(Note: This post contains spoilers for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”)
One of the better aspects of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is how it brings back characters from the first “Guardians of the Galaxy,” fleshing them out with a deeper dive into their personalities.
Among the beneficiaries of a second look at their character is Nebula (Karen Gillan). In the second movie, we learn a lot more about what’s going on in Nebula’s cyborg head. She’s one of the kidnapped daughters of the super-powerful Marvel Cinematic Universe villain Thanos and, along with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), was tortured throughout her upbringing to turn her into a living weapon.
Now that Nebula’s free of Thanos’ grasp, she’s out for revenge. That sounds like the perfect set-up for a Nebula spin-off movie.
Nebula is a phenomenal character to spin-off from the Guardians and fill the sort of “anti-hero” space in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. But Nebula’s a bit different from the protagonists of the “Guardians” movies. She skews way darker, sure, but “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” proves she still has a heart. She’d be great for a solo anti-hero movie, with plenty of room to develop her character and unlock the mix of bad guy and good guy tendencies she espouses in “Vol. 2”
As a character, Nebula’s got all kinds of tragic backstory to deal with, but for the first time in “Vol. 2,” we see her free of the domination of Thanos and able to go her own way. Given the choice to be straight-up evil or to help others, Nebula softens a bit and could even be counted among the heroes in the movie.
There’s plenty there to explore. In the first “Guardians,” Nebula was a villain working for the Ronan (Lee Pace), the evil blue-skinned zealot who tried to kill an entire planet. But in that movie, Nebula is little more than a henchman. She commands troops on Ronan’s ship, the Dark Aster, and she fights Gamora, but that’s about it.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” gives Nebula a lot more opportunity to flex her character muscles. She works through some of her baggage with Gamora, who she blames for a lot of the torment she went through as a child under Thanos’ domination. We get a glimpse of what’s going on with Nebula — she’s suffering from a lot of pain, but she’s more than just a cyborg who hates everyone.
In the end, rather than kill Gamora as she seemingly planned, Nebula saves her. The pair have a grudging respect and part ways with Nebula planning to hunt down and kill Thanos.
With that mandate, Nebula’s history and her character going through some major changes in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” the stage is set to tell her story. The idea of her heading out into the galaxy hoping to find the resources, weapons and probably people she needs to fight Thanos is a great setup, especially if Nebula then finds herself getting mixed up in adventures and finding people to actually care about.
It could, basically, be the MCU’s answer to “Mad Max: Fury Road.” In space. And hilarious.
In the first two “Guardians” movies, Nebula is ruthless, but she comes off more as pretending to be evil than actually being evil. Putting her in some situations in which she finds herself actually liking and helping people — maybe the other girls Thanos has stolen from other planets, as Gamora mentions — would be a great way to explore Nebula’s already nuanced and troubled character.
Plus, a Nebula movie is a chance to expand the “Guardians” side of the MCU in a different way. It gives Marvel room to build another female character and lead a movie with a woman, something that’s lacking in the MCU films in general. And it diversifies even more the kinds of stories and genres MCU is capable of encompassing.
A “Mad Max”-style space movie through director James Gunn’s established “Guardians” lens — full of gorgeous vistas, weird locales and funny characters — would be a perfect vehicle for Marvel to expand on some of the ideas and characters that already make “Guardians of the Galaxy” a blast. And, in Nebula, they have a villain who’s just on this side of the good guy line.
If Marvel is thinking about which characters from these first two movies, as Gunn has suggested they could be, Nebula should be at the top of the list.