Guardians of the Galaxy was a surprise hit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film popularized a cast of little known C-list characters, turned its lead, Chris Pratt, into a star, and most importantly, expanded the scope of the MCU. The film set box office records in summer 2014 and became a cultural phenomenon. Naturally, fans are eagerly anticipating Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2., which hits theaters May of next year. Marvel has been ratcheting up the film’s marketing, churning out new trailers, images, and character details.
After its release, Vol. 2’s trailer quickly became an internet sensation, along with Baby Groot, a character so cute and spunky that he wouldn’t be out of place in a Pixar movie. Considering the briefly featured, mini version of Groot sold boatloads of merchandise for the last film, some folks have cynically suggested that his continued tiny stature in the sequel is a ploy to sell more toys.
Director James Gunn has long been known for his candor with fans, and responded to the criticism on Facebook, insisting that Baby Groot was a necessary component of his upcoming sequel, and even necessitated an adjustment to the film’s timeline.
“To be honest, when I was first working on the script for Vol. 2 I was planning on it being years after the first movie and for little Groot to be a grown Groot. But there was something missing. First of all, I thought there was a lot of development the group needed to go through as a group – and it would be a shame for the audience to miss it. And, secondly, for whatever reason, Groot just wasn’t working. It was then I came upon the idea of having Vol. 2 take place very shortly after the first film and for Groot to still be Baby Groot, with quite a lot to learn. Even though I had already long-ago-decided on the other characters involved, this change opened up the whole movie for me and it suddenly all came together. I fell in love with the script for Vol. 2, and I felt like we were creating something very special.”
There are a number of additional details worth mention. First, Vol. 2 happens shortly after the events of the original film. Since Guardians takes place far away from Earth and doesn’t connect directly to the larger MCU, Gunn was able to adjust the timeline to fit his story needs. Secondly, Gunn was actually concerned about pitching Baby Groot (and other strange characters) in the film.
“When I approached Marvel Studios with my idea for Vol. 2 I was afraid of the involvement of Ego the Living Planet – a rather, uh, broad character in the 616 universe of Marvel Comics. I was afraid of the inclusion of Mantis and Ayesha, and more prominent roles for Nebula and Yondu. But I was even more afraid of approaching them with the concept that Baby Groot, and not Groot, would be a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, perhaps it seems like a hole-in-one idea now, but Groot was the most popular character in the first film, and sometimes when something works studios are more than a little reluctant to change.”
Fortunately, Marvel, like Gunn valued rich character development over the “safe” road. One of the reasons Guardians of the Galaxy connected with audiences was its lovable characters; watching them slowly bond and grow as a team added deep emotional layers to what could have easily been a shallow spectacle. Baby Groot was a necessary inclusion, in part because Gunn wanted to jump right back into the story and examine the Guardians evolution as a family, along with all the quirkiness, tension, and messiness that comes with it.