Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – The 10th Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie – Directed by James Gunn – Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Alex Denisof, Ophelia Lovibond, Peter Serafinowicz, Gregg Henry, Laura Haddock, Alex Denisof, Josh Brolin, Lloyd Kaufman, Nathan Fillion, Rob Zombie, Seth Green, and Stan Lee.
Welcome to a series of specific, character-based reactions to the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Spoilers lie ahead. You can read the review of the GUARDIANS movie here, and you can read all of my superhero movie reviews (and the specific character reactions to Marvel’s The Avengers) right here. One note – I have watched the movie twice but we’re working on a week since I’ve seen it last so it is entirely possible (but completely unintentional) that I might get a quote or two wrong. If I do, I can only apologize and ask that you feel free to correct me. Thanks.
“What’s a raccoon?” – Rocket
I covered Rocket rather extensively in the main review of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, but there’s a few things I want to cover here that I didn’t get to touch on there as much as I wanted to.
The first is the Star Wars comparison. There’s been a lot of talk (including from me) about how Peter Quill is built in the Han Solo mode, but I’m starting to think that Peter is less Han as he is an analog for what Luke would have been like if Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru had been nomadic criminals instead of moisture farmers. I mentioned the Chewbacca connection in the Groot Reaction, but the Han/Rocket connection is strong, too. Both start out as self-interested and end up as heroes, and both men hide their feelings for their companion beneath a loud, gruff exterior.
Secondly, the importance of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) to the success of this film can’t be over-stated. Rocket has become the poster boy for the difference between Marvel and DC’s approach to superhero films and it’s a well-earned distinction. Marvel doesn’t try to hide Rocket or minimize his screen time; they buy in to the character completely and treat him like they do every other character. It’s in this normative treatment that Rocket really becomes extraordinary because he is a fantastic character. Bradley Cooper does a perfect job of giving Rocket a voice and the CGI wizards who put him on screen have done a phenomenal job making him look real.
The key to Rocket’s success, for me, is how the film peels back the layers. At first, he’s all voice and braggadocio. We meet him on Xandar when he’s looking for any mark to cash in on. He provides a snarky bit of running commentary on Xandar’s citizens (including calling out Stan Lee’s character for being a letch and kids for being awful creatures) before finding Quill. When they’re arrested, it’s Rocket who brags about all the prisons he’s broken out of over the years and I’ll admit to thinking this was going to set up a swerve and we were going to find out he hadn’t broken out of that many joints, but the film allows Rocket’s cockiness to be well-earned. When it comes time to break out of the Kyln, it’s Rocket who comes up with the plan and it’s an impressive one, requiring disparate parts to all work out and come together for the big escape.
Even better, the film allows Rocket to keep his sense of humor; when Peter wants Rocket to know he was able to acquire an artificial leg from one of the prisoners, Rockets lets him know it was just a gag and that all he wants is to know how Peter got it and what the prisoner’s reaction was like. There’s a second payoff later on, too, when Rocket says he needs an artificial eye from one of the Ravagers; the bit with the leg is funny because I wasn’t expecting it and the bit with the eye is funny because I was.
When the group gets to Knowhere, we see Rocket’s emotional side. He’s furious and hurt that Drax called him a vermin and Gamora called him a rodent. (This is fully covered in the main review.) It’s our first real indication that Rocket isn’t just angry when people say negative things about him, but that it hurts him. He threatens to kill both Drax and Gamora, but it’s not done with bombast but rather a wounded guarantee.
It’s Rocket that tears into Drax at the end of the Knowhere sequence, and his words, while harsh, also give a clear insight into his character – whatever the wounds one suffers (and we saw that Rocket’s back bears the heavy scars of all the genetic experimentation that went into creating him), you pick yourself up and keep going. What you don’t do is let your pain bring pain to others.
Rocket’s arc to heroism is completed during the battle on Xandar when he parks his Ravager ship just above the heads of the public and fires up into the sky at the descending enemy forces, and then his emotional arc is completed by his emotional breakdown over Groot’s sacrifice to save the team during The Dark Aster‘s crash to the surface of Xandar.
Rocket’s a great character and for my money, the best debut in the MCU since Robert Downey Jr. first walked onto screen as Tony Stark.
The Complete Box of GUARDIANS Reactions
1. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: Ain’t No Thing Like Me Except Me
2. GOTG: The YONDU Reaction
3. GOTG: The NEBULA Reaction
4. GOTG: The KORATH Reaction
5. GOTG: The GROOT Reaction
6. GOTG: The CORPSMAN DEY Reaction
7. GOTG: The NOVA PRIME Reaction
8. GOTG: The RONAN Reaction
9. GOTG: The DRAX Reaction
10. GOTG: The COLLECTOR Reaction
11. GOTG: The GAMORA Reaction
12. GOTG: The STAR-LORD Reaction
13. GOTG: The ROCKET Reaction