Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is bursting at the seams with faces both familiar and new. Centrally, we're again anchored by Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) who is now despondent at the fact that 2014-Gamora (Zoe Saldana) doesn't share their romantic history.
Additionally, we're reunited with the wisecracking Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) whose tragic backstory fuels this allegedly darker and more emotional expansion of the Guardians universe. And, of course, we have the arboreal humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel), the hulking Drax (Dave Bautista), the biomechanical Nebula (Karen Gillan) and the empathic Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
However, there are several more important faces waiting in the wings in this, writer-director James Gunn's final Guardians movie (and, indeed, his final ever Marvel movie). Scroll down to get a sense of who will be filling out the psychedelic and colourful background of the third Guardians instalment.
1. Adam Warlock
Bioengineered human weapon Adam Warlock was teased at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In terms of the movie lore, he was created by Sovereign leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), designed specifically to track down and kill the Guardians after they betrayed her at the beginning of the movie. It's only taken six years since Guardians Vol. 2's release to catch up to this particular story arc.
Adam Warlock, originally credited as 'Him', was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1967 in the pages of Fantastic Four. The character has long garnered fascination for the way in which his formidable superpowers have vacillated between the forces of good and evil. In the comics, he's often been teamed with both the Guardians and the Fantastic Four, powered by the might of the Soul Gem, which invests him with extraordinary abilities.
However, Adam's dark side manifests in the form of Magus, which poses a distinct threat to the universe. It sounds as if the movie iteration of Warlock will similarly discombobulate viewers as to whether the character is good or bad. Certainly, in the hands of the talented young British actor Will Poulter, we can expect to be kept on our toes.
Poulter is one of the most significant new additions to Guardians Vol. 3, buffed up and sporting those famously expressive eyebrows to no doubt threatening effect. In an interview with Collider, James Gunn described Adam Warlock in the following terms: "He’s definitely not a good guy. What we’re seeing is the infant form of Adam Warlock, newly out of the cocoon, and he does not understand life very well. He’s basically a baby."
Of Poulter's casting, Gunn explained: "People online were saying ‘Oh, Tom Cruise should be Adam Warlock’. I wanted somebody who was youthful, and I wanted somebody who had the dramatic chops and the comedic chops, not only for this movie but for what Marvel will use Adam Warlock for in the future. He could become this really important character."
Will Adam Warlock become a mainstay throughout Marvel Phase Five and Phase Six? It seems highly likely.
2. The High Evolutionary
The new big bad in the Guardians universe (nee galaxy), The High Evolutionary has previous experience with one of the members of the team. He was responsible for experimenting on Rocket Raccoon and countless other animals, part of a deranged plan of scientific perfection, although Rocket (Bradley Cooper) dismisses the attempts as little more than just cruelty. The latter's life has been shaped by these experimentations and the moment of reckoning is now coming.
Created by the late Stan Lee alongside Jack Kirby, the High Evolutionary first appeared in 1966. He was born in England as Herbert Arthur Wyndham and became obsessed with genetic experimentation at an early age, attempting to evolve the rats that lurked in his mother's house.
He's a suitably imperious villain, one that is bound to give the Guardians pause for thought, especially when the conflict is so personal. The character is played in the movie by British-Nigerian actor Chukwudi Iwuji who describes the High Evolutionary as an intriguing mixture of (appropriately enough) high-minded principles and low-slung sadism.
"Shady doesn't touch it," Iwuji told Collider. "[The High Evolutionary] is narcissistic, sociopathic, but very charming. I couldn't have thought of a better character that uses [a] skill set better to join the MCU with. Because there's something very Shakespearean about him, there's something very emotionally dark about him, and he's a lot of fun on top of all that."
3. Cosmo the Spacedog
Cosmo the Spacedog is a valuable new asset to the Guardians team. In terms of the character's comic book backstory, Cosmo first appeared in 2008 and was created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. The canine is telepathic, a Soviet (an homage to real-life space hound Laika) and security chief of the space station on Knowhere, the disembodied Celestial head come planet that featured in the first Guardians movie. In addition to telepathy, Cosmo also possesses psionic abilities, including high-level telepathy and telekinesis.
In the comics, Cosmo was a boy but this has now been swapped. The character is now voiced by Borat 2 scene-stealer Maria Bakalova, and in fact the character appeared on screen in the original Guardians of the Galaxy, escaping the clutches of the Collector (Benicio del Toro) after the Guardians unleashed the might of the Power Stone while on Knowhere.
In his typically facetious manner, Gunn has described the adorable ball of fluff Blurp, about whom he is "incredibly excited", as "probably the most important MCU character going forward". In a conversation with Empire, Gunn sketched out Blurp's backstory, saying: “Blurp begins as a pet of one of the Ravagers in the movie. He carries him around."
Fair enough – but what is Blurp, exactly? "Blurp is what’s known as a furry F’saki," Gunn says. "In the very first movie, if you remember, there was that Orloni table that they were betting on, with that beast that was eating the animals. The bigger thing was eating the smaller things. That thing was a non-furry F’saki. Blurp is a furry F’saki. So that’s what he is. He’s a pet.”
5. Lylla the Otter
Lylla is voiced by Linda Cardellini who has previously appeared in the MCU as the wife of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Often cited as Rocket Raccoon's soul mate, the kind-hearted Lylla is a sentient, sapient rodent who first appeared in 1982.
In the character's early days, Lylla was the heir to an intergalactic toy company named Mayhem Mekaniks, located on the planet of Halfworld. Nerdist states: "Once, the planet was a giant asylum, where robot caretakers looked after the patients. The robot caretakers eventually became sentient and experimented on the patient’s animal companions in an effort to evolve them. Eventually, Marvel’s Halfworld became a planet occupied entirely by anthropomorphic animals."
Following an attempted hostile takeover of the planet and the death of her parents, Lylla regained control of Mayhem Mekaniks and eventually fell in love with Rocket Racoon. As ever, it remains to be seen how much of Lylla's quirky and colourful backstory will be imported into the movie.
How excited are you to meet all these characters? Make it a reality when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 lands at Cineworld on May 3rd. Click the link below to book your tickets.