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Rocket Is The Secret Hero Of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Most people can agree that Guardians of the Galaxy’s Peter Quill aka Star-Lord is one of the MCU’s most fun and most likeable characters—it’s arguably the role that catapulted Chris Pratt to big-screen stardom, after all. And viewers will probably grow even more attached to Star-Lord after watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and learning more about his troubling childhood past.

But while Star-Lord’s storyline in Guardians Vol. 2 was undoubtedly compelling and ultimately heartwarming, by the end of the movie I realized that I was way more invested in what happened to Rocket (Bradley Cooper). Yep, that’s right—the brashest, toughest-talking, most irritable member of the Guardians managed to completely capture my heart while, at times, I didn’t so much as bat an eyelash at Peter’s entertaining yet familiar antics.

Without venturing too far into spoiler territory, I think it’s safe to say that by the time Guardians Vol. 2 comes to an end, Star-Lord is in (roughly) the same place he was in at the end of Guardians Vol. 1. After a little over two hours of internal and external debate—does his true loyalty lie with his friends, or with his family?—Star-Lord seems to come to the same conclusion that I thought he (and Guardians fans) had already come to after watching the first movie. That is, his friends (aka the other Guardians) are his family.

Even though it takes a long time for him to realize it, in Guardians Vol. 2 Star-Lord eventually understands that what he learned in Guardians Vol. 1 was true all along. In other words, his “journey” in Guardians Vol. 2 may seem dramatic and tumultuous, but is actually pretty darn static.

Rocket, on the other hand, has a much more clearly defined and compelling story arc. At the beginning of the movie, Rocket steals some powerful Anulax Batteries from High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and the rest of her creepy, golden-skinned subjects just because he can. Essentially, Rocket is doing what he always does—wreaking havoc just for the hell of it and without much concern for what happens to his fellow Guardians (except his partner and pint-sized charge, the ever-adorable Groot).

As the movie goes on, however, more and more people start calling out Rocket’s crap, and rightfully so. Peter chastises Rocket for arguing with him while trying to steer their ship to safety, and Yondu correctly points out that Rocket opts to close himself off to people because he’s used to being a defensive loner and is scared of forming strong, genuine attachments.

Guardians Vol. 2 director James Gunn has even said as much, telling that Rocket has a “crisis of faith” in that he has a hard time accepting the fact that he has unexpectedly become a member of the Guardians “family.”

But by the end of the film, Rocket realizes that he needs the Guardians just as much as they need him. Even though at one point he, despite the protests of the other Guardians, decides to abandon Peter in order to save everybody else, he later makes up with Peter and presumably brings an end to their feud slash power struggle (though I’m sure Rocket will still try to come up with insults for Peter that are more creative than “Star-Munch”). Rocket also ends up trying to protect Yondu, who essentially becomes a honourary Guardian, by sacrificing his last space suit.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, above all else, is about exploring the concept of family—from sisters Gamora and Nebula to Peter and his birth father Ego to the Guardians themselves. While Peter’s understanding of what it means to be part of a family seems to go from A to B and back to A again, Rocket’s understanding goes from A to B to C. Rocket is the Guardians character who goes through the most drastic and, by extension, interesting transformation—and it’s a transformation fit for a hero.