Guardians of the Galaxy comes out this weekend and according to director James Gunn, audiences who see it opening night will be the first to glimpse the post-credits tease at the end of the film, whatever it may be. Logic suggests it will have something to do with Avengers: Age of Ultron, the next Marvel movie, but perhaps it will look even further ahead, much as the last Avengers movie did in setting up the villain Thanos (who then wasn’t even cast for two years). Perhaps Gunn directed this teaser, perhaps not; but the fact that it hasn’t been included in any preview screenings suggests that it doesn’t have much to do with the film it’s attached to. So can we finally all admit that these things aren’t really part of any movie and instead just serve as artful little ads?
The first Marvel teaser—dropping in Nick Fury at the end of Iron Man—was a brilliant gambit to announce what was, at that point, a half-formed idea about a whole Avengers universe to build up. The fan reaction was so positive, Marvel included a new teaser at the end of every movie’s credit sequence, but it’s never come close to replicating the excitement and surprise that came with seeing Samuel L. Jackson, in an eyepatch, talking about the “Avengers Initiative.” Iron Man 2 ended with a wink at the upcoming Thor. Next, Thor had a scene teasing The Avengers—that scene was directed by Joss Whedon and informed the plot of his movie much more than the one we’d just watched (which was directed by Kenneth Branagh).
On and on it goes. Sometimes, the teaser is oblique and pitched right at comic-book fans, like the tease of Thanos. Recent Marvel movies Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World had TWO post-credits scenes. The first, after the main credits, were looks at upcoming films (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy respectively). The second, right at the very end, actually related to the movie we had just seen—if you want to know what happens to Bucky in The Winter Soldier or Thor and Jane in The Dark World, you better sit through the whole thing, including an ad for the next Marvel movie.
Despite having just seen James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (which is excellent) I don’t know what awaits us after the credits. Gunn said in an interview that it’s directed by him and “introduces something really awesome to the Marvel Universe.” I’m excited to see it with all the other fans, no matter what it points towards (Age of Ultron? Doctor Strange? Guardians of the Galaxy 2?) but no matter how awesome, it can’t really have much to do with the film if he doesn’t think it needs to be included in any preview screening. The Marvel Cinematic Universe rolls on, but no matter how awesome the teasers, it can’t capture lightning in a bottle twice.
UPDATE: Here, supposedly, is the post-credits scene (do not watch unless you want to be spoiled). If this is for real (and it looks like it is), then Gunn is at least having fun with the concept of the tag, and I salute him for it.