Warning: Mild spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 cameos and post-credits scenes to follow. You have been warned!
When Guardians of the Galaxy first came out, it really wasn’t what we had expected. It made firm favorites out of previously obscure characters, and its irreverent and knowing sense of fun took us all off guard.
Prior to the release of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, many were expecting more of the same. Indeed, Vol. 2 is perhaps the wackiest and most colorful entry in the canon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far and, like its predecessor, it features very few connections to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Guardians Vol. 2 does hint at huge incoming changes in the MCU, particularly during that crazy cameo scene.
Who Watches The Watchmen?
Guardians Vol. 2 has one of the most mind-blowing moments in the MCU thus far, and it is surely going to be one of the most-discussed scenes in the movie going forward. This is the already-famous Stan Lee cameo which occurs when Rocket (#BradleyCooper), Yondu (#MichaelRooker) and Kraglin (#SeanGunn) pilot their ship through 700 fast-travel gates at once.
We glimpse Lee bedecked in a space suit chatting about his previous filmic appearances to several cloaked, towering Watchers! The trio say nothing in response, though a post-credits scene shows that they soon grow bored of the legendary comic book writer and editor, and walk away with Stan the Man’s protests ringing in their ears. Stan Lee’s cameo not only seemingly confirms a long-standing fan theory about his previous parts in the MCU, it’s also the first time we’ve seen the Watchers onscreen. But wait, just who are the Watchers?
Who Are the Watchers?
Introduced way back in 1963, the Watchers are a race of alien beings that, in the comic book continuity, came into existence billions of years ago. Technologically advanced and hugely powerful, the Watchers once decided to help less-developed life forms, and educated the population of the planet Prosilicus in the ways of atomic energy. However, when the inhabitants used the knowledge to destroy themselves through nuclear warfare, the sorrowful Watchers decided to adopt a policy of strict non-interference. Instead, they decided to spread out through the universe, and merely observe and record the ways of other life forms so that they don't alter the course of the space/time continuum.
Think of the Time Lords from #DoctorWho, only with bigger noggins and loads more superpowers. Moreover, the Watchers even have their own rebel! Indeed, Earth’s Watcher Uatu has frequently come into contact with the #Avengers and the Fantastic Four, and has even broken his vows to fight alongside — and protect — our favorite heroes on a great many, very notable occasions!
But as cool as they are though, why all the fuss? Well, the fact that the Watchers now exist in the #MCU means that some possibilities can now become reality.
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“You’ve Become Part Of A Bigger Universe...”
The frenzy over Stan Lee’s cameo is partly due to the pedigree of the Watchers within the comics. The Watchers first appeared in the 13th issue of Fantastic Four, and as such, they’re an original part of the shared #Marvel universe that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created all the way back in the 1960s. Joy abounds, because after all this time, the Watchers are finally getting their cinematic due. However, this excitement isn’t just down to seeing the Watchers themselves, it’s what their small appearance represents.
Let’s face it; their domed heads, funky clothing and general outlandishness are very far-removed from the grounded approach that we've seen in many MCU films, from Iron Man to Captain America: Civil War. Sure, the MCU has been adopting different genres and traits to vary its output, but along with #ThorRagnarok, #SpiderManHomecoming and Guardians Vol. 2, 2017 seems to be the year where Marvel Studios is fully embracing the wacky and colourful nature of the comics. You only need to look at the inclusion of #KurtRussell’s Ego the Living Planet, Hela’s huge headdress or Spider-Man’s adoption of quirky teen movie traits to see this expansion in action.
You might scoff and say that a mere cameo can’t signify this much change, but if so, you need to consider another case: Howard the Duck. The characters’ minor reputation was in tatters thanks to George Lucas’s adaptation, but then James Gunn brought him back for a fun, throwaway cameo at the end of the first #GuardiansoftheGalaxy. Now Howard’s been given even greater prominence in the main feature of Vol. 2, and there are even rumblings of lengthier, more meaningful appearances in future MCU installments.
So, the fact that the Watchers are getting screen time thus begs the following question: who or what else could be coming to a cinema near us? The Stranger? Swarm? Mephisto? The Beyonder? As Marvel Studios delves into their comic book past, every unusual character is back on the table for consideration!
But What If...?
If the Watchers are on their way into the MCU, then it seems very likely that Uatu’s debut is not far behind. As Earth’s Watcher ,it seems a certainly that he’ll appear, given just how many of the movies take place on the home world of our favorite #superheroes. And if/when Uatu does show up, things could get very interesting for the MCU.
In the comics, Uatu hasn't just studied Earth as we know it; thanks to his handy portal, he has also observed its hundreds of parallel timelines. In fact, he’s most famous for his narration of Marvel’s What If Issues, a series of short stories which explore alternate versions of important plot points, in a humorous, thoughtful or chilling fashion. These have included Gwen Stacy surviving the bridge-based battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, the Silver Surfer remaining in Galactus’s employ, and Captain America serving as part of an army of super soldiers in World War 2.
Therefore, it stands to reason that if Uatu comes to the MCU, we may get to see even more alternate versions of our heroes and their world. #DoctorStrange has already teased the possibility of this, particularly when Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One asked:
So, the fact that Uatu’s race is operating in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe further indicates that Kevin Feige and co. are at least considering exploring this avenue, especially in light of their decision to continue courting cosmic plots.
Ever wanted to see a version of Spider-Verse onscreen? Or perhaps even Marvel Zombies? Sure, they’re still very unlikely, but with Uatu and his buddies now onscreen, we have just inched that little bit closer towards them.
What Will Uatu Be Up To In The MCU?
It's very hard to say when or where we'll be seeing Uatu and the Watchers next, since Marvel are notoriously secretive. It seems that for now at least, they are only a fun cameo to whet people's appetites, but that hasn't stopped speculation that he could appear in the upcoming #InfinityWar.
This may be a somewhat improbable eventuality; Infinity War already has a cast list that's bursting at the seams, so bringing another huge character to the fray might overload the movie somewhat. However, the Russo Brothers may very well sneak him into the film. After all, the sheer scale of the Infinity War is definitely something that Uatu and his kind would observe, plus the fact that some cast members such as Peter Dinklage have yet been unaccounted for character-wise is very telling.
Whatever happens going forward, these scant few seconds in Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 are full of promise, and hint at a whole load of nerdy goodness. Indeed, Guardians Vol. 2 has done a fantastic job at foreshadowing a very bright future for the Marvel Cinematic Universe!