Will Rocket Raccoon die in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?’

Rocket holding a gun 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3'
Image via Marvel Studios

It has become a point of strong speculation amongst Marvel Cinematic Universe fans that Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon will die in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But, why do people think this?

In all likelihood, this theory stems from the simple fact that in each Guardians film, one of the team members makes a heroic self-sacrifice near the climax. In the debut Guardians of the Galaxy movie in 2014, in which the world was first introduced to the team led by Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill, Vin Diesel’s tree-like Groot turned his body into a sphere in order to protect his teammates within it from the impact of a collision with the ground. Though writer-director James Gunn maintains that the original character died, the OG Groot managed to pass on his seed by way of having a son, who has slowly grown up from a baby to the modern “Swole Groot” we’ve seen in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.

In 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Michael Rooker’s Yondu similarly heroically sacrificed himself in order to ensure his adoptive son, Peter, could make it to safety with an oxygen mask equipped in what became a redemption arc for the Ravager character. If Vol. 3 follows in the footsteps of the first two films, it seems Gunn is all but destined to kill one of his darlings by way of one of the characters meeting a fate similar to OG Groot and Yondu. But why Rocket, you ask?

First of all, the recent trailer for Vol. 3 heavily features Rocket to the point that there is even a flashback moment where we see him as a much younger creature who looks like he is being snatched up by a human. What’s more, Gunn himself has said that his motivation for coming back to direct Vol. 3 was in order to give Rocket a proper send-off. As he explained to Entertainment Weekly over the summer:

“For a while I wasn’t going to do this movie. Then I came back. And the reason I knew I needed to come back was to tell this story and, in some ways in particular, I have a special closeness to the character of Rocket and I knew I needed to finish to tell his story. I knew that that was what started me on this journey, was seeing who he could be and who he was, where he came from, and the thing that grounded me initially in the Guardians.”

In between Vol. 2 and Vol. 3, Gunn was temporarily fired from Marvel due to old offensive Twitter posts. But due to heavy petitioning from fans and the film’s cast members, he was reinstated as the director of the franchise. However, now that Gunn has been promoted as a DC Studios executive at Warner Bros. Discovery, it seems all but certain Vol. 3 will be his final foray into the MCU.

Is it truly a sure thing that Gunn will kill off Rocket, for whom he has such a clear affection? Some fans aren’t so convinced. In a recent Reddit post, some have speculated that all this hinting about Rocket could be nothing but a red herring to throw people off. After all, Dave Bautista has said he would not be returning to Marvel after Vol. 3, so his character Drax would appear to be a prime candidate for facing the music. In addition, Zoe Saldaña’s Gamora is a variant from a different timeline, which would seemingly make her a target for pruning by the Time Variance Authority, as we saw in the Disney Plus MCU show Loki.

Maybe when Gunn said he wanted to “finish” telling Rocket’s story, he meant giving him a “happy retirement,” as one fan suggested.

Guess we’ll find out who is left standing when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits theaters on May 5, 2023.