Memo to Marvel: Leave Star-Lord’s Father Out of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’

By  · Published on August 4th, 2014

Marvel Studios

One of the burning questions left at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy concerns Peter Quill/Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father. Who is he? What is he? With a sequel already in the works, due in 2017, the apparent certainty is that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will either answer the question or at least address it more in full. But does it have to? Must it? Can it not, please? I’d like to address Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer/director James Gunn here and simply plead that whoever and whatever Star-Lord’s father is to keep him out of the next movie and any installment of the greater MCU franchise.

Here’s what we know: Peter Quill was raised by his mother and possibly grandfather, never knowing who his real dad is or was. Around the age of 10, his mother died and he was immediately abducted via spaceship captained by a blue-skinned alien who would become a sort of father figure. About 25 years later, he still hasn’t met his pops, but it’s definite that the guy came from outer space. Quill’s mom said his dad was an angel made out of light. Later we hear that Quill is half-human and half some unknown cosmic entity. It’s a hybridization quality that heroes have had since heroes were first conceived. He’s basically a demigod, not unlike Hercules.*

Maybe Quill’s father is some character we haven’t yet met. A notable hero or villain. Or maybe he’s actually just the kid of Yondu (Michael Rooker), as I can’t otherwise understand why the Ravagers were sent to retrieve the boy or why they didn’t hand him over or why that wasn’t an issue for the real dad out there who sent them on the retrieval mission. Maybe he’s the son of Thanos (Josh Brolin), which would make his relationship with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) rather complicated and even more Star Wars-like. Hopefully not, because the paternity mystery concept is already putting the series too close to Star Wars and its followers, as well as countless other hero tales and movies throughout the course of time. Maybe Guardians of the Galaxy can be different?

Picture the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel sending Star-Lord out on a solo quest to find his father. It’ll appear to parallel Luke Skywalker’s trip to Dagobah to see Yoda and learn more about his Jedi roots in The Empire Strikes Back. Or it’d be like the plot of Elf. Or Tron: Legacy. Or Walter Salles’s Central Station (okay, Gunn can give me a remake of Central Station set in space, but only that exact thing). Maybe it will turn out Dad is missing in general, which would explain why Quill was never delivered to him, and the search is more akin to the one in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Mystery fathers are pretty popular with the fantasy genre right now, including the deal about Jon Snow’s actual dad not being Ned Stark on Game of Thrones and how The Amazing Spider-Man franchise was built out of the question of Richard Parker’s reason for abandoning Peter as well as what impact he had on his son’s acquisition of super powers. But in general superhero movies tend to have major paternal drama. In Iron Man, Tony Stark has daddy issues that are fleshed out in a sequel. Thor is all about sibling rivalry in relation to Papa Odin. Superman, particularly in Man of Steel, is split between the influence of two dads. In Hulk, Bruce Banner’s father is his creator and villain. Paternity problems are just a big part of comics.


But even when movie franchises aren’t based on comics and/or don’t start off with a daddy issue, they may bring one in eventually. The main characters’ father shows up mainly for gimmicky reason in Austin Powers in Goldmember and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Star-Lord’s dad would probably also be played by someone with extra-textual casting significance. Like Jeff Bridges (because of Starman) or Harrison Ford.

Guardians of the Galaxy should just take a different cue from the Star Wars franchise and have Star-Lord be more Anakin than Luke, the product of a “miraculous birth” or at least one that we never find or need the truth about. It could also take no cues and develop something new. I don’t mean something even more divergent from Star-Lord’s comic book origin story than they’re already going for. I mean just ignore his roots and allow for all the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy to leave the full details of their back stories behind them. The movie is appreciated for how little it addresses the origins of Rocket, Groot, Drax and Star-Lord, the last of whom doesn’t need more than the prologue.

If any family back story should be pored over in the sequel, I’d like it to be Gamora and Nebula’s (Karen Gillan). Yes, we already have the similar sibling rivalry of Thor, but despite the parallel I’d just like to have some better understanding of these two female characters, especially if they’re going to be fighting each other in each movie. Otherwise I’d rather they just weren’t related in any manner and are simply pit against each other in action scenes because they’re the token women on either side of the conflict. Actually, I’d prefer that. As is, the fact that the two are sisters is brought up without enough for us to care and yet it’s still more than the other Guardians have as far as character development.

Unfortunately, my plea is probably too much of a minority opinion. Audiences don’t like something teased or a question asked without some resolution. Fans will want to see what Feige and Gunn come up with, especially if Star-Lord’s dad is a big deal for the franchise overall, like Adam Warlock or Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) or whatever old Guardian character the director has hinted at bringing into the fold, rather than a random celestial figure. Gunn has already mentioned that he’s interested in exploring the mystery and also Star-Lord’s relationship with Yondu.

When Guardians of the Galaxy 2 arrives, I’ll sit back and take the conventional direction of the franchise and chalk it up to a heroic tradition going back thousands of years, but I’ll still be sad that we can’t break free of the mold just because it’s deemed acceptable due to custom trumping the issue of unoriginality. This is a property that is at least pretending to be something fresh and odd, so it’d be nice to see the sequel do something we haven’t seen before. With the sequel three years away, there’s plenty of time to throw out the mystery father storyline and come up with another idea.
*I apologize for not noting that I’m somewhat familiar with who Star-Lord’s father is in the comics (Emperor J’son of Spartax). However, it’s been speculated based on numerous changes already made to these characters’ cinematic identities and the clues about his father in the film that the MCU is going to alter this relationship, as well. Still, even if it is J’son, my main point remains: leave him out.

Update: James Gunn has confirmed that Star-Lord’s dad in the movies will not be J’son.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.