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WARNING: contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame.
As long time fans of the MCU will remember, Guardians of the Galaxy was once believed to be the riskiest film Marvel had ever produced. Many predicted that Guardians would be the MCU's first major flop.
In an already risky movie, one of the biggest risks was the character, Rocket Raccoon. How were audiences supposed to take a talking raccoon seriously?
The skeptics were soon proved wrong. Guardians of the Galaxy was a smash hit, and Rocket Raccoon has had a character arc to rival even the MCU’s biggest names.
Before the Guardians
While Rocket's back story has been fleshed out in the comics, we know little about the origins of the movie version of the character, aside from hints that Rocket was the result of an experiment.
Otherwise, our knowledge of Rocket Raccoon pre-Guardians is rather sparse.
Mostly, we know that Rocket was a loner up until he met Groot. And while he eventually grew close to the sentient tree, Rocket initially rejected Groot too. Their eventual partnership is born from Groot's inability to take "no" for an answer. Groot sits with Rocket everyday, until Rocket finally accepts Groot's company.
Then, it's Rocket Raccoon and Groot against the world. They don't need anyone else.
'Guardians of the Galaxy'
They were alone, at least until Guardians of the Galaxy—until the pair meet Peter Quill, Gamora, and Drax, their future teammates. However, it is not an easy road to becoming a team.
At first, Rocket is only interested in Gamora for the hefty bounty on her head that he hopes to collect by taking her in. He only agrees to him and Groot joining in with Quill's plan to escape The Kiln on Gamora's promise of an even greater payday.
This remains Rocket's motivation for most of the film, and it is mostly due to Groot's influence that he slowly finds himself growing closer to the group. Only with Groot's death does Rocket Raccoon go all-in with the Guardians of the Galaxy, in memory of his fallen friend.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2’
When Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 begins, Rocket Raccoon has been travelling with the Guardians, including a newly sprouted baby Groot, for a few months.
However, Rocket struggles with fitting in to the new team's dynamic. Rocket makes irresponsible mistakes with the intention of pushing away the other Guardians, with the exception of Baby Groot.
By the end of the film, after bonding with, and then tragically losing Yondu Udonta, Rocket comes to realize that the Guardians are his family. Their love for him is unconditional, no matter how many mistakes he makes.
By the time the events of Avengers: Infinity War roll around, the Guardians of the Galaxy have been together for around two years, and Rocket Raccoon acts as a father figure to the surly teenage Groot.
Rocket has come to accept the other Guardians as his family. They fight sometimes, but the bond they share is unbreakable. Rocket's understanding of how much the Guardians mean to him is shown in his conversation with Thor when he and Groot travel with him to Nidavellir.
Thor, who lost his brother Loki to Thanos early in the film, states that he has nothing left to lose, to which Rocket replies:
"Me, personally, I could lose a lot..."
Rocket is left devastated in the movie's heartbreaking climax, watching Groot fade away before his eyes after Thanos' snap.
Rocket's development from Guardians of the Galaxy, up to now, is on full display in Avengers: Endgame.
The Guardian's ship is returned to Earth, along with Tony Stark and Nebula, in the first few minutes of the film. At this point, Rocket learns that all his other teammates were also lost to Thanos.
It would have been very easy for Rocket to take the ship and leave, returning to the solitary life he lived before meeting Groot. Instead, he stays to help the Avengers deal with the aftermath of the snap, and is still working with them five years later.
Rocket Raccoon, Hero
Over the course of the four films in which he appears, Rocket Raccoon has grown from a self-serving bounty hunter with very little care for anyone other than himself, to a character who would risk his life alongside people he barely knows for a small chance at saving not just his own family, but half of all life in the Universe.
He has more than earned the right to call himself both a Guardian of the Galaxy and an Avenger. I can't wait to see what Marvel has in store for Rocket in future films.