Spoiler Alert! The following are important plot elements of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, so pay attention if you haven’t seen it yet.

With a talking raccoon and an alien tree as the main characters, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies have been popular with children, although for sensitive toddlers – and animal-loving big kids – the new film might be difficult to watch at times. But if you hide your eyes, you might miss the point.

In 2014’s first Guardians, writer/director James Gunn gave a glimpse of wounds and mechanization on Rocket’s (voiced by Bradley Cooper) back and hinted at the raccoon’s tragic backstory. And Gunn brings that origin to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (in theaters now).

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Cover your eyes: Baby Rocket undergoes cruel experiments in flashbacks

Baby Rocket crouches in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Baby Rocket cowers from a cruel hand in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

When Rocket is wounded in a sneak attack, his Guardians teammates – including Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Drax (Dave Bautista) – embark on a desperate, high-stakes mission to rescue him. the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) who “created” Rocket. While Rocket lies in a coma, the audience sees his memories of being experimented on and the close friendships he formed with other animal captives.

Rocket is first seen as a baby raccoon crouched in a cage. Attempting to create the perfect species, the High Evolutionary tests it on animals, evolving it and—when things don’t go his way—burning it alive. Rocket receives emotional help in surviving these sadistic experiments from the friends he meets who have also been cybernetically manipulated: his best friend, Lylla, is an otter with mechanical arms; Teefs is a walrus with wheels; and Floor is a rabbit with a metal trap for a mouth. They teach Rocket to talk from a young age and Lylla cares for Rocket after his surgeries, including exposing his brain.

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The abused animals are CGI, but it’s still hard to watch

The highly evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) experiments on animals and humans alike in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) experiments on animals and humans in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

No real animals were harmed in the film’s production – all living creatures were created through digital effects. But harrowing scenes of animal cruelty that on the one hand bind a viewer more closely to Rocket and his plight are also graphic and disturbing at times. Not on a problematic level, but moms and dads will definitely want to put their kids’ hands through these parts and be there for questions afterwards. It might be too much for some adults, and that’s okay too.

In so many movies, a cat gets run over for laughs or something bad happens to a dog to shock it. But the new Guardians is different: what Gunn has cleverly and impressively directed is a blockbuster superhero film that takes a substantive and haunting look at real animal cruelty and testing. Rocket was “created by someone who didn’t care about him at all, who didn’t have any interests of their own in mind,” the director told USA TODAY. “Compassion is the answer to all your problems on this planet. And when you can have compassion for all living beings, it really helps you live a much more fulfilling life.”

The more graphic scenes have caused an outcry on social media: some are demanding “Trigger Alerts” while others say they”made a good film unwatchable.However, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have expressed strong support for Vol. 3.” On Monday, the organization hailed the latest “Guardians” as “the best animal rights film of the year” for “helping viewers see animals as individuals and suggesting that just because we may Experimenting with them doesn’t mean we do shouldPETA senior vice president Lisa Lange said in a statement. “With Rocket, James Gunn has given a face, a name and a personality to the millions of endangered animals as we speak.”

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‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ makes a bigger point about animal rights

Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is the focus of the third Guardians of the Galaxy film.  Movie.

Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) takes center stage in the third Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Rocket’s early trauma haunted him long after he escaped the High Evolutionary’s clutches. But in the end, he wants everyone to have the same freedom he found. At the climax of “Vol. 3”, as his teammates free a multitude of small children who were also the subject of the High Evolutionary’s handwork, Rocket sees a pile of cages, including one full of baby raccoons just like him. He releases them all and later the Guardians take in all humans and animals as part of their community. The High Evolutionary’s whole deal is to create an ideal utopia – instead, it’s Rocket and Co. pulling it off.

Rocket’s story is certainly not easy to understand. It’s heartbreaking and poignant, and chances are you’ll shed some tears. Still, it’s a difficult and important step in understanding the film’s overall goal: to get everyone to have a little more empathy for all creatures, furry or not.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Guardians of the Galaxy 3 confronts animal cruelty in a shocking way


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