The Guardians of the Galaxy are criminals [*manages to resist joke opportunity about the movie being criminally good]. Peter Quill is a thief and a self-confessed outlaw; Gamora is an assassin; Drax is on a campaign of continual violence and murder; Rocket Raccoon is a mercenary and an arsonist; even Groot has three counts of grievous bodily harm (although I think we all know whose fault that probably was). Whoever and whatever the Guardians become in the end – and however much their situations are not their own faults – there is no getting away from the fact that they come from pretty dubious backgrounds, and in a couple of the cases seem to have quite frankly enjoyed a lot of it. But really, do we actually want to imagine them being any other way?
Rocket was always predicted by James Gunn to be the runaway favourite of the group and now that we’ve met him it’s easy to see why: It is all to do with the enormously clever way in which Gunn has presented him. Rocket fights, he destroys stuff, he drinks and swears, he has a big attitude problem and an even bigger mouth – Rocket is, in truth, a bit of a dick.
But. If you need proof that Rocket has a good soul, look at his ears. He may snarl, scowl, yell and spit, his face and voice moving through a thousand anthropomorphic expressions a minute, but his little ears – the tiniest part of an already tiny animal – are all raccoon. And the result of all these things combined is something close to magical.
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What it gives us is the continual heartbreaking reminder that he is just a creature, with not a lot to his name, who has had to fight for every last shred of his existence. This is why it is so poignant when Drax strokes his head as he cries over Groot – and the only reason that that moment is believable when it comes to Rocket. I defy anyone not to want to pick Rocket up and cuddle him – but you’d have approximately 0.2 seconds in which to do so before he shot you. In short (quite literally), what Rocket represents is a perfect embodiment of the infinitely charming line between the bad and the good.
The world needs its standard heroes as well, of course. But give us a character whose integrity runs neatly alongside the sort of track record that would have the authorities holding a coin toss over prison or psyche unit, and we’re theirs. From The A-Team to the determinedly reformed sharks in Finding Nemo, there is something about a certain combination of decent and devious that we just find irresistible.
Here’s a line-up then of a variety of criminals who can also, in some way or another, count themselves as heroes. Some are likeable, some are not. Some intend their actions, some don’t. What is most important though is that their being a hero does not in any way require that they change completely. Some of them do – but most of them don’t, probably because ultimately they don’t really want to. And thank God that they don’t. After all, when the Guardians were deciding whether to next do something good or something bad, there was only one real choice: It was clearly going to be “a bit of both.”