Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now officially in theaters. And while we have had a tremendous week celebrating the release of the new film with our review and interviews, we wanted to call out that the timing of the film’s debut coincides with National Space Day!
And how could we possibly celebrate one without the other? We can’t. So in honor of National Space Day today, we’re going to take a deeper dive at our favorite space a-holes and how they changed the galaxy forever (in the MCU)!
For generations, the wonders of space have fascinated mankind from the moment Yuri Gagarin made it past Earth’s upper atmosphere into the heavens, up to when Tyreese and Ludacris drove there in a car in F9. And through it all, we’ve seen every single space story imaginable told, from those taking place in a galaxy far, far away, to the ones that engage us into the final frontier. So in 2014, when James Gunn and Marvel Studios released Guardians of the Galaxy, people were skeptical that anything new could be done with the genre. But low and behold, Gunn introduced the world to an irreverent, endearing space opera with a motley crew of the most unique characters ever introduced to superhero cinema and science fiction.
The world met Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot; a rag tag group of misfits without a home, who come to find an unexpected family in one another. Along the way they picked up two unlikely members in Mantis and Nebula. But what do each of these characters represent in terms of space travel or the galaxy in general? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
Peter Quill represents humanity; humanity at its best and worst. Quill is the de facto leader of the group, and the group’s best strategist. However, he’s a completely flawed character. He’s capable of encouraging others to be their best, and was the man who brought the Guardians together in Volume 1. However, he’s also the man that doomed the universe to Thanos because he couldn’t keep his cool on Titan in Infinity War. Whoops. Not the smartest character in the MCU, and very emotional. But all in all a man with a good heart, a devotion to his friends, and a lot of courage as you’ll remember when you see Volume 3. As a human explorer and skilled pilot traversing the galaxy in his ’80s themed starships, Quill is living out the fantasy of every human child who ever set their sights on the expansive settings of the universe. In short he embodies all of us, and the spirit of adventure that exists within us to be superheroes and space travelers.
The deadliest woman in the galaxy, Gamora has had to overcome the traumas of the mass genocide and murder of her people and her family by the hands of her adoptive father, Thanos (as seen in Infinity War). Though she still ended up having it better than her sister Nebula (more on that later). A warrior first and foremost, Gamora’s tough exterior is slowly worn down by the loveable antics of her chosen family, the Guardians, in particular Star-Lord.
As a POC actress, Zoe Saldaña, who portrays Gamora, is following in the footsteps of the legendary Nichelle Nichols, as a leading actress in a sci-fi franchise. Nichols rise to fame shattered barriers for viewers at the time, as kids of color could look to a show like Star Trek and finally identify with a female sci-fi hero that looked like they did. And Saldaña, who also took on the mantle of Uhura in the Kelvin timeline Star Trek films, continues that tradition and legacy, but in a way that showcases a range of emotions in a multi-layered performance that can be characterized as two different characters: the Gamora from Volume 1 to Infinity War, and the Gamora post-Endgame and through Volume 3. However, Saldaña has taken the concept of being a leading actress of color in genre cinema further by becoming the only actor in showbiz to star in the three highest grossing movies of all time: Avatar: The Way of Water, Avatar, and Avengers: Endgame.
That being said, as a character, Gamora is a terrific character; vulnerable, tough, but also a terrific moral center for the Guardians when Peter loses his way at times. She held off Thanos for years by withholding the location of the Soul Stone. She even essentially landed the killing blow on the Abilisk in Vol. 2. And in Vol. 3, she has a strong arc about learning about the values of family and devotion. It’s an admirable character played by an admirable POC that represents a staple in the medium of science fiction.
Ain’t no thing like him, except him! The heart and soul of the Guardians, as well as the smartest one in the group, Rocket is able to create any gadget from any scrap pieces. He’s seen repairing the ship regularly (as in Vol. 2), and creating random bombs and weapons together instantly as seen in Vol. 1. He’s even the best escape artist the group has ever seen, being the lead on the escape plan from The Kyln, and even helping the Guardians escape the Collector’s Fortress from the Disneyland attraction, Mission Breakout. Vol. 3 explores how Rocket became that way, and the emotional impact he has on those around him. The character was the only one of the core Guardian team that survived the blip, and spent five years beside Nebula, and with The Avengers. He is a hero through and through, playing a significant part in the “time heist” and helping save, not only Earth, but the entire universe as a whole! Without Rocket, the Milano or the Bowie just wouldn’t fly. His contributions to the Guardians’ ability to travel throughout the galaxy is invaluable! After all, how can you have a National Space Day and not bring up a character named Rocket, right?
DRAX THE DESTROYER
Played by mixed Filipino/Greek actor Dave Bautista, Drax has one of the most non-obvious, but interesting character arcs in the MCU. On the surface, Drax seems to have gone from vengeful destroyer to class clown. But there’s more to it than that. As audiences will discover in Vol. 3, Drax’s gentle giant approach and comedic moments bring a tenderness to the group. Combined with his incredibly useful super strength, the Guardians need him to provide a bit of levity during times that the universe can be dark. Having lost a family with the deaths of his wife and daughter at the hands of The Mad Titan, Thanos, Drax became something of a surrogate uncle to the team, and a close buddy of Mantis.
It’s sad to think that we need to talk about two Groots. The first did not survive the first movie (RIP Groot 1). Without Groot 1’s sacrifice, the Guardians would not have survived the Battle of Xandar against Ronan’s forces in Vol. 1. Imagine the amount of lives lost if the Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t survive as a result of Groot 1. Everything we know in the MCU would be insanely different (there’s an idea for a What If episode somewhere in there). But with his death came the birth of Groot 2.
We’ve been with Groot 2 from the very beginning of his life, awakening on the Milano once Rocket saved a piece of Groot 1 and planted it. We know he loves music and dancing, from the first post-credits scene in Vol.1 to the opening sequence in Vol. 2, and even some touching moments in Vol. 3 and the Holiday Special. We’ve seen him grow from the sapling, to Baby Groot, to Tween Groot, and now “swoll” Groot. Without Groot 2’s actions, Thor would never have gotten Stormbreaker at the end of Infinity War. Thanos would still be alive (since that’s what Thor used to kill him). He’s been a critical part of this familly and the franchise for so long, and is a huge fan favorite thanks to his gentle nature, useful powers, and overall adorable demeanor. We love Groot!
There isn’t a single character in the MCU who subtly has become more and more of a scene stealer with every appearance than Pom Klementieff’s Mantis. Introduced in Vol. 2 as a servant of Ego the Living Planet, Mantis’ curiously naïve nature and unique power set helped her stand out among an ensemble of already established fan-favorite characters to become a favorite herself. Introduced as a character powerful enough to subdue both Thanos and Ego, that power has been completely understated throughout the duration of the Infinity Saga, and post-Endgame. However, when one thinks about it, it really could be a big threat if left in the wrong hands. Thankfully, Mantis has prove herself to be a strong moral compass for the team, especially following Gamora’s death. She adeptly holds her own during the Battle of Earth. But we don’t see her truly coming into her own as a lead, a comedic secret weapon, Peter Quill’s sister, and a badass until the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and Vol. 3. Mantis has so many standout moments in the most recent movie, and her character arc is arguably one of the best as well. She’s a quiet force of nature disguised as a free-spirited sweetheart that can kick names and take ass!
Easily one of the most complex characters in the MCU, Nebula has had perhaps the most tragic backstory of all the Guardians, next to Rocket. Tortured for majority of her life, and estranged from a sister who was blind to her needs for family and mercy, Nebula had to grow a tough exterior to shield herself from the potential pain and disappointment of life and the evils Thanos dragged her through. It wasn’t until she and Gamora finally began to understand each other that Nebula was able to soften up a bit. And following that, she became a real hero. She single-handedly kept Tony Stark alive and sane after being stranded in space following the events of Infinity War. And without that, the universe would have been doomed. She lost everyone in her life during the blip, and her relationship with Rocket only became stronger as a result of being all each other had for five years. That being said, after all the suffering and heroism we’ve seen her go through, getting to see the character finally get to joke, and smile, be at peace with the unlikely family she never expected to find, and ultimately win is one of the biggest rewards we’ve ever received in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There are several options for entertainment to help you celebrate this National Space Day! And they’re all terrific ones too, ranging from Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, The Right Stuff and many others. But if you’re like me, and you love superheroes, I’d say you’ll want to go with the greatest superhero space opera trilogy ever created, and celebrate by watching the final curtain call for the galaxy’s most beloved, endearing A-holes!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now playing in theaters everywhere!
And don’t forget to catch up before seeing Vol. 3 by watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vols. 1-2 as well Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special only on Disney+.
We hope you enjoyed our Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 week on The Nerds of Color. Be sure to catch up with all the coverage by checking out our review, and our interviews with Chris Pratt and Chukwudi Iwuji!