James Gunn Explains the Origin of the Infinity Stones and Why Thanos Was ‘an Extra Complication’ for Him in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Writer, director, and producer James Gunn is perhaps best known for his contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is at the helm of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, including the upcoming third film, which does not yet have a release date.

James Gunn at the European Gala screening of 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' in London on April 24, 2017.
James Gunn at the European Gala screening of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ in London on April 24, 2017. | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Gunn’s first Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy, was important in expanding the MCU as a whole, as well as laying the groundwork for many movies to come. Here’s what he said in April 2020 about which elements were difficult to incorporate and which were surprisingly simple.

The first film established a lot of key elements in the MCU

Guardians of the Galaxy was the first MCU release to take the audience outside of the core group of Avengers. It was a risk to introduce a whole new set of characters, each with a unique origin story. However, Gunn managed to do that while entertaining audiences.

He also laid the groundwork for much of the Infinity Saga to come. Aside from The Avengers mid-credit scene, this is the viewers’ introduction to Thanos. Additionally, the Collector (who previously appeared in the Thor: The Dark World mid-credit scene) explains what the Infinity Stones are.

Gunn says Marvel didn’t require a lot from him

On April 7, 2020, Gunn participated in a Quarantine Watch Party for Guardians of the Galaxy. He took to his Twitter account to share insights and answer fan questions while watching the film. The writer-director talked a bit about the future, but mostly focused on revealing what was unknown about the original movie..

When asked whether he mentioned Celestials (beings who have come into play in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and will again in The Eternals) because it was required of Marvel, Gunn said, “The ONLY thing Marvel asked me to include was a Thanos cameo and said maybe I could create an origin for the Infinity Stones. Other than that they were up for whatever and weren’t set on any one way to handle the characters.”

Why the villains were ‘the most difficult’ part of editing

While Ronan is the primary villain in GoTG, his ties to Thanos are quickly explained. Along with the latter’s connections to Nebula and Gamora, this made for a lot of elements that Gunn had to include while still making his film stand on its own.

When asked about whether he was excited to introduce Thanos in his movie, Gunn replied, “He was an extra complication that made the story a lot more difficult to tell. The relationships between the bad guys was too complex for audiences and was by far the most difficult thing to deal with in editing.”

The Infinity Stones plot

Fans now know that Thanos and the Infinity Stones are inextricably connected. But at the time, it was hard to know just how much that would mean for future MCU entries. A fan asked Gunn how he felt about having the “big responsibility” of introducing the plot. The creator replied, “We didn’t know at the time it was going to be as big a deal as it turned out to be.”

In fact, this wasn’t something that he needed to consult the head honchos at Marvel about at all. “Just made it up,” Gunn told a fan who asked if executives weighed in on his origin story or if he did all of the heavy lifting himself.