At time of writing, I am forbidden from telling you anything specific about what goes on in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Even if embargoes had passed, I would be sensible enough not to discuss what happens in the end. But what about what happens after the end? It has already been announced that the intergalactic Marvel entertainment will have a full five "post-credit scenes". This sounds like too much of a not-that-good thing.
The post-credit sequence has become an essential part of the franchise experience. Let me be clear. We are not talking about the end-credit sequences of old. That bit at the close of This is Spinal Tap where Nigel discussed his ambitions is something quite different. We are not thinking of Saul Bass's lovely animation – recapping the entire plot – at the end of Around the World in 80 Days.
The contemporary post-credit sting tends to provide pointers to events in the next episode. A hitherto unannounced actor might appear. Some allusion to the next villain may slip out. For the first decade of the Marvel continuum, such sequences normally saw Samuel L Jackson buying a drink for Robert Downey Jr.
I first realised the convention had properly arrived when watching Thor in a London screening room six years ago. At the end, I put my stuff in my bag and began shuffling down the aisle. What was with the hisses and the urgings to sit down? Was the National Anthem about to start? We were by then expected to wait and see Jackson – playing Nick Fury, head of Shield – mutter something enigmatic about threats from another dimension. All these little clips were delaying the orgasm that was to arrive eventually with The Avengers in 2012.
The closest equivalent to this current version of the post-credit sequence was the legend that used to appear at the end of James Bond films. Until Octopussy in 1983, we learnt that "James Bond will return in . . . " whichever Ian Fleming novel was left to be adapted. Bores of a certain age will remember that, at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me, the message read "James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only". Star Wars intervened and Moonraker arrived instead to cash in. This seemed almost like a shift in the space-time continuum. How can such things happen? Stop getting Bond wrong!
Anyway, where was I? Like so much of contemporary geek culture, the convention is observed only by a relatively small cabal of filmgoers. Most fans at Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 will be at the door before the action starts up again. The post-credit sequence exists to facilitate the binding together of the properly dedicated fans. Staying for such a sequence can be compared to the writing town of train numbers or the pinning of butterflies. It is a manifestation of extreme hobbyism.
Even more eccentric is the search for “Easter Eggs”. This is yet another example of a contemporary term that changed its meaning almost as soon as it was coined. Originally describing gags in video games, the Easter Egg is now any knowing, self-aware reference (what American sports fans call “inside-baseball” conversation) hidden within the action of a film, comic or TV series.
Look hard and you will see Howard the Duck, an overlooked Marvel character, among the chaos of the first Guardians of the Galaxy film. Famously, in Predator 2, one can spot the skull of an Alien – that's to say an alien from Alien – hanging within the antagonist's spaceship (the marketing wonks even issued a limited edition Predator Trophy Skulls Pack that you can find on eBay for north of €100 ). Those sorts of things.
There may well be such Easter Eggs in the new Guardians film. I am simply not sufficiently qualified to say.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 opens on April 28th