Published April 27, 2023

James Gunn on Rocket’s Emotional Story in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’

“Rocket is the saddest creature in the universe. This is a little animal who was taken and turned into something he shouldn’t be.”


The Guardians of the Galaxy movies feel like lighthearted, fun movies taking place throughout the cosmos, but start to peel back the layers of the characters and there’s a much more poignant center for this crew: loneliness. 

“The characters are all outsiders, none of them feel as if they really belong,” Returning writer and director James Gunn explains. But over the course of two movies (and Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, an appearance in Thor: Love and Thunder, and one holiday special), the “cracks start to open up a little bit between some of them, so they start to love each other.” However, there’s still one character where the loneliness hits the hardest: Rocket

On the outside, Rocket is the tough-talking, weapons expert of the group who knows that the only thing like Rocket is, well, Rocket himself. A true one-of-a-kind, this has unfortunately contributed to the character’s bittersweet isolation considering who and what he is, and this idea that has been in the back of Gunn’s head right from his very first talk with Marvel Studios about taking on the film. 

“I was driving home from that meeting, and I thought, ‘Rocket is the saddest creature in the universe,’” Gunn says. “This is a little animal who was taken and turned into something he shouldn’t be. He felt completely ostracized and alienated from every other life form in the galaxy and was angry because of that. He’s scared”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 - Rocket Poster

Now, as Gunn prepares to wrap up his trilogy of Guardians of the Galaxy movies with Vol. 3, Rocket’s long-secret backstory is finally coming front and center. Though he’s worked alongside the rest of the Guardians for years now (saving the galaxy a few times along the way), none of them know his unfortunate beginnings. When it came time to make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunn knew that exploring Rocket’s beginnings was the thread he needed to pull — “the cord of the story was Rocket and his story.” 

“It was very important for me to tell that whole story,” Gunn continues. “That was the main thing that kept me driven during the making of this movie because I felt like it was important as far as these things can be…The first story is the story of the mother; the second film is the story of the father; and this film is the story of the self so it’s innately more intimate because of that.”

Using Rocket as an emotional catalyst for the movie gave Gunn the opportunity to dive deeper into the character’s psyche and tap into previously unexplored parts. Though audiences love Rocket, and Rocket loves his friends and would do anything for them, Rocket doesn’t necessarily love himself and the rest of the galaxy – something he’s going to be forced to reckon with in Vol. 3. As Gunn points out, throughout everything he’s been through, “Rocket hasn’t once cared.”  

“The truth is Rocket hasn’t really valued life. He’s valued himself and he’s valued his friends. He has had no empathy for anybody outside of his own clan. It’s a very old-time empathy. He hasn’t done anything altruistically throughout any of those movies that wasn’t just to help his friends. Even though he saved the planet and saved the world, he’s done it to help his friends because that’s what they were doing. He didn’t do it because he ever thought anybody else had any worth.” 

So, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 fast approaching, it’s time for Rocket, just like the rest of the Guardians, to face the music. Gunn knows it’s going to be an emotional ride for everyone, viewers included, because this movie “is much rawer than the first two,” citing Rocket as the reason why. Gunn identifies with Rocket on many levels, saying that the whole process has been “rewarding to make this movie, which is such a personal statement.”

“Rocket’s the one I feel close to, so this is my story,” He continues. “Rocket is me, in so many ways, I did feel like this movie is really me and Marvel Studios was great in that they trusted me to be me like they always have.”

Save the galaxy (again, for the third time!) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is in theaters on May 5, 2023. Get your tickets today!


CAPTAIN MARVEL (2014) #8 cover by David Lopez


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