As promised I’m back to talk about GotGV2. This post is rated Spoiler Medium for Volume 2 and Spoiler Heavy for Volume 1. Most of the spoilers for Volume 2 are about stuff that could be extrapolated from the trailer and the clips posted everywhere but proceed with caution if you haven’t seen it yet.
Today I’m going to talk about Groot, Baby Groot, and how to kill off your most popular character, and keep them, and still honor their sacrifice.
Writer-Director James Gunn was clearly owed a favour by some dark God of narrative or demon of film making. That’s the only way he could have pulled this off.
Near the end of Volume 1 Groot, the ambulatory tree voiced by Vin Diesel, sacrificed himself to save his friends in an act that paved the way for the rest of the Guardians to redeem themselves for their lives of crime, violence and selfishness by saving the Galaxy. It’s a poignant moment. However it was almost immediately undercut because Superheroes don’t die and because by the end of the film Rocket (genius talking racoon voiced by Bradley Cooper) had planted up one of the late Groot’s twigs and then we saw the twig dancing through the closing credits. One of the few criticisms leveled at the film was that this cheapened Groot’s sacrifice.
I’m here to say that bringing Groot back for the sequel only demonstrates the value of his sacrifice.
Many people have pointed out that while Groot was the sweetest character in Volume 1 Baby Groot is easily the biggest arsehole in Volume 2. Well of course he is. He’s a toddler. All toddlers are arseholes most of the time. They’re like that one friend you have where you’re not sure why you’re still friends. They are self obsessed drama queens, they get into everything, they’re simultaneously fragile and apparently made of rubber, they have no sense of danger or proprietary, they’re capricious, they don’t listen, and just when you are at breaking point they pat you on the hand, or give you an unprompted hug, or say something incredibly profound or tell you that you’re beautiful and you just melt. And then they fart in your face while trying to eat a crayon.
Groot in Volume 2 is a toddler. Not only is he tiny but he’s clearly lacking the intellectual capacity he had in Volume 1. It’s not even clear that he remembers anything from before. This isn’t a continuation of Groot in the same way that the Doctor from Doctor Who continues when he regenerates. The Doctor changes but remains essentially the same. He remembers everything from before and after a brief period of ‘post regeneration brain crazies’ he’s fine. This is more like original Groot’s clone or child.
Even if Groot eventually recovers memories from before it will only be after a lengthy period of dependence on a bunch of people I wouldn’t trust to watch my pet rock. And that’s the other part of Groot’s sacrifice. It’s clear that caring for Groot is forcing the other Guardians to grow up. They now all have someone that they have chosen to protect and care for. Being around toddlers forces adults to be adult, to be parental. So we get to see the others being parental figures. Which allows us to compare them to the plethora of failed parental figures littering their own backstories.
What can we as writers learn from all this? For one thing I think we can learn that honoring a character’s sacrifice can be a lot more complicated and interesting than we usually think. I think we’ve learned that you can bring a character back from the dead but it needs to be earned and they need to have lost something. We’ve learned that when a character goes through a major change it should change how every other character interacts with them.
We might also have learned that we should add a little picture of James Gunn to our shrines next to Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Stephen King and JK Rowling.
Next week I’ll be back talking about the themes of parenting in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Truly a family film.
Tell me in the comments what lessons you took from Baby Groot and whose pictures are on your shrine to creativity.