Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Hides Marvel’s Biggest Underdog Success Story
Sean Gunn's Kraglin has always been seen as a minor supporting character in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but Vol. 3 even gives him an emotional sendoff.
This article contains Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 spoilers.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe churns on, one part of the saga has now ended with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Not only have the ragtag space outlaws gone through three of their own movies, but also three major guest appearances, a holiday special, and two non-canon Disney theme park attractions. We’ve spent a lot of time watching the adventures and growth of these heroes, their grief, and their laughter. The series has mostly focused on seven Guardians (and two variations of them) and their journeys to figure themselves out while saving countless lives.
And then there is Kraglin Obfonteri, who is basically the Wedge Antilles of the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. Once a forgettable background character, Kraglin’s role has turned him into a success story of his own, culminating in him being one of the current members with the most seniority.
Kraglin is played by Sean Gunn, brother of James Gunn, and he also acted as the physical stand-in for all of Rocket’s scenes (giving us some rather hilarious behind-the-scenes images), but landed the Kraglin role so people watching can say, “Hey, it’s the dude from Gilmore Girls!” Though to be fair, Kirk Gleason has likely also served as a member of the Ravagers as one of his many, many jobs.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Kraglin is a character from the comics, but he’s one of those awkward movie characters who shares a name with the source material and little else. He’s up there with Cloud Galactus, Mouthless Deadpool, and whatever was going on with Psylocke in X-Men 3.
Kraglin is actually a Jack Kirby/Stan Lee creation, showing up in Tales to Astonish #46. In his one and only comic appearance (pre-movie), Kraglin was an alien who sort of looked like a blue and purple Autobot with Batman ears and Bret Hart sunglasses for eyes. He and his race tried to take over the world with a 50-foot-tall cyclops (the mythological kind, not the mutant strategist kind), only to be foiled by Ant-Man and the Wasp and then never being heard from for decades.
In the MCU, Kraglin was second-in-command to Ravager captain Yondu. According to the second episode of What If…?, Kraglin has had that role for several decades and was part of the crew when Yondu abducted young Peter Quill. The only time we got to see Kraglin and Peter as Ravagers was a flashback in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which depicted them on pretty good terms.
This is fitting, as Kraglin’s role in Guardians lore is to effectively serve as Peter’s older brother figure. More importantly, he’s Peter’s jealous older brother.
“[Kraglin] IS for all intents and purposes, Peter’s brother,” James Gunn has said. “I think it’s an important element that people often overlook.”
Of course, the reason why Kraglin comes off as an older brother is because Yondu is more than just a captain to Kraglin, but his own father figure.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The sequel deals with the duality of Yondu, which was hinted at in the original. While he is no angel, there are redeemable parts of his character and his history with Peter Quill. This causes conflict, especially when it comes to the other Ravagers. Most anyone else would have had Peter killed for his acts of defiance (or for the bounty put on his head), but Yondu lets him get away with these transgressions. Despite how hard he tries to hide it, he’s soft for his adopted son and it rubs others the wrong way.
Taserface and his followers feel that Yondu’s emotions are bad for business, but for Kraglin, it’s personal. Seeing the way Yondu treats Peter with kid gloves genuinely hurts him since Kraglin is the “loyal” one who looks up to Yondu. Yet in the end, Peter is the favorite who can get away with anything. He’s the one Yondu cares about.
Kraglin’s outburst ends up haunting him as many of his Ravager friends are killed in a cold-blooded mutiny. Kraglin ends up doing the right thing by releasing Yondu and Rocket, all while apologizing for his role in the mutiny. Though extremely subdued, this is a major moment between Yondu and Kraglin as Yondu quietly and immediately forgives him by giving him orders as captain. Kraglin accepts the orders, but the emotion and relief over the forgiveness is apparent in the way he pounds his chest.
From there, Kraglin takes a backseat for the rest of the movie. It could be said that Peter felt his own kind of jealousy for how Yondu treated Kraglin. In his eyes, Kraglin and the others got better treatment over the years and were not threatened with being eaten and the like. He grows to accept Yondu as a father figure, especially in the tragedy of Yondu’s fatal sacrifice.
Despite this take of Peter and Kraglin as rival brothers, the series never really features a moment focused on just the two of them. That is, until after Yondu’s initial funeral. It’s there that Kraglin gifts Peter with the Zune and Peter gifts Kraglin with Yondu’s arrow. It’s a great moment of respect and understanding, as they both accept each other as followers in Yondu’s legacy, especially with the emphasis on Kraglin acknowledging Peter as “Captain.”
There’s even a deleted extra minute to the scene where Kraglin casually explains the Zune to Peter and shows that he had used the device long enough to be able to recommend different musicians. It’s cute and very familial.
Being such a loyal follower for so long, Kraglin’s explosive, emotional reaction to Yondu’s funeral, knowing how much it truly would have meant to his mentor, is one of the best moments in the movie. Fun fact: James Gunn told his brother to channel Christopher Lloyd’s joyous reaction from the final scene of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Avengers, Thor, and the Holiday Special
The end of Vol. 2 made it seem like Kraglin was part of the Guardians of the Galaxy, albeit incompetent when it came to using his new arrow weapon, but he was noticeably absent in Avengers: Infinity War with no explanation. When asked about whether or not Kraglin was officially a Guardian, James Gunn joked, “I would call him an adjunct member of the Guardians. He’s…around. He doesn’t have voting rights.”
With many Ravagers helping out in the final battle, Kraglin is there in a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo, but he was originally supposed to be more prominent. At the very least, he was going to appear among the major heroes in a group shot, only to be replaced digitally by Groot.
When it came to Thor: Love and Thunder, the whole point was that the Guardians were cumulatively worthless compared to Thor, so even though Kraglin actually was there, he was essentially the worst of the worst. Still, he got to actually be confirmed as a member of the team, so it was a nice reminder that he wasn’t forgotten and not being thrown away to die. It’s not as if he ended up like Thor’s poor Warrior Three buddies.
The Holiday Special surprisingly took Kraglin and made him the grownup in the room with the way he has his heart-to-heart with Kevin Bacon. It’s a rather nice moment as it shows how Kraglin holds Peter in high esteem and does really think the world of him. That he’s genuinely talking up Peter as one of the greatest heroes in the galaxy to Peter’s own inspiration is an incredibly sweet moment.
Actually having someone talk up Peter’s heroic accolades was also a breath of fresh air because of how stock in Star-Lord has kind of dropped a lot in the past few years. Not only has he been down in the dumps due to various tragedies, but the whole Infinity War incident, where he arguably doomed the universe by being pissed that his girlfriend died, did not do him any favors. In fact, Endgame was a series of MCU heroes crapping on Star-Lord one after the other, so he really needed somebody to have his back.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Kraglin takes a backseat for much of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 but he’s far from forgotten. Other than his argument with Cosmo, Kraglin’s arc in the movie is based around his inability to figure out Yondu’s arrow. Obviously, he was going to figure it all out in the end, but the way they did it spoke volumes.
Giving Yondu a cameo in this movie was no surprise. Michael Rooker has reprised the role several times after the character had been killed off and no way was James Gunn going to miss the opportunity to give him one last moment. It’s just that you would expect Yondu’s cameo to involve Peter in some way, or maybe even Rocket, since they were close in Yondu’s final hours and Rocket was meeting up with friends in his visions of the afterlife.
Instead, Yondu was there for Kraglin and Kraglin only. He appeared as a vision to give him the advice and support needed to figure things out and master the arrow in his time of need. It’s a wonderful moment because up to this point, the most emotional interaction between the two was Yondu’s forgiveness back in the second movie. Here, he’s smiling and embracing the idea of his second-in-command following in his footsteps.
Well, at least in Kraglin’s mind.
Then we find out in the mid-credits scene that Kraglin is officially part of the Guardians of the Galaxy’s post-trilogy lineup. There’s a certain paradox in how by becoming a respected adventurer, Kraglin’s role in the MCU is basically finished. He may not be the leader, but just like Star-Lord before him, he has a role as the most “normal” member of the team by a longshot. Even with that creepy-ass cyber mohawk growing out of his skull.
The fact that a character like Kraglin, who has far less screentime than so many other characters in the series, still gets to have his closure and send-off without being completely thrown to the wayside is a wonder, and something completely atypical for Marvel movies. James Gunn made sure to not only create an earned and earnest conclusion for his brother, but for a lovable loser outshined by a universe of larger-than-life heroes.