Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Goes Way Too Far With Its Treatment of Animals
Cover your bunny’s eyes, the horror in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 at the hands of the High Evolutionary is extreme.
This Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 article contains spoilers.
As the trilogy of Guardians movies comes to a close, you can rightly expect some emotional farewells and some tugs on the old heart strings. Superhero movies should also have heart, and just because this franchise features a gang of lovable misfits doesn’t mean it can’t tackle big issues. Quill’s dad, Ego, is a dick and his mum was killed when he was a boy. Gamora’s surrogate dad Thanos killed her and tortured her step sister Nebula. Drax’s wife and family were murdered by Ronan the Accuser. So these guys haven’t had easy lives, to say the least. But while it’s not a competition, if it was, Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, would win.
Yep, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, it’s Rocket’s turn to get a backstory, and as you might expect, it’s pretty freaking harrowing. What you might not expect, though, is how cruel, manipulative, and upsetting it is. If you’re not good with bad things happening to cute fuzzy little baby creatures this might not be for you!
When we meet the tiny baby raccoon, who is to become Rocket, he’s an innocent little thing in a cage with a pile of other pups. Plucked from the litter, Rocket is tortured, operated on, suffers brain surgery, and is then tossed back into a cage where he meets fellow prisoners, all of whom are missing limbs and have been through varying flavors of torture. There’s a rabbit with metal spider legs who has a piece of metal grafted to her face like something out of Saw. There’s an otter with her arms removed and replaced by dangling metal rods. And there’s a walrus with his back legs amputated, fitted with wheels, with his eyes wired open, Clockwork Orange-style.
In a scene reminiscent of the emergence of Toy Story’s mutant toys, the weird-looking gang appear and frighten baby Rocket, but of course it turns out they are all total sweeties. And James Gunn doesn’t half lay it on thick. The first words that baby Rocket speaks are “it hurts.” All of the little animals have super cutesy voices. When they choose their names, the Walrus chooses “Teefs” and the bunny chooses “Floor” (because she’s lying on the floor). They converse almost in baby talk about how it’s great to have friends and how the sky goes on forever and ever. And lovely otter Lylla is voiced by Linda fucking Cardellini. Linda Cardellini! The cutest actress on earth.
They all believe they are going to live in a perfect new world (spoilers: they’re not). The super intelligent Rocket is dragged trustingly around and bullied by the utterly despicable High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) until he discovers that the four best friends aren’t going to the promised land and are instead going to be killed in the morning. So he stages an escape plan, constructing a key from detritus he’s pinched during visits to the labs.
And all the animals escape and live happily ever after! Lol, not really, they are all gunned down except Rocket, who is distraught and bawls his eyes out. And it’s a bit flipping much.
The whole thing is uncomfortably reminiscent of Watership Down, or in fact the lesser known but equally upsetting Plague Dogs, which is also an anti-vivisection story. With the Guardians movies being popular with kids, it looks like a new generation will be getting their own childhood trauma (take note, future internet! There’s an upcoming generation of entertainment journalists who will be brewing up nostalgia pieces on how this movie ruined their childhoods).
The horrors of animal testing is an important cause, but within a Guardians movie which has a massive body count, and is known for its humor, it’s tonally odd. Particularly when the ENTIRE population of Counter Earth, who are all animals, are killed (bye bye Mr. and Mrs. Bat and your adorable offspring!). And particularly when a post-credits sequence sees Rocket himself, plus the new members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, about to kill a stampede of animals because they might destroy a town.
Guardians 3 is a great movie, but we question whether that level of animal-meanness is entirely necessary even when it’s CGI animals that are getting tortured. It’s just a massive downer.
Go give the dog an extra cuddle, tickle your chinchilla, wave at the goldfish, and admire your cat appreciatively as she haughtily ignores you. And just remember, it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie…
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is out in theaters now.