Monday, January 19, 2015

My Current Role Model is a Talking Raccoon

It feels wrong to not have at least one post on here about Guardians of the Galaxy and Rocket Raccoon, considering how much I loved the film and the character since I saw it back in summer.  Since the release on home video, I've been watching it multiple times.  I have a stuffed Rocket, an action figure based on the comic version, and a toy that talks and shoots his gun while shaking violently.  I created a board on Pinterest called the "Rocket Raccoon Appreciation Society" where I post various images and art I find on there that I really like.  I listen to the soundtrack for the film while doing chores, or otherwise just because (though I always skip the pina colada song because I hate it).  At a time when my interest in a lot of superhero films is dwindling, I fell in love on a level with something I haven't experienced in ages, and was honestly convinced I was too old to ever feel again.

For the movie itself, I really love its mix of action and comedy.  I've been a fan of Chris Pratt on Parks and Recreation for some time now, and I love seeing his turn as action star now.  Gamora is really the only character in the film who isn't funny, and it's clear she's meant to be the straight man in that respect.  The story is fairly simple, but the characters are great and the outer space world they inhabit feels both real and vast enough to be interesting.  It's also really touching, with the whole cast having a sympathetic arc that you can connect with.  I'm a sucker for a story about outcasts, and this film fits that bill wholeheartedly.

And chief among them, the outcast among the outcasts, is Rocket.  He is the only one of his kind (at least as far as its established here) and his genetic modification makes him quite the oddity.  It also makes him hyper intelligent, which brings with it an awareness of exactly what he is and clearly quite a bit of depression as well.  He's built a cold, callous shell around himself to portray the idea that he doesn't care about anyone or anything but himself (and maybe his best friend Groot) because the more distance you keep from others, the more you can save yourself from being hurt.

When we first see Rocket, he's holding up some kind of scanning device and judging the people of Zandar.  He makes fun of hairstyles, he judges an old man for flirting with a younger woman, but the other judgement he makes stands out to me the most, for two reasons.  He sees a small toddler holding his mother's hand walking down the stares and exclaims to him, "it's not cool to get help!"  One half of that is pretty obvious, as Rocket has his own Napoleon complex and is probably not a fan of getting help thanks to his small stature. But Rocket is also an animal, and pre-genetically modified animals  can regard human children as a separate species from grown ones thanks to the dramatic difference in size.   It says to me there's a part of Rocket that still holds on to his original nature.  It's an exceedingly clever thing for James Gunn to include in his characterization.

Obviously though, it's the other qualities that endear me to Rocket, and make me relate to him.  I describe him in such a detailed way above because there's a lot of things there I struggle with myself.  When Rocket mocks Drax with "Boohoo, my wife and child are dead!" Groot gasps, and maybe we're all meant to gasp right along with him, but I've been there, I've felt that righteous anger of "We've all lost people!" before.  I understand Rocket's instinct to run to the farthest reaches of the galaxy to avoid the damage Ronan is soon to cause and damn anyone else.  The fact that he chooses to help in the end is a source of inspiration to me to remember that it is best to, in StarLord's words, "give a shit."

I've watched the film repeatedly now not only because I like to laugh and sing along with the soundtrack, but because seeing Rocket take his journey from callous loner to compassionate hero is exactly the kind of reminder I need sometimes.  I think that's why, at least so far, I haven't been as interested in the Rocket I've read in the comics, though admittedly I've only read the first two issues of his recent solo title.  The way he's portrayed there doesn't show him nearly as wounded or as inspiring as his film inspiration.  But I look forward to whatever the future films hold for him.
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