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James Gunn won’t stop devastating people with his Groot headcanon

Warning: major spoilers ahead for Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War.

James Gunn is terrorizing Twitter again. The director and co-writer of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies is an active participant on the social media platform, and he frequently interacts with fans, sometimes to their dismay. Back in February, he casually mentioned to a fan asking a jokey question that Groot, the sentient tree character who became a breakout favorite character in the first Guardians, is dead. In the film, Groot is shattered while saving his friends, but his partner Rocket plants a piece of him which grows into a cute infant version of Groot. Judging from the fan reaction to Gunn’s revelation (which, in fairness, he said he’d made before, and that it made people upset every time), people who viewed the original Guardians mostly thought Baby Groot was a reincarnation of Original Groot, and just needed time to grow up. Nope, Gunn jerked that rug right out from under everybody.

Now Gunn has answered another fan question about Groot. At the end of Avengers: Infinity War (seriously, spoilers here), Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet to erase half the people in the universe, in a poorly thought-out attempt to reduce overcrowding and save resources. People chosen for death in his cosmic lottery tend to have a second or so to realize what’s happening before they disintegrate to ash, and many of the fallen get a final line as they go. Groot’s is, of course, “I am Groot,” virtually the only thing the character can say. But past productions have revealed that Groot voice actor Vin Diesel gets a special script with Groot’s lines in English, since every “I am Groot” has a different meaning, and Gunn wants Diesel to get the inflection right. (The same goes for Diesel’s “Yo soy Groot” and “Wo shì Groot” readings when he does the voiceover for foreign distribution of the Marvel films.)

So naturally, someone on Twitter asked what Groot’s final “I am Groot,” delivered to Rocket just before he dissolved, actually meant. And Gunn, mercilessly, answered:

Given that Original Groot — who was mostly Rocket’s partner (even if he sometimes seemed a little dim) — is dead, and the latest Groot grew up from tree-infancy with Rocket as his, well, guardian, it makes logical sense that he’d see Rocket as a parental figure rather than an equal. Given that as of the end of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and throughout Infinity War, he’s an irascible, video-game-obsessed, bored-with-everything teenager, it also makes sense that he wouldn’t show much obvious parental deference for Rocket, and that viewers would have no way of knowing he saw Rocket as his father. (In the movies, Peter Quill seems to be taking on much more of that role, by asking Groot to clean up his room and berating him for I-am-Groot profanity.) But in that last moment, of course he’d reach out for comfort to the only parent he’s known, just as Spider-Man (Tom Holland) reaches out to Iron Man, the closest thing to an adult present as Spider-Man is dissolving.

Naturally, viewers are finding this reveal emotionally devastating. (“I’m sorry!” Gunn told one horrified Twitterer. “He asked! It’s in the script!” “I wish I hadn’t asked now!” said the original poster.) It’s a weird world we live in, where finding out that a tree-teen thinks a bipedal raccoon is his father is an emotionally powerful revelation. But at this point, Gunn is starting to rival Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling for post-hoc reveals that don’t actually turn up in the material the audience is given. It’s kind of strange that he keeps coming up with information that renders devastating moments onscreen exponentially more devastating… if viewers had any idea what they were actually seeing. Tuning in to Gunn’s Twitter can feel a little like living in a world where Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have a perfectly conventional, non-talky fight in Return of the Jedi, and then George Lucas casually mentions on The Late Show with Steven Colbert, “Oh, by the way, that fight was a lot more painful than you realized, because Vader is actually Luke’s father.” You… couldn’t have told us that at the time?

At least he’s contrite about it. Gunn tweeted this morning that he had no idea what he was doing to people with this latest information.

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