Rocket Raccoon, or why I loved Guardians of the Galaxy

Okay, before we begin SPOILER ALERT! I’ll try not to give anything major away but mistakes happen and I’m talking about what was for me a character defining moment, so fair warning. Alright? Alright. Also, if you haven’t seen Guardians of  the Galaxy yet, it’s awesome. Go see it if for no other reason so you know what the hell people are talking about when they say “I am Groot” in their most Vin-Dieselly voice. On to the matter at hand.

I knew before I walked into the cinema that I was going to like Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). From what I understood about the character he was a short, angry, hard-drinking, hard-swearing, sarcastic smartarse, all of whose friends are taller than him. Let’s just say I can relate.

Like staring at a goddamn mirror
Like staring at a goddamn mirror

The film was a lot of fun, from a prison break that needs the prosthetic leg of a fellow prisoner (for some unspecified reason), to what can essentially be boiled down as bumper cars in space (with LASERS!), to the epic final battle that all good sci-fi/superhero films require (y’know, fate of billions in their hands, seemingly unstoppable enemy etc). But for all the badass and batshit moments that the genetically modified mammal and the rest of Starlord’s (played by Chris Pratt) crew get up to, the moment of the film that really struck me was in a bar a little before the climax of the second act.

Starlord/Peter Quill is sharing one of those inevitably romantic moments with Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana), which is (just as inevitably) interrupted by the sounds of fighting. They enter the bar to find Groot and a drunken Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) punching up while an also drunk Rocket pulls out his machine gun to join in (and those are the titular Guardians of the Galaxy). As Quill places himself between the raccoon and Drax, Rocket tearfully vents his frustration at the way he’s been treated by the others.

“Well I didn’t ask to get made! I didn’t ask to be torn apart and put back together over and over and turned into some little monster!” Quill tries to placate him but all Rocket does is point at Drax, “He called me vermin!” and point at Gamora “She called me rodent! Let’s see if you can laugh after five or six good shots in your face!”

It’s a surprisingly poignant moment for a character that is for the most of the film brash, blunt, aggressive and assertively self-confident, and I found myself nodding along and thinking (since people look at me funny when I talk out loud to movie characters) “I hear you mate.” Rocket (in the movie at least) is an insecure character, particularly about how others view him. Hell, if you watch those Youtube videos of the cast talking about the characters the common theme for Rocket is some take on “lonely.” He hides it behind a loud voice, a mocking sense of humour and a short fuse. Let’s say I can relate.

Fact is though all of the Guardians of the Galaxy are if not exactly relatable than certainly appealing and understandable, probably because they can all put ‘traumatic history’ on their resumes. Drax’s wife and child were murdered by movie villain Ronan the Accuser (played by Lee Pace). Gamora was orphaned, enslaved and turned into a weapon by big baddie Thanos (Josh Brolin). Starlord/Peter Quill was kidnapped from Earth right after watching his mother succumb to cancer. Groot… I’m not sure about Groot (he doesn’t talk about his past much) but I’m sure his history is just as tragic (at the very least he’s as unique as Rocket). They can also all hold their own in a fire/fist/dog/sword/giant-hammer/glowing-purple-rock fight, come to terms with their respective issues (or have already before the film starts), and have more than a little fun while they’re at it.

The result is a bunch of awesome characters whose motivations make sense. As much as I love Batman, I find it easier to understand Peter Quill’s need to protect the last memories of his mother (in the form of the mix-tape that provides the fantastic soundtrack) or his waiting twenty-six years to open a present that would force him to admit she was dead, more than I understand how Bruce Wayne’s grudge turned him into a vigilante in Batman Begins or why at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises he’d stopped being Batman (because… reasons?) Gamora’s desire to escape her war-criminal father, prevent a genocide and generally not be a bad person was a lot more straightforward and sensible than whatever the fuck Superman’s motivations were in Man of Steel, or whatever the lesson was that Thor learnt in the movie of the same name that got his hammer back at the end (humility? self-sacrifice? his brother’s a charismatic arsehole?).

So far, the people I’ve talked to who have seen the movie have had differing opinions on who is the most awesome. I’ll take the talking space raccoon with a machine gun any day. My brother placed Starlord and Gamora and the top of his list. One of my younger sisters told me with great certainty “I am Groot.” A mate of mine was very quick to quote Drax the Destroyer’s inability to understand metaphor (“it’ll just go straight over his head.” “Nothing goes over my head. I have very fast reflexes, I would catch it.”). Who’s your favourite?

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