Describing his “very strange and attached relationship to Rocket,” Gunn revealed that it was the missed opportunity to end the cybernetically-enhanced raccoon’s story that bothered him the most after his Guardians departure.
“Rocket is me, he really is, even if that sounds narcissistic,” Gunn told Deadline. “Groot is like my dog. I love Groot in a completely different way. I relate to Rocket and I feel compassion for Rocket, but I also feel like his story has not been completed.
“[Rocket] has an arc that started in the first movie, continued into the second and goes through Infinity War and Endgame, and then I was set to really finish that arc in Guardians 3.
“That was a big loss to me – not being able to finish that story.”
Sure, he could just be talking about Rocket’s ongoing ability to welcome friends and love into his life after years of mistrust and anger – but what if Rocket’s story end is also, well, his end?
In his first appearance, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, we were warned that Rocket might not be around as long as the rest of the team – “Aw, what the hell, I don’t got that long a lifespan anyway,” he quips as the gang take on an apparently suicidal mission – so who’s to say that lifespan isn’t coming to a close by the time of Volume 3?
After all, thanks to the time jump in Avengers: Endgame it’s now been almost ten years since Rocket first appeared. We have no idea how long he was around before that point, but it has to have been a good few years for him to build up his reputation and career as a pilot/bounty hunter, meaning that he could be a good deal older than we think already.
In the wild on Earth, raccoons tend to live for three years. In captivity, it can be up to 20 – but even by that upper limit Rocket could be getting a little long in the tooth.
On the other hand, it could be that the cybernetic enhancements grafted on to him that make him the upright, talking creature that he is have also enhanced his lifespan to at least a few years longer than that. Who knows? He could have another ten years yet, and compared to other lifeforms that would still be a relatively short lifespan, as he suggested.
Unless, of course, this hypothetical death in Guardians Vol 3 is caused from injury rather than old age, in which case all this internal arguing has been a bit pointless. Oh well.
Look, the end of Rocket’s story doesn’t have to mean his death. It could mean (as we touched on above) a conclusion to the emotional arc that he’s followed over the two Guardians and most recent Avengers movies, without sacrificing a fan-favourite character who’s probably not quite as hard to keep around as some others (it can’t be that expensive to get Bradley Cooper in a recording booth, and James Gunn’s brother Sean portrays him on set).
But we just can’t shake the feeling that dark times could be coming for Rocket and his teammates whenever Guardians Vol 3 finally does come out – and we’ll be wearing respectful black welding goggles to the cinema just in case.