I finally got the opportunity to see Guardians of the Galaxy last week. Despite being a fan of both the Marvel movies and sci-fi space opera, I wasn’t sure if Marvel was going to pull this one off. One of the Guardians is a gun-toting, sarcastic raccoon, and another one is a…tree? If Marvel can do this, I thought to myself, they can do anything.
Well, it turns out that Marvel can do anything. Through the combination of top-notch CGI and a stellar voice performance by Bradley Cooper, Rocket Raccoon became the best character in the movie. Rocket’s voice and body language communicated his personality so well that his performance felt seamless. He had a clear identity and it came through in everything he said or did.
It turns out that the entire movie played with this theme of identity and communication. Guardians of the Galaxy made me think about how our sense of self influences the way we interact with the world. (mild spoilers ahead)
I am Groot
The other CGI character in the movie is Groot, a tree creature who can only speak three words: I am Groot. His way of connecting with others is to state his identity. This limited vocabulary doesn’t stop him from communicating with the team. Rocket (who knows Groot well) is able to interpret Groot’s tone. Rocket translates Groot’s one simple repeated statement into the details of what Groot is thinking.
Groot is comfortable with who he is and this is expressed in his actions. One great example of Groot showing his character is when he grows a flower for a random girl he spots on the street. It’s a touching scene, and demonstrates how Groot is communicating his identity by sharing a physical part of himself.
Groot’s identity is firmly rooted (how else?) in his connections with Rocket and the other Guardians. There’s a great scene later in the movie that illustrates this perfectly, but to tell you about it would spoil it. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. If not, get out there and go see this movie!
Call Me Star-Lord
In contrast to Groot, Peter Quill (the leader of the Guardians) is struggling with his identity. He left Earth when he was young, and he is clinging to his past rather than allowing himself to grow. He jokes around his fears and attempts to communicate with others through obscure pop-culture references. He confuses Drax, who has a tendency to interpret everything literally. Gamora also finds him challenging to communicate with, and asks him to explain himself in several scenes. These situations are played for laughs (and they are a lot of fun). But they are also showing how Peter’s lack of a clear identity is interfering with his ability to build relationships with others.
Peter tries to deal with his identity crisis by choosing another name. Peter wants to be known by a nickname he created for himself, one that embodies who he would like to be: Star-Lord. But no one takes this pretend identity seriously. Peter needs to grow up and show what he is made of, and he gets his chance as events unfold. By the end of the movie, he has reconciled with his past and has truly become Star-Lord. He has also forged close relationships with his team. (Just in time for a sequel!)
Who Are You?
Guardians is a movie about identities and how they support our interactions with others. It shows us how knowing who we are and what we stand for can help us make changes for the better. And it makes me wonder about my own identity. In our lives, we play so many roles. I have been (and still am) daughter, sister, student, co-worker, wife, mother, aunt, friend, writer. So who is the real me? How can I stay whole and grounded, so that I can connect meaningfully with others in a genuine way? How can I bring my best self to the world?
In Guardians of the Galaxy, a ragtag group of criminals goes on a journey of self-discovery and becomes a group of heroes who save the universe.
Who are you? And what will you become?
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