The Life and Crimes of Rocket Raccoon! (and 4 Other Guardians)

Posted: 5 August 2014

Excuse me, but how cool is this?
Excuse me, but how cool is this?

“I got one plan, and that plan requires a frickin’ quarnex battery, so FIGURE IT OUT!” – Rocket Raccoon.

If it wasn’t for Rocket Raccoon, the latest Marvel thrill-fest would not have been so eagerly anticipated these last few months. The waiting is over: Guardians of The Galaxy is a thoroughly enjoyable outer space adventure, based on a comic book which – remarkablyabsolutely nobody had heard of before.

This movie has had the most successful Opening Night this year, raking in a well-deserved million dollar haul; and why? The answer is blindingly obvious: it’s fun! It’s enjoyable! But, most crucially, because it’s fresh and pristine material. And not a sequel. Of a remake. It is that quintessential, experimental, let’s-give-it-a-go, got-nuthin-to-lose attitude so sorely lacking in movie-making during this age of bland formulae and turgid franchises which is creating such a giddy and reassuring buzz. Indeed, this refreshing approach has enticed wary, yet curious, crowds back into the popcorn-munching parlours again.

How much of this joyful escapism relied on the wit and charm of this feisty lil furball?

Let’s face it: much of this weekend’s Biggest Opening of the Year is due to its smallest star. This character has intrigued me ever since first laying eyes on the conceptual art of this rapscallion raccoon (earlier this year); having watched all the trailers, excited anticipation has been brewing nicely.

As my regular Followers will well know, the majority of latest releases are caught in-flight. However, this one just had to be watched on terra firma, braving the inevitable migraine to experience it in glorious 3D as well, half-expecting to only enjoy Rocket and become disenchanted as the rest of the film collapsed into noisy tosh and predictable juvenile shenanigans.

…How frickin’ lovely to be proved WRONG!!

RocketRaccoon-yeah

“Oh… yeah!!”

Rocket_raccoon_01 comic 1985rocket_raccoon_4

^ Rocket Raccoon: from the movie, and from the comics.

“Movies like this are usually described in terms of popcorn but a better comparison would be Space Dust: it’s fun, wacky, explosive and bursting with artificial colours” – the guardian.com. 

Just who, exactly, is Rocket Raccoon?

This irreverent anthropomorphic raccoon made his comics debut in Marvel Preview No. 7 (Summer 1976), not appearing again until The Incredible Hulk No. 271 (May 1982). In 1985, he got his own 4-issue Limited Series, and later appeared in three issues of Sensational She-Hulk in 1992. Rocket teamed up with Star-Lord in his own limited series in 2007. The Guardians title would not arrive until 2008; he, and other Guardians, most recently appeared in Avengers Assemble (2012).

As Guardian of the Keystone Quadrant, he was Captain of the Rack’n’Ruin; on the planet Halfworld, Rocket (and other animals) had been genetically manipulated to work as caretakers of inmates of an insane asylum. At one point Rocket had teamed up with the Hulk (!) before befriending Peter Quill; he did serve as leader of the Guardians at one stage.

One online bio describes Rocket Raccoon as intelligent, an expert marksman and a master tactician. Most notably, the movie portrays him wielding a huge gun and, in one brilliantly entertaining scene, shutting off the oxygen supply outside the prison control tower commandeered by the Guardians. In addition, records show that he’s “wanted on over fifty charges of vehicular theft and escape from custody.”

Wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of Bradley Cooper voicing him (but then his name is Brad so feel compelled to let him off, ha!) Actually, he’s not at all bad!  

rocket poster

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“The Guardians are a group of oddballs, outcasts, and geeks. The movie is for anyone who ever felt cast aside, left out, or different. It’s for all of us who don’t belong. This movie belongs to you” – James Gunn.

Okay, what about the other characters?

Chris Pratt makes for a likeable space rogue – Star-Lord’s Awesome Mix tape is a splendid trait to add to his intergalactic capers; Mum certainly picked out some great numbers! Presumably he – like me – was transfixed by The Black Hole (1979) for he brandishes the same parallel-barrelled blasters wielded by that film’s droids. Admittedly, some of his lines do not work, and the proposed dance-off is just cringe-inducing.

Groot (“What the hell is that?”) is a great addition to the group, providing some of the film’s more wondrous and witty moments. (Does only 3 words make him a talking tree?)

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is a green-skinned assassin, but her general annoyance (with everything) and unwillingness to comply (with her fellow Guardians) sadly did not endear herself to me. Oh, and she didn’t want to dance either, so that confirms it then. Poor Zoe, it would appear that her career has already been relegated to cinema-goers merely speculating what her next skin-colour will be…

Of the main characters, Drax The Destroyer is the only one whose name is familiar to this once-avid comic-hoarder. He featured in Thor #314 (Dec 1981): one of my most cherished morsels of Marvel history. Dave Bautista puts in a surprisingly above-average contribution, actually eliciting a few laughs here and there, but this Drax bears no resemblance at all.

Ronan-Mothership

The other characters, however, are not so well-defined.

Ronan the Accuser (heck, he even sounds cool,) had the look and potential to be a classy villain, but… he has been given no memorable lines – not even a sufficient background story; so when we see him he’s just moping about, sulking as if realising that only after blast-off, he’d forgotten to pack any lighting equipment for that ridiculously ultra-dark spaceship of his. Similarly, Nebula was so underused, you’re left wondering what was the point of having her there at all.

As for Thanos – he was all over Marvel Comics back in the day; you just couldn’t get away from him! In his brief cameo, he proved to be the only bad’un capable of inducing a much-appreciated sense of menace to these proceedings.

Rocket-Raccoon-and-Groot

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One last – but poignant – observation:

Towards the end of the movie, Rocket sits alone, holding a twig, and bawling uncontrollably. Honestly, there were 20 pairs of eyes (Come on! Not bad for the only multiplex on the Gulf of Thailandthree hours drive south of Bangkok) all glistening with tears in the darkness – one of the most moving moments in a cinema this year…

Or any year for that matter…  

 

Having praised Rocket enough, let’s turn our attention to everyone’s Favourite Ent-of-the-Moment: Groot.

awesome mix vol.1

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“I guess I never really realised how much I did always love trees” – Vin Diesel.

On second thoughts, perhaps not. Brad’s been bloggin’ all evening – think it’s time to Log Off, chill and listen to that Awesome Mix tape…

Cheers!