If you haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and don’t want to be spoiled, you shouldn’t read this post.
Michael Rooker’s Yondu, even compared to the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, has a much more significant role in the sequel. After the Ravagers pull a mutiny against Yondu for, time after time, letting Peter Quill off the hook, we finally find out why Yondu always lets Peter off the hook.
Yes, Peter does finally meet his real father, Ego (played by Kurt Russell), but unfortunately for Peter, Ego is a living planet god who wants to destroy the universe with Peter by his side – an offer Peter rejects. (Ego is not happy about this decision.)
And then there’s poor Yondu who, it turns out, was never going to “eat” Peter as he had threatened time after time. And Yondu never kept Peter around because he was “small and could steal things.” The truth is Yondu was trying to save Peter from Ego – and Yondu eventually looked at Peter as his own son. Which is why, at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Yondu sacrifices his own life to save Peter in a surprisingly (for a Guardians movie) earnest and touching scene.
It’s like the audience realizes it collectively: Oh, yeah, we really did like Yondu all along and now it’s too late.
“I didn’t want that to be the ending, and I kind of refused to put that in as the ending for a long time,” admits James Gunn, the film’s writer and director. “It wasn’t how the movie ended.”
“Well, I didn’t want him to write it either,” adds Rooker.
Gunn continues, “But, at the end of the day, I knew that’s where it needed to go. I knew that we need to have real stakes in these movies. We need to lose characters. And not everyone who sees Marvel movies loves that.”
And this often comes up as a complaint in Marvel movies, that no major characters ever die. Up until now, the biggest death was Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it was a character we barely knew at that point. By the time we lose Yondu, we do really care about him.
“They don’t love losing characters,” says Gunn. “But for the characters to really make a difference, to really make their lives mean something, you needs to have these kinds of losses.”
“What are we going to do? You know?,” asks Rooker, who clearly doesn’t want to give up Yondu. “But it worked so well for this story in this movie. That’s what really worked. And, yeah, what are you going to do? And it’s for the good of the movie.”
“Michael Rooker is, for all the shit I give him all the time, he’s one of my closest friends in the world,” says Gunn. “I can’t imagine having to make a movie without him.”
Though, the silver lining for Rooker is that Yondu got to go out the hero of the movie. Isn’t that the dream of an actor in an action movie? To be the hero who gives up his own life to save the day?
“The hero of the movie ends up being remembered,” says Rooker. “And the hero of the movie ends up being, well – you’re the hero of the movie! You know, they’ve done something! They’ve given up something that most of us would not even come close to having the balls to give up in real life, and in the movies as well.”
Gunn adds, “The whole movie led to that one moment. It seemed to be calling to me. And that’s what fulfills this true story. This is a story about a father’s love for his son, his ultimate love, so much love that he sacrifices himself for that, and that’s what Yondu is. He is 100 percent Peter Quill’s father. And Ego is 100 percent not his father. Just because Ego is biologically his father, that isn’t who he is.”
Though, even beyond losing a character that Rooker loves playing, he still had some reservations. “I can’t say that I was all for it,” Rooker admits. “I’m telling you, my concern was the blowback. That was my main concern. My main concern was not that this is not going to work in the story. But obviously, it was going to work gangbusters for the movie. But I know how comic fans are and – oh, man.”
And even though Rooker’s performance and Yondu’s storyline is being heralded by critics, he’s still wary of what the fans will think. “Time’s going to tell how the real Yondu fans from the comic book years and all that stuff, how they accept all this stuff. And, you know, we’ll see what happens.”
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