WARNING: This article contains massive spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, in theaters now.
As soon as Thanos gathered his final Infinity Stone, he made good on his promises and killed off half of the galaxy. Avengers: Infinity War's finale was filled with heartbreaking moments, with two of the most devastating belonging to Peter Parker/Spider-Man and everyone's favorite walking, talking tree, Groot.
But the tears weren't down flowing after we saw the teenage Guardian fall away into ashes. Earlier this week, James Gunn (director of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and executive producer on Infinity War) translated Teen Groot's last words as he disintegrated. It turns out that just before he died, Groot called Rocket Raccoon "Dad," a revelation that twisted the sentimental knife in our collective guts once more.
It was such a shattering revelation that Gunn had to apologize for breaking hearts all over again. On the other hand, it made something very clear about the character: Groot is the very soul of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With that in mind, we revisited what we know of the short-spoken guy to figure out exactly why he resonates with fans so much.
Sure, moments like Peter Parker dying in Tony Stark's hands and Thanos sacrificing Gamora stand out as genuinely touching Infinity War moments, but with Groot, it's even more powerful. There's a unique innocence to the character, even mores than Spider-Man, though he's a teen as well. Groot simply exudes a different kind of charm, and even if he's an adult, there's the perception that he's the most innocent hero in the MCU.
Most notably, everyone loves Groot because he's a superhero without really being a superhero. All he wants to do is help his friends and protect them along the way. This was evident when he sacrificed himself to save the Guardians in a space-crash in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, and we saw that fearless attitude in the face of certain death once more in Infinity War.
Now, don't get us wrong -- he's not the only one to embody these traits, but what the Russo brothers and Gunn did in Infinity War was make him highly relatable to the audience. After all, we've all known someone who is/was, or actually were angsty, video-game playing teens ourselves at some point in life. It's just that in Groot's case, his selfless devotion sees him putting the Arcade Defender game down and placing himself in harms way on the field of battle when the need arises. That's simply the nature of the character, he's pleasantly heroic, even when being a whiny brat.
It shows when Thanos arrives in Wakanda and Groot sees so many heroes who are more powerful than him getting taken down. Undeterred, he goes up screaming against the Mad Titan only to get swatted away, eventually leading to the exchange between him and Rocket as he starts withering away. This particular scene is what emphasizes why Groot will always tug at our heartstrings; we see him in pain and losing his rebellious facade, leaving him at his most vulnerable. This scared disposition is what makes us connect with and adore him so much, because it reiterates that Groot always wears his heart on his leaves.
What makes the twig's "Dad" revelation hit home even harder for many fans is that we know Teen Groot is actually the son of the original. When we saw Baby Groot in GotG Vol. 2, many believed it was adult Groot's consciousness but in a new body. However, Gunn clarified that this reborn Groot had no memory of his dad’s allies from the first film, meaning that he was effectively raised by the Guardians. And therein lies the emotional impact of the character -- in the first movie, he sacrificed himself to save his family. Now, in Infinity War, he's helpless and dying, calling out to Rocket, his father. In short, he's the one in need of saving now, and Rocket's inability to do so just rips him -- and us -- to emotional shreds.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Infinity War stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Tom Hiddleston, and Josh Brolin.