The Marvel cinematic universe is one of the biggest franchises in entertainment history, with each installment generating hundreds of millions of dollars, sometimes even exceeding $1 billion as in the case of “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” from 2018.
With a seemingly endless supply of superheroes and movies, the Marvel films are mostly a form of fun escapism, fulfilling the joys of millions of fans who enjoy traditional action stories revolving around typical heroes.
Yet one character in the Marvel cinematic universe stands out. He’s not a powerful god, a billionaire techno-genius, a wizard, a massive green monster or an African king, but rather a smart-ass, talking raccoon.
Appearing in both “Guardians of the Galaxy” films and “Infinity War," Rocket Raccoon, voiced by the exceptional Bradley Cooper, is without question the best character from the Marvel films. Not only is Rocket wickedly smart and brilliantly comedic, he has a rare and surprisingly layered personality and one of the most endearing stories.
The result of illegal artificial breeding in outer space, Rocket is literally one of a kind, having no family and his only friend at first being Groot, the iconic talking tree limited to saying three words. Rocket’s bond with his fellow Guardians of the Galaxy is a joy to watch, their silly and exciting adventures filled with fun and humor while Rocket learns to love and feel apart of something.
Yet few seem to realize how dimensional Rocket is and how much he has changed as a character. Yes, a short-tempered, smart-aleck raccoon with a Jersey accent is Marvel’s most likable character, which is by no means a bad thing.
While Marvel’s Avengers may be fun to watch fight villains or even each other, they’re all limited in terms of how complex or captivating they are as characters. They appeal to an audience looking for fun, not necessarily rich characters who endure dramatic transformations.
Despite being likable, none of the Marvel characters have really built enough genuine personal struggle to make us truly root for them. The issues we see characters in films like “Black Panther” or “Spider-Man: Homecoming” are forced upon the audience and feel fake, as is the case for most Marvel films.
With most Marvel characters being indestructible superheroes who seem to have everything going for them, Rocket is a big exception. Viewed by society as a monster and taking his frustrations out on those around him, Rocket is trapped in a world he doesn’t feel apart of, spending his life alienated before forming a bond with his friends in the Guardians.
Rocket’s sad backstory makes us as an audience root and care for him. We can identify and empathize more with a talking raccoon than any of the other characters from Marvel due to the emotional pain he’s faced and his constant state of emotional vulnerability.
Audiences love an underdog (or in this case “under-raccoon?") to root for and Rocket fits this role within the Marvel films. The “Guardians of the Galaxy” films wouldn’t have their charm and wit without Rocket, and the “Avengers” film series is remarkably improved due to his and his fellow galaxy friends’ presence. Thor and Rocket’s mission in “Infinity War” was by far the film’s most enjoyable aspect. The two was a match made in heaven.
Rocket is the only surviving member of the Guardians of the Galaxy after Thanos’ snap for good reason. He’s the most interesting out of them all, the most emotionally vulnerable and a character audiences love not only for his cuteness and humor, but for his saddened soul and desire to fit into the dramatic universe of Marvel. Let’s hope we get to see a lot of Rocket Raccoon in “Avengers: Endgame” next month, and let’s hope he makes it out alive so we can see more of him in the future.
Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.