Long before his tenure as the CEO of DC Studios started, director James Gunn’s claim to fame was the Guardians of the Galaxy movie franchise in the MCU, which solidified him as a proper modern-era comic-book movie director through a brilliant display of his ability to assimilate comic authenticity with contemporary sensibilities in such a way that even the most obscure characters became fan favorites in no time. Even in terms of their impact on MCU world building, the Guardians of the Galaxy movies explored the cosmic scale of Marvel like no other, which helped build the foundation of their overarching narrative immensely. With the third and final entry of the trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, released this week worldwide, Gunn has concluded the story arc of the team through an emotional send-off that boasts equal parts heart and humor and a traumatizing reminder of the human capacity for evil that will stay with the fans longer than the MCU as a franchise will.
An Agonizing Recall: The Tragic Origin Story Of Rocket Racoon
James Gunn had time and again hinted about the darker, more emotional tone of the third “Guardians” movie compared to its predecessors, and the very beginning of the movie shows the viewers how serious the director was in keeping true to his statement. The movie opens with a bunch of baby raccoons playing inside a cage when a certain presence alerts them all of a sudden, and a nefarious entity is seen to be extending its hand to reach one of the creatures. All the raccoons hurriedly disappear in the darkness of the backside of the cage, all except one, the little Rocket Racoon, trembling in fear, who gets caught by the unidentified entity. A zoom in on the scared baby Rocket’s face takes us through a time-lapse as the next scene jumps forward in time to show Rocket in the present timeline. The previous two “Guardians” movies hinted at Rocket’s past, something he doesn’t want to share with his friends in the team, and we know as much about how he was experimented on relentlessly, which turned him into a sentient being. The third part of the franchise deals heavily with the origin story of the most important member of the team, as clarified by the opening scene from the get-go.
A Devastating Onslaught: Who Is Adam Warlock?
The scene opens with Rocket moving through Knowhere, the head outpost of the Guardians of the Galaxy, as we get a look at all the members of the team going about their way. Drax, Groot, and Mantis are their usual, jovial selves; Kraglin is trying to fill in the shoes of his late Ravager General Yondu and still trying to master his Yaka arrow; and the newest member of the team, Cosmo, the space dog, is frustrated over Kraglin’s disapproval of her; after all, the least a powerful telekinetic canine companion can expect is being called a good dog. Peter has resorted to alcoholism after the death of Gamora (present timeline version) during the events of Avengers: Infinity War, and Nebula has grown immensely attached to the team, looking out for them as an unofficial leader of sorts. Rocket has his pissed-off, tough-talking mannerism intact, but his past memories are constantly creeping up, especially now that the team is going through a peaceful period.
The scene shifts to outer space, where we see, like a flaming meteor, Adam Warlock crash land inside the Guardians’ outpost, dragging Rocket with him along the way. Adam launches a devastating attack on the team, which leaves Rocket severely injured, a number of team members badly beaten, and almost finishes off Drax when Nebula manages to use her advanced cybernetically enhanced hand to stab right through his heart. An injured Adam flees the scene and goes back to his creator—his mother, Ayesha, the high priestess of the advanced, genetically modified, gold-skinned alien race known as the Sovereigns. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we saw Ayesha attempting to create the perfect lifeform among the Sovereigns, whom she wanted to name Adam, and this crazed attacker is the same person.
A severely injured Rocket is convulsing, which Mantis and Peter try to remedy using medpacks, to no avail. With Nebula’s scan assistance, the team finds out that in order for them to aid Rocket, they have to override an inbuilt killswitch using a passkey, something that has been grafted inside Rocket since he was experimented on, and designates him as subject 89P13. From the make of the killswitch, Nebula deduces that a company named Orgocorp is responsible for the creation of the mechanism, from which a clue for the passkey might be found too. Peter and co. decide to go to Orgocorp to save their friend while handing over the responsibility to look over the outpost to Kraglin, Cosmo, and others.
Rocket And His Friends
During the time Rocket is put on life support, bits of flashback sequences keep informing us of his past as he revisits his memories. After being experimented on and enhanced as a kit by the megalomaniac scientist known as ‘High Evolutionary’, a terrified, hurting Rocket was put into a cage with other sentient creatures, ‘test subjects’, which comprised an otter, a walrus, and a rabbit. The trio helped Rocket move on from the trauma as they banded together to make their deplorable existence bearable. The friends dreamt of escaping this hellish existence someday, and in that joy they named themselves: the otter named herself Lylla, the walrus wanted to be called Teef, the rabbit took the name Floor, and our favorite anthropomorphic racoon, who wished to fly out in the blue sky in a spaceship, taking his friends with him, named himself Rocket.
High Evolutionary wanted to create a flawless society, which he named “Counter-Earth”, that was inspired by the Earth’s social structure and mimicked the Earth’s appearance in every way but was populated by sentient anthropomorphic creatures, whom he wanted to create as the perfect form of life. This was the reason for him to experiment on Rocket, his friends, and numerous other creatures, but his efforts were thwarted due to particular miscalculations, as most of his later creations had started to become violent and hostile after going through the evolutionary process. Rocket proved his intellectual superiority by pointing out the particular flaw that allowed High Evolutionary to create the perfect sentient anthropomorphic beings known as ‘Ani-Men’, who would become the denizens of the Counter-Earth. Rocket always thought that the apparent kindness that High Evolutionary had shown him after his experimentation would imply that he and his friends would be allowed to be residents of the new world his creator had formed. But he was horrified to know that not only was the sole subject of interest the High Evolutionary found in him his brain, but also that neither he nor his friends were considered eligible to be inhabitants in the first place. Moreover, learning that his friends, who are deemed useless subjects by the High Evolutionary, were going to be incinerated soon, Rocket decided to break them free.
Rocket informed his friends about the entire situation and using the tech pieces he had gathered during all the visits he made to the High Evolutionary, Rocket managed to create a passkey and free Lylla. Their happiness was short lived as Lylla got shot to death by High Evolutionary, and fuming in anger, Rocket viciously mangled his creator’s face. A couple of lackeys of the Evolutionary appeared at the scene and exchanged fire, and Rocket dispatched them with relative ease by using a gun, but was devastated to see that during the scuffle, Teefs and Floor passed away after getting caught in the crossfire. Grief-stricken, Rocket somehow managed to flee. Back in the present timeline, High Evolutionary had found out that his most prized ‘possession’ is still alive and is a member of the Guardians; hence, he had sent Adam Warlock to hunt down Rocket, and as the creator of the Sovereign, he had the ultimate command over Ayesha as well, who was forced to use Adam before he got the time to mature in the cocoon. After the initial failure to capture Rocket, Evolutionary threatens Ayesha with the destruction of their entire civilization if she and Adam fail to deliver Rocket into his hands.
How Did The Guardians Revive Rocket?
Before the team can journey to the Orgocorps for the passkey, Nebula reveals that she has sought help from 2014’s version of Gamora, who has since joined the Ravagers. Gamora had the intel that would have proven useful to infiltrate Orgocorps, and as a result, she begrudgingly leads the team to the space station made of living matter. With Gamora back on the team now, the original roster of the “Guardians” is now complete.
The team breaks into the Orgocorp and retrieves the specified intel about Rocket’s cybernetic system instead of a passkey. The horrific brutality Rocket was subjected to, which is projected through the intel, startles even Nebula, the toughest among the Guardians. It is revealed that the required data to heal Rocket no longer exists in any inventory and can only be accessed from the bodygrafted mechanism of the second-in-command scientist of the High Evolutionary named Theel. Point to be mentioned: High Evolutionary had created the Orgocorps as well, and anticipated the arrival of the Guardians in search of the passkey or data. The team locates the High Evolutionary in Counter-Earth and decides to confront them, but Gamora mistakenly gives away their location to Ayesha and Adam while contacting her Ravager comrade.
At Counter-Earth, Peter, Nebula, and Groot go to the High Evolutionary while keeping Drax, Gamora, and Mantis waiting in the Bowie (the spaceship of the Guardians). Nebula is denied access to Evolutionary’s lab at Counter-Earth as she is basically a living weapon herself. During their conversation with the mad scientist, Pete gets to know that he plans to purge this Counter-Earth as well, as he has found a better replacement for the ‘Ani-Men’. To start the process, High Evolutionary commands to fly the lab/outpost ‘Arête’ into outer space and start decimating the planet by bombardment. Meanwhile, at the Bowie, Drax and Mantis had already decided to go out on their own to assist Quill, which left Gamora alone to save a barely conscious Rocket from the attack of Evolutionary’s henchman and a returning Adam Warlock. Peter and Quill manage to jump off of Revolutionary’s lab with Theel, whom the fall kills instantly, and Peter recovers the necessary mechanism from his bodygraft.
Meanwhile, the bombardment at Counter-Earth kills Ayesha too, distracting Adam from his pursuit of Rocket and injuring him viciously as well. Gamora flies off to Bowie with Rocket and is joined by Quill and Groot. Unbeknownst to them, Drax, Mantis, and Nebula have boarded Evolutionary’s ship in their search and have come across captive star children—genetically modified children created by Evolutionary who have enhanced physiology and powers and are designed to populate a new world created by the despot, known as the New Colony.
At Bowie, Peter starts uploading the schematics in the medical tech grid to revive Rocket, but it seems that the damage has already been done, and Rocket’s heartrate flatlines. A desperate, anguished Quill tries his best to bring his best friend back to life by giving him CPR, and Rocket sees a vision of his afterlife, where he is reunited with Lylla, Floor, and Teefs. Although he is overjoyed by the reunion, Lylla tells him that his time hasn’t come yet as he has a purpose to serve. Rocket is finally revived, and he, Peter, and Groot embrace each other in a tearful reunion.
What Happened To Peter And The Team At The End?
In order to save Drax, Mantis, and Nebula, the rest of the team decides to make a final stand and launch an attack on Arête, led by Rocket. Assisted by Kraglin and Cosmo, who have brought the Knowhere to bring the armada to fight Evolution’s might, Rocket and co. break into Arête and locate the rest of the Guardians. Under their direction, Kraglin stations Knowhere by connecting it with Arête, and Cosmo uses her telekinetic ability to hold the connection so that the captive Star children can escape. Adam once again makes an appearance to capture Rocket but gets injured in an explosion in the process, but Groot and Drax decide to save anyway. A bewildered Adam wonders why they did that given their past experiences with him, and Groot remarks that for them, everyone deserves a second chance—the core message of the team itself.
The empath Mantis also manages to save her new friends, the three Abilisks, the vicious interdimensional monstrosities who were assigned to kill the Guardians, and also helps Cosmo to keep the straining hold between the bridge together. The High Evolutionary maniacally seeks to capture Rocket, realizing that he is on board now, and as a result, allows Arête to be massively damaged. His lackeys decide to betray him, seeing his deranged demeanor, but get incinerated by the Evolutionary in the process.
Rocket returns to his and his friends’ holding cells and finds numerous captive animals awaiting a cruel fate. A moving scene follows where a heartbroken Rocket saves a bunch of racoons and finds out about his own birthplace from the marker on the cell. Evolutionary finds Rocket and proceeds to torture him, but this time Rocket manages to break his hold and hits back, breaking his telekinetic mechanism. The rest of the Guardians arrive and proceed to pulverize the mad scientist in an extremely satisfying beatdown, which is ended by Gamora peeling off the attached face of Evolutionary, revealing the mangled structure underneath (courtesy of Rocket). However, Rocket chooses to be the higher person by not killing the Evolutionary and leaving him to his fate. The team rushes back to Knowhere and saves all the captive animals in a beautiful montage, and a changed Adam Warlock saves Peter at the end by rescuing him from a certain death situation caused by direct exposure to space.
Later, the original team of the Guardians disbands as the members decide to go on their way to find out what else life has to offer them. Gamora returns to her Ravager comrades after a bittersweet farewell. Peter decides to return to earth and reconnect with his maternal grandfather, as he wants to get a taste of the life on earth he has so missed. Mantis goes on her own adventure with her three Abilisks, as after going through a life of servitude (at the hands of Ego), she felt the need to find her calling. Drax and Nebula decide to quit their positions as well, as they want to shape the Nowhere as a sanctuary for the rescued children across the universe. Peter makes Rocket the leader of a new iteration of the Guardians, members of which will be chosen by Rocket, and leaves him with his MP3 player—a token of the friendship between the souls who connected most through music. The movie ends as Drax, Groot, Rocket, Nebula, Cosmo, Kraglin, and every member of Knowhere dance their hearts out to the music, hopeful for a better tomorrow.
In the mid-credits scene, we see the new iteration of the Guardians, led by Rocket, which consists of Adam Warlock and his adorable pet Blurp, Kraglin, Cosmo, a cosmically powered Starchild named Phylla Vell, and a gigantic Groot, who square off against a horde of alien monstrosities as a part of the assignment undertaken by The Guardians of the Galaxy. Even though most of the original members have left, the team continues the good fight, and the movie, which solidified their status as Guardians, also ended on the note that roles might have changed hands, but the ideals have and will remain unchanged. In the post-credits scene, a funny sequence follows as Peter’s grandfather reads from a newspaper that refers to the incidents of Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special, where Kevin Bacon was abducted by the eponymous team. The movie ends with the note that Star-Lord will return for new adventures, but in what capacity is up to speculation, as James Gunn had previously stated that this movie marked the last venture of the original team. Our best guess is that Star-Lord is going to return in the “Nova Corps”-oriented Disney+ series, given how the planet Xander was an important part of the first “Guardians” movie, and how it is the HQ of the intergalactic peacekeeping organization.