James Gunn Confirms a Guardians 3 Theory That Reveals His Trilogy’s Secret Theme

Did you hear what Groot said? It means you’re part of the family.

Groot, in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3'
Marvel Studios
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

It took three movies and two Avengers crossovers, but finally we know what Groot means.

At the end of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the most enigmatic member of the galaxy’s greatest team says something that might have taken you by surprise.

In response to a fan theory about the moment, writer/director James Gunn confirmed on Twitter that it is in fact true, which speaks to his trilogy’s secret — and most underrated — overall theme.

Warning: Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 ahead.

At the end of Vol. 3, after the Guardians finish dealing with the High Evolutionary, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, who famously champions families) says in a tender moment with the group, “I love you guys.” (Instead of his more familiar signature phrase, “I am Groot.”)

After the movie’s release, Gizmodo proposed a theory that it’s not Groot who changes speech, but that we the audience understand what Groot is really saying. Gunn commented on Twitter, “Yes that’s exactly what it means.”

It’s been canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that Groot only says “I am Groot,” but those close to him can understand him. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) was the first to get Groot, with the rest of the Guardians eventually learning his language by Vol. 2.

But the end of Vol. 3 is the first time audiences get Groot, too. As Gizmodo points out, the audience has followed these characters for so long that we have earned a place in their family. It is also, perhaps, a thank you from Gunn himself, for sticking by him especially through troubled waters.

After nine years, Groot’s words finally makes sense to everyone — including to us.

Marvel Studios

The theme of found families, and that bonds are stronger than blood, runs throughout Gunn’s trilogy. But inherent to forming those bonds is communication, and how difficult it can be to be honest. Star-Lord lived most of his life in space in fear of the emotionally abusive Yondu (Michael Rooker), who threatened to “eat” him, though Yondu later told him he was only kidding. Drax (Dave Bautista) famously took things literally, and spent his entire time in the MCU grasping nuance. And there’s Rocket, whose existence as a raccoon made him feel, ironically, alien with the rest of the universe. Now that we know his tragic backstory, we understand why Rocket is so abrasive.

It might be surprising to learn that Groot’s earliest comics appearances had him speak complete sentences. (He was also quite scary!) It was only in 2008, in his inclusion in the Guardians of the Galaxy comics by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning that Groot adopted his now iconic line, which in turn became a motif for Gunn to use in his films.

Groot memorably said something else at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 (“We are Groot”). But that Groot actually died, and the Groot we’ve seen grow up since Vol. 2 is his offspring. It could be that “Groot Jr.” is saying more than just “I am Groot” (not to mention looking swole as heck) is because he’s been raised in a more loving environment full of people who care for him. That includes the Guardians on Star-Lord’s ship, and the legions of MCU fans around the world.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now playing in theaters.

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