With its epic “hero shots,” perfectly placed hilarity, and BANGIN' soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 finally gives a tiny glimmer of hope for the MCU. It’s been given an 81% on the “tomatometer,” and an even better audience score of 95% after its first weekend in the box office.
Spoiler Alert: You may want to watch the film before reading this breakdown.
What’s crazy about The Guardians franchise is how zany it is, and yet how deeply it speaks to the human condition. It hits you right in the soul...EVERY…SINGLE…TIME.
Volume 1 starts with Peter Quill as a boy, losing his mother to cancer before getting abducted by “Ravagers,” and whisked off on bizarre adventures across the galaxy. We watch him run from his past, put up a wall, never return to earth as he “lives in another world” to avoid the pain…yet, he keeps cassette tapes from past decades on loop…as if he’s frozen there. Somehow, if he can just keep himself distracted with his busy schedule, guarding the galaxy, he may not have to face and feel the pain of his past.
Volume 2 showed us what happened when Peter’s “father wound” was exposed. Volume 2 was all about fatherhood; the failure of his bio-dad, Ego, and the triumph of Yondu (“I’m Mary Poppins, Y’all!”) who was the real dad Peter always needed but never quite noticed.
Then we get to Volume 3, where our rag-tag-multicolored-zany crew finally stops running.
"Before we can go forward, we must go backward."
This film seems to focus on our little furry friend with a chip on his shoulder, Rocket. Nothing sets him off more, in all three films, than being called a raccoon. He’s been running from that truth his entire life. This little guy with “little man syndrome” is always trying to prove himself. He loses his temper and starts shooting up the place every time his short fuse is lit.
In a battle with Adam Warlock, he gets mortally wounded and has 48 hours to live. But there’s a problem, his heart has some kind of proprietary tech on it that won’t allow the medpack to heal him. The Guardians go on a quest to get an override code so they can administer the med pack and save his life. As Rocket clings to life, pain-filled-breath by pain-filled-breath, we are taken on a journey through his past.
“Before we can go forward, we must first go backward”
As much as we try to just “be better” and “get over it,” we find ourselves at what Peter Scezzero calls, “The Wall.”
And we are taken to Rocket’s horrific origins. This animated, talking raccoon is a perfect picture of what happens in real life when someone else’s issues collide into our “regularly scheduled program.” Rocket is on the receiving end of abuse and trauma inflicted by a man called The High Evolutionary.
The High Evolutionary’s issues show us what happens when our main goal is perfection.
In his incessant search for a Utopia, he creates mass genocide again and again. When his creation doesn’t look just right, he blows it up. He can't handle the limitation of imperfection, so he seeks to CONTROL everything. If you pay attention, many films have this same theme…an Emperor-Palpatine-type-person thinks if only they can control everything then everything will be okay. If we’re not careful, we can all do this. I’m speaking to parents, bosses, pastors, leaders…
So The High Evolutionary, so consumed with this ideal utopian FUTURE, tends to yell a lot in the PRESENT. He projects his problems onto his minion scientists. He spends countless hours fretting about how he can succeed. He creates another world called “Counter Earth,” which he populates with animals on which he'd forced sadistic experiments. And like forcing a caterpillar out of a cocoon too soon, leaving it deformed, he leaves a trail of abuse in his path.
These animals are just numbers to him. 89P13 was the name given to the raccoon who became our friend, Rocket.
Before we can go forward, we must go backward.
Rocket finds three friends in the adjacent cages. These little guys start to realize that they aren’t just numbers, but beings, made for a purpose. It’s interesting to me what happens as they begin to name themselves.
The Walrus with wheels names himself “Teefs” because he has big teeth.
The Bunny-Spider names herself “Floor” because she’s on the floor.
The Raccoon names himself “Rocket” because he hopes to launch out like a rocket across space and do great things.
Only the otter names herself a real name, “Lylla.”
This is important. It hit me during the film that:
“Teefs” names himself by his appearance
“Floor” names herself by her location
“Rocket” names himself by his aspired achievements
Only Lylla names herself by something other than an external circumstance.
We need to pay attention to what we name ourselves…What labels we let others attach to us…What names we wear…
Peter calls himself “StarLord,” which sounds way more impressive than simply….Pete.
Drax is labeled “The Destroyer” because his family was slaughtered and he went into a frenzy of revenge. This title, given to him by others then influences his PRESENT and FUTURE direction as he continues to live up to the name he is called every day…like a looping script.
It all comes down to Identity
Who are you? What names have you picked up? What labels do you wear?
When you think about yourself, do your thoughts tend to swirl around a positive physical attribute you have…or, on the contrary, does it ruminate around a deformity?
Do you see yourself by a limitation in your location? A poverty mentality?
Or perhaps you pride yourself in your location, your house, your office, your position, and that’s the first thing you think of when you identify yourself or introduce yourself to others?
Does your identity revolve around future endeavors?
What you hope to accomplish?
Or perhaps past accomplishments?
I had to go backward before I could go forward.
It was in 2013 when I found myself suicidal and in need of some serious counseling. I went to a place called Sonscape, where I ran into Peter Scezzero’s book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” that has become a part of my every-day-life. It taught me to go backward, because obviously, I wasn't going forward.
Then my Christian counselor in Amarillo started me on a journey of finding identity….not in titles, or locations, attributes, or endeavors, but in “I Am Statements.”
“I Am Statements” are things that are true of us no matter where we live, what we do, how we look, or what we accomplish. He encouraged me to start my journey with I Am Statements that are true of all believers. These are truths that we find in Scripture, but these felt generic to me… “I am a son” “I am a new creation,” “I am an heir with Christ.” I nodded and said, “Ok, but that’s true of every Christian.”
Then my counselor had me write requests to five people who knew me intimately, and ask them to write a one-page-letter about who I am. Each of these people sent letters and I started to see some qualities emerge. I underlined common phrases that “popped,” and took them to the Lord in Prayer.
At first the “I Am Statements" which energized me most were: I am BOLD, I am resilient, I am not alone…
And as kind of a “throw away” statement, I put as #5, “I am God’s Boy.”
What’s interesting is over this past year, number 5 went up to number 4, then 3, then number 1. What I felt was generic five years ago, has now become the only one that really matters. In my times with Jesus in the mornings, He calls me His boy. That’s the simple truth of who I am…
Is it enough to simply be “God’s Boy?”
So Rocket gets the code, gets the medpack, comes back from the land of the dying, and has a decision to make. They’re on a ship that is going down, but there are thousands of trapped people and animals onboard. Normally, he would just keep running and save himself, but Rocket has gone backward, faced his losses, faced his past, and is now ready to go forward.
“I’m done running!”
In the most epic line of the movie, he says, “I’m done running!” He cocks his gun and runs into the fray.
While rescuing those trapped in the same cages he was once trapped in, he finds a bunch of baby animals. On the cage it reads, “Raccoon.” That’s what they were. Simple, tiny, baby…raccoons. And in a moment only seen by the look in Rocket’s eye, he begins to accept the simple truth of who he really is. He scoops them up, and carries them with him, as if taking on and owning his simple, true nature. In that moment he stops trying to prove himself with titles, attributes, and endeavors, and finally says "My name is Rocket Raccoon!”
When Rocket Raccoon leads the charge, it inspires Drax to trade in “Destroyer” and take on his role as a “father.”
Finally, Peter lays down his label, “Starlord,” and goes backward…he goes home…to a place he’s been avoiding for 3 movies...and to the only family he has left.
He could have gone back to earth at any time over the last three movies, but he had been caught in a loop like the playlist he kept on cassette. He gives up control and to his surprise, he finds his grandpa there waiting for him.
The last Guardians film wraps up this beautiful storyline dealing with these people running from their past, living in a scripted loop because of that, but going back so they can finally move forward. Maybe we should all say with Rocket Raccoon,
"I'm done running!"