Nerdy Mom Post: When Rocket is pretty much just a raccoon.

Be it known this my nerdy mom post.

I have Guardians of the Galaxy on my mind right now.  As Marvel movies go with a girl who knows comparatively little about comic books, it’s easily one of the best. Watching Vol 2. back in May was a huge treat and darn it all if my 4-year-old doesn’t like the first movie. As much as I theoretically want to limit her screen time, her occasional request to watch such movie means I get to, by way of being a good mom, watching the movie with her.

And I do enjoy it so much. The soundtrack ought to be a scholarly example of just how to create film soundtracks, Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan are adorable with or without crazy assassin alien get-up, and the balance of heart, humor, and action is nigh unto perfect.

One of the best slices of quirky wonder is Rocket. Oh, how I love Rocket. Hands-down my favorite character. I was always vaguely aware of his existence because of one of my cousins, but how these movies brought him to life! He’s brash and rude with that barest hint of poor wounded animal under it all and I love him for it.

My husband says Rocket wasn’t originally selected to be in the movie due to worries over whether an audience could accept a really mean, animated raccoon with a machine gun. But that awesome aforementioned balancing act carries over here. He’s a raccoon, but more importantly he’s a bounty hunter and weapons expert who happens to be a raccoon. I daresay this is what made Rocket work. He is his own character first, and the animal jokes are kept effective few and far between.

Yet I love those little moments where we are reminded that Rocket is a raccoon (or some other similarly evolved critter). The joke is still kept subtle and to the minimum, but those little moments remain endearing.

When He Moves Like a Raccoon

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I get a kick out of this. Visually, it’s fun to watch. The tough little bipedal guy has moments where moving on all fours is the best way to go. His first meeting with fellow Guardians is literally leaping animal-style onto Gamora and from there until she tosses him off perching on her head and shoulders like any proper attack raccoon. Later at sleepy-time in the Kyln, he leaps with such agility from a mass of sleeping bodies in order to follow Quill. Eventually following events lead to the full-on prison madness scene which finds Rocket running on all fours and scurrying up and down various objects and buddies. The animation is fun to watch, yet these actions are so subtle one doesn’t even think about them–Rocket is just doing his thing.

When He Does Stuff With His Hands

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Now, my understanding of raccoon behavior is that they do not in fact wash food. They apparently just really like to use their hands to hunt for food. Seems fitting that Rocket’s instincts of fiddling have led him to creating intricate bombs and weapons, and I am personally grateful to the movie powers that be that let me enjoy just how cutely he does this. Watch Rocket anyone time he is working with some various machine of destruction, the way his hands so quickly and deftly move. It’s raccoon behavior and the nicest touch to add to Rocket.

When He Washes Himself

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This one surprises me and makes me wonder if raccoons do in fact wash their faces with their paws the way cats do. But they all had a raccoon they were studying to the animation and at one point I like to think Oreo the Raccoon washed his face. This moment also occurs as part of a rather humorous incident in the Vol. 2. Rocket and Quill wrecked the ship, the team just met Ego and Mantis, and everyone is sitting around having some type of hobo-style campfire dinner. And there’s Rocket, licking his paws and rubbing them over his face. No wonder Mantis thought he was a puppy. Which leads me into the next animal behavior I like about Rocket.

When He Snarls and Bites

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The aforementioned scene has Mantis petting Rocket for the briefest of moments before he, startled at the fact some weird lady he just met ran her hand over his head, turns, snarls and even snaps at her. Literally snaps his teeth at her. Now, I don’t react to startles like that. This isn’t the only time. In the first movie, the Collector’s collection includes Cosmo the Space Dog. In true enemy fashion, he and Rocket snarl at each other.

His Tail

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I know, I know, Rocket has a tail and it’s fluffy and it’s cute. A lot of people like his tail. It’s a fun part of being a forest creature. But there are a couple of moments when his tail helps express his emotions. First the notably sad example, the ending of the first film. The team has defeated Ronan, part of the city is busted up by the space ship crash, and Groot’s literally all over the place. It’s been a tough day for Rocket and we find him sitting on a pile of something crying. His tail his curled up so tense, only to relax when Drax starts petting him. Subtle, but so meaningful. The second example is that hilarious scene of the second movie involving the bomb and Groot and the bomb’s death button. Baby Groot is about as clueless as any of my offspring or 2nd graders about what to do and Rocket is growing more agitated by the second. You can tell this because he’s voice is not only getting louder and his patience is wearing thin, but also because his tail swinging and twitching all over the place.

When His Buddies Treat Him Like an Animal

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That sounds awful in words, but there it is. Though Quill references him as a raccoon on more than one occasion, everyone generally sees and treats him as an equal. To revisit the ending of the first movie, we have sad Rocket and Drax figuring he ought to comfort him in some way. So he pets Rocket. Yup. How many of your friends comfort you in such a fashion? How many have you comforted? Who thinks “I shall express sympathy to my upset friend by putting my hand on their head and stroking it” as the go-to method of comfort? I love this scene because not is it only bittersweet, but because there really seems to be a joke being played here, pulling out that “he’s a raccoon!” bit and people might as well pet him. The other side of this? He, after some initial surprise, just accepts is. Heck, maybe he even likes it.

All of this makes me wonder about the nature of Rocket. Sure, he talks big and with impressive eloquence and seems at least as clever and with-it as anyone else. But how much animal instinct is floating around in his brain and body? There’s at least a little, because those makers of these movies clearly are bringing in those neat little details.

Rocket is all the better character for it.

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