The Despicable Me franchise has always had a keen eye for cool villains, but Minions 2: The Rise Of Gru (in cinemas July) looks set to take things to a whole new level.
Set after the events of 2015’s Minions, which showed how the series’ talismanic yellow critters first joined forces with Steve Carell’s Gru, but set before the events of 2010’s franchise starter Despicable Me, Minions 2 is both sequel and prequel (inbetweenquel?).
As the first trailer (above) shows, the film will see 12-year-old Gru attempting to join a supervillain supergroup known as the Vicious 6, after they exile their leader.
Making up the team of nefarious ne’er-do-wells is Taraji P. Henson as cool and confident leader Belle Bottom, Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jean Clawed, Lucy Lawless as Nunchuck, Dolph Lundgren as Svengeance and Danny Trejo as Stronghold.
Action legends Van Damme and Lundgren memorably starred together in 1992 classic Universal Soldier, Lucy Lawless made her name as Xena: Warrior Princess, while Trejo is one of the hardest working pulp action stars in the business.
Read more: Why there are no female Minions
They follow in the footsteps of previous Despicable Me antagonists that include Jason Segel and Will Arnett (Despicable Me), Benjamin Bratt (Despicable Me 2), Trey Parker (Despicable Me 3), and Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm (Minions).
Set in the 1970s, while Gru is growing up under the watchful eye of this mother, voiced by Julie Andrews, Minions 2 promises to be rich in cultural references for parents, while full of the same slapstick humour those pesky yellow tic-tacs are known for.
Here’s the synopsis: This summer, from the biggest animated franchise in history and global cultural phenomenon, comes the untold story of one 12-year-old’s dream to become the world’s greatest supervillain, in Minions: The Rise of Gru.
In the heart of the 1970s, amid a flurry of feathered hair and flared jeans, Gru (Oscar® nominee Steve Carell) is growing up in the suburbs. A fanboy of a supervillain supergroup known as the Vicious 6, Gru hatches a plan to become evil enough to join them.
Luckily, he gets some mayhem-making backup from his loyal followers, the Minions. Together, Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto—a new Minion sporting braces and a desperate need to please—deploy their skills as they and Gru build their first lair, experiment with their first weapons and pull off their first missions.
When the Vicious 6 oust their leader, legendary fighter Wild Knuckles (Oscar® winner Alan Arkin), Gru interviews to become their newest member. It doesn’t go well (to say the least), and only gets worse after Gru outsmarts them and suddenly finds himself the mortal enemy of the apex of evil.
On the run, Gru will turn to an unlikely source for guidance, Wild Knuckles himself, and discover that even bad guys need a little help from their friends.
Teeming with Illumination’s signature subversive humour, pop-culture sophistication, full-hearted emotion, bold music sensibility, and over-the-top action, Minions: The Rise of Gru features a thrilling new cast of stars, including, as members of the Vicious 6, Taraji P. Henson as cool and confident leader Belle Bottom, Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jean Clawed, Lucy Lawless as Nunchuck, Dolph Lundgren as Svengeance and Danny Trejo as Stronghold.
The film also features Russell Brand as Dr. Nefario, an aspiring mad scientist, Michelle Yeoh as Master Chow, an acupuncturist with mad Kung Fu skills, and Oscar® winner Julie Andrews as Gru’s maddeningly self-absorbed mum.
Steered by the franchise’s original creators, Minions: The Rise of Gru is produced by visionary Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborators Janet Healy and Chris Renaud.
The film is directed by returning franchise filmmaker Kyle Balda (Despicable Me 3, Minions), co-directed by Brad Ableson (The Simpsons) and Jonathan del Val (The Secret Life of Pets films), and features the iconic voice of Pierre Coffin as the Minions and a killer ʼ70s soundtrack courtesy of legendary Grammy-winning music producer Jack Antonoff.
Minions 2: The Rise Of Gru is in cinemas from 10 July.