Guardians 3's Darkest Twist Reveals the Heartbreaking Truth Behind an MCU Gag
James Gunn isn’t saying much more, but one of Rocket’s funniest bits may also be his saddest.
There might have been a real reason why Rocket needed Bucky’s arm after all.
With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 putting an end period on James Gunn’s Marvel trilogy, fans are picking up a possibly sorrowful reason behind one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best recurring gags. Gunn has responded that there’s some truth to it, though he’s not revealing everything.
Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 follow.
Since 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) has had a hilarious “need” for prosthetic legs, eyes, and other limbs. The joke was revisited in Avengers: Infinity War when Rocket met Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and asked him “how much” for Bucky’s Vibranium arm. (Years later for Christmas, Rocket got his wish.)
But Rocket’s obsession with prosthetic body parts may be more than just a gag. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, it’s shown that Rocket’s upbringing was a bleak portrait of animal experimentation — and the only thing getting Rocket through these tough times were his similarly cybernetically enhanced friends, Lylla, Teefs, and Floor. But could those friends, and their various prosthetic limbs, have something to do with Rocket’s later obsession with collecting artificial body parts? According to Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn, maybe.
In response to a fan asking if Rocket’s loss of his friends (in the most heartbreaking part of the movie) is the reason why he collects artificial body parts, Gunn gave the answer: “Complicated by sort of.”
Rocket’s tragic backstory casts a dark shadow over what amounts to as a recurring gag in the previous Marvel movies. Any moment that Rocket eagerly grabbed at a mechanical arm or limb then becomes a moment where Rocket is desperately trying to keep hold of his past. It’s sad!
Gunn might also have some complex feelings on the joke. While Gunn introduced it in the Guardians’ first movie, it wasn’t a full-blown gag until Infinity War, which was handled by other filmmakers.
In Vol. 2, which Gunn wrote and directed, Rocket’s kleptomania had him stealing items of more precious value, namely the Sovereign’s Anulax Batteries. So Rocket going after body parts again in Infinity War might not have been in sync with his vision. We won’t know for sure until Gunn willingly reveals more, and at this point that seems unlikely to happen now that Gunn has his attention fixated on his next movie, Superman: Legacy.
But regardless of Gunn’s own feelings, it is a compelling read on Rocket’s character that his behavior across the MCU is evidence of his trauma, and the lingering sorrow he still feels for his friends. Even when Rocket is being “funny,” there’s a tinge of sadness behind it all. You can’t come up with a better description for the Guardians of the Galaxy than that.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now playing in theaters.
Subscribe for free to Inverse’s award-winning daily newsletter.