A decade ago, James Gunn had plans for a short film featuring Rocket and Groot, which would have set the stage for their leadership roles in the Guardians of the Galaxy team in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
While working on the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Gunn was also developing individual short films for the main characters, with one specifically focusing on Rocket and Groot. Although the project was never realized, the director has shared details about what the film would have entailed.
Rocket and Groot’s journey has spanned several Marvel movies, including appearances in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Their story is not yet complete, as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 introduced a new lineup for the team, with Rocket and Groot being the only original members. If the post-credits scene’s setup is followed through in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it appears that Rocket and Groot will fight alongside Adam Warlock, Phyla-Vell, Kraglin, and Cosmo the Spacedog in future battles.
The reason Rocket and Groot remain on the new Guardians team while others have moved on to new chapters in their lives can be understood by looking at Gunn’s description of their short film. According to the director, the film would have depicted Rocket, Groot, and a new character named Tibius Lark trapped in an underground well. Lark, a robot who served as Groot’s caretaker, entrusted him to Rocket. Lark had worked in a zoo where Groot was used as an exhibit. Although this backstory never made it into the movies, its existence suggests that there is still untapped potential for these characters in the MCU.
The short film’s central theme would have revolved around the shared experience of being wrongly imprisoned and abused, which played a significant role in both Rocket and Groot’s backstories. Given their tragic pasts, it’s understandable why they would choose to continue fighting as Guardians of the Galaxy, rescuing others from similar cruel fates. While the other Guardians have moved on, Rocket and Groot’s dedication to their roles as heroes is a natural progression for their characters.
The reason this story was never told in-universe, according to Gunn, was primarily a matter of timing. Since the first Guardians film was entering production, directing four short films alongside a feature-length MCU movie was deemed unnecessary. However, some footage for Rocket and Groot’s story had been shot, as it was further along in development compared to the others. Consequently, a portion of it was shown at San Diego Comic-Con in 2013, but it was not used beyond that. Nevertheless, Tibius Lark was mentioned in the first movie, indicating that his connection to Groot could be considered MCU canon.
In conclusion, a decade ago, James Gunn had plans for a short film featuring Rocket and Groot, but it was never realized due to time constraints. However, the existence of the planned film and the details shared by Gunn indicate that there is still untapped storytelling potential for these characters in the MCU. The shared theme of overcoming their tragic pasts and continuing to fight for justice makes their inclusion in the new Guardians of the Galaxy team a logical choice.