in the overall plot have yet to be specified and it's not yet clear how seemingly exiled members like Grandmaster and Ego will contribute to the interconnected cosmic stories of Volume 2 and Thor: Ragnarok. What is clear is that these literal "powers that be" will bring the galactic conflicts from their isolated space settings to Marvel's forefront as the MCU begins to enter the cosmic realm.
UPDATE: This rumor has since been shut down by James Gunn himself, who has said that Ayesha alone is the villain of Volume 2.
Star-Lord Goes To War
Avengers: Infinity War has been confirmed to have the largest cast in a Marvel movie ever, featuring pretty much every living character in the MCU will play a part in the fight against Thanos. Russo Brothers and Groot voice actor Vin Diesel confirmed the Guardians to be part of Infinity War, but light has only recently been shed on what they'll be doing in the conflict against the Mad Titan.
Schmoes Know claims that Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is reportedly being given a “sizable” role “as the Avengers join up with him as they take on a new cosmic threat.” Star-Lord originally came from Earth but was abducted by the Ravagers for a yet unknown client (possibly Ego), and his ties to Earth may serve as the bridge between Marvel's Earthbound heroes and the galactic ones.
Whether Star-Lord goes to Earth to warn humanity about Thanos' arrival or if the Avengers convince Star-Lord to be their unofficial tour guide in the unfamiliar territories of space, seeing two of Marvel's biggest teams - the Avengers and the Guardians - join forces will definitely be something worth seeing on the big screen.
Which 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' connection are you most excited for?