Darth Vader

When Peter Quill was taken by Yondu and the Ravagers in Guardians of the Galaxy's prologue, it was fortunate he was wearing his backpack, as its contents would be his only ties to Earth in the decades that followed. Peter kept a lot of fun mementos from his childhood in the 1980s, but one particular object that didn't make the cut in the first movie was a Darth Vader action figure. Here's how the Star Wars toy would have been used, according to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige:

Always, we wanted to reveal at a certain point in the movie that Peter Quill was a human from Earth. And for a long time, I really thought it was going to be the greatest thing in the world that you're in a spaceship and he's talking to one of the alien characters and he knocks over his bag and one of the alien characters bends down and picks up and it was a Darth Vader action figure, goes, 'What's this?'

Kevin Feige then added that this idea popped up long before Disney acquired Lucasfilm, so this wouldn't have been corporate synergy, but just another fun nod from '80s pop culture. As for why the Darth Vader action figure didn't appear in Guardians of the Galaxy, Feige told Mashable that director James Gunn convinced him that it would be better to make Peter's favorite Earth souvenir a Walkman. Feige continued:

And it was like, 'Oh, that's a million times better.' Because the Star Wars thing was just a nerdy reference in a single moment, and obviously, the conceit of the music redefined the entire movie.

It certainly would have been amusing to see Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, carrying around a Darth Vader action figure around with him. After all, Peter was taken in 1988, so he would have had many years to enjoy the original Star Wars trilogy, and now like the Star Wars characters, he's spending his life adventuring from planet to planet. Still, James Gunn had the right idea to use the Walkman instead since the music on Awesome Mix Vol. 1 proved to be an integral part of the movie, both as the soundtrack and because the mix tape was something Peter's mother made for him. A Darth Vader toy is cool, but it wouldn't have had the same emotional resonance.

Despite Guardians of the Galaxy leaving out the Darth Vader action figure, that didn't stop Marvel from throwing in a subtle Star Wars homage. Like the rest of the Phase Two movies (and the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), there's a scene of someone getting a hand cut off; in this case, it was Groot having both his arms chopped off by Gamora on Xandar. As for Peter, whenever he returns to Earth, no doubt he'll discover how the Star Wars franchise has grown since he left while catching up on three decades worth of pop culture and history.

Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians can still be seen in theaters right now in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and they'll return on May 4, 2018 for Avengers: Infinity War.

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