A rocky ride to save Rocket in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’

A half-human, half-celestial mercenary walks into a bar …

It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but there’s more: he’s joined by his misfit team of a cyborg, a destroyer and an empath.

Oh, and a plant.

No punchline here. It’s Marvel’s new “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” And the primary subject of this story — or backstory — is the foul-mouthed, cybernetically enhanced raccoon, Rocket.

Told through a series of flashbacks while Rocket is dying, we see the angry critter’s origin. And that’s important, because the only way to save him is for his pals to find his creators and learn how to bypass the kill switch installed inside of him during those experiments.

Which obviously means: fight the bad guys!

Along the way, most of the personalities we know and love shine through: there’s Quill the noble leader, Drax the funny dum-dum, Nebula the cold-blooded killer with a heart, and Groot who … well, he is Groot.

Most of them shine, but not all. Gamora feels worked into the script merely to complete the team. She’s just kind of there, begrudgingly, and not offering much to the story.

More than her though, it’s the addition of the new character Adam Warlock that left much to be desired. Back in 2021, actor Will Poulter was announced to play the role, and for the year and a half that followed, he was constantly on my social media feed in interviews building anticipation for his debut. So, I was a bit confused when I left the theatre, thinking Adam Warlock shouldn’t have been in the movie at all.

Nothing against Poulter; he was fine as yet another overpowered idiot. But why the hype? The character doesn’t stand out. He pops up here and there, but as an “ugh, what now?” sort of annoyance — that thing that’s partially blocking your view of what you actually want to look at.

None of our other heroes really know his story. They don’t care. So, why should I? When I first thought back to sum up the movie in my head, I realized I had cut Warlock out, like the wasted words of a writer.

There’s so much better stuff to focus on. This volume wonderfully embraces the weird. But it still has a ton of heart. I laughed out loud — a lot. I dang-near cried. Don’t judge me.

At times, the film effectively promotes diversity and accepting the differences in others. Other times, it misses the mark and feels like a PETA ad (fun fact: PETA gave a rave review to the film.)

Oh yea, it also has the first Marvel Cinematic Universe F-bomb — a headline dominating the film’s release. And yet, the line that Star-Lord delivers is utterly forgettable, probably because, as director James Gunn admitted, it wasn’t in the script, but simply tried on the spot and kept in.

The lack of thought shows. If it’s going to be talked about as a monumental moment, the scene should’ve been more powerful, emotional, and memorable. Not just for a word.

I mean, F it — have Groot say it!

None of these issues kept me from having a blast watching this movie. It did what Marvel movies tend to do — it took me to other worlds for an exciting adventure with a familiar group of lovable heroes.

And for that, I am Groot.

Scott McDaniel is an assistant professor of journalism at Franklin College. He lives in Bargersville with his wife and three kids.