Grading How 'Avengers: Infinity War' Handles The Guardians Of The Galaxy

If you're as outspoken an advocate of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy as I am, Avengers: Infinity War probably left you with loads to internally process. Yes, we're going to grade the Guardians of the Galaxy in Infinity War.

James Gunn's lovable cosmic cowboys play a pivotal role in challenging Thanos' scheme to collect all six Infinity Stones. Star-Lord, Drax and Mantis end up alongside Tony Stark's space clan, Rocket and Groot aid Thor's Stormbreaker quest, Gamora reunites with her father Thanos – the Guardians have plenty going on, but not every arc struck me as complete. We knew there'd be some character development issues with such a cluttered team-up feature, but the range of representation for my favorite MCU heroes endure scales from "Is Groot as mighty as Thor?" to "Gamora hitting rock-bottom."

Oh, should I mention spoilers will follow? I mean, why would you click on an Infinity War article without seeing the movie anyway. In any case, here goes:

Massive Infinity War spoilers follow.

Grading the Guardians of the Galaxy in Infinity War

There. Now can we highlight each Guardian one by one and rate their overall inclusion in Avengers: Infinity War? Not actor performances, mind you. This is more how the expansive Avengers sequel allows each renegade lunatic to interact and further establish themselves in the MCU and away from James Gunn's watchful eye.

Groot: A+

Infinity War is a perfect reflection of Groot's worth and placement. His roots have been planted squarely in the MCU as a monosyllabic sidekick whose comedic relief changes with the seasons, each iteration of growth achieving evolved uniqueness. We've had "Adult Groot," "Baby Groot, and here we get "Teenage Punk Groot" (complete with a handheld video game obsession). Boredom and zero motivation and snark are reflected in his voice, yet he's still granted such an important role – if not the most meaningful – of the film's climactic third act.

The Russo brothers nurture comedy-first expectancies like slouched-over Groot quipping an offensive "I am GroOoOot" that shocks his friends/parents/whatever we call the Guardians. And there's this brilliantly warm-hearted dialogue with Captain America:

"I am Groot."

"I am Steve Rogers."

Groot, as a comedic device, can be thrown into an almost Monty Python arc where he's understood by a bioengineered mammal (Rocket), repeating the same line over and over while others either misunderstand or react emphatically. It's a punchy gag, yet Infinity War proves he's far more than a chuckle factory (not new information). We already knew Groot could regenerate and push buttons, but we didn't know he could wield the successor to Mjolnir. Groot saves Thor by grabbing the freshly-poured lightning axe (Stormbreaker), hoisting it high and chopping his arm clean off as the weapon's handle. All while his "Arcade Defender" round hopefully remains on pause.

Rocket Raccoon: A

Infinity War flips the dynamic on Star-Lord and Rocket when Thor assumes the super smart trash panda to be his squad's Captain. Rocket, ever the rascal, jumps at the chance to squash Star-Lord's ego. Remember, this is the same character who, for two Guardians films, felt unappreciated, undervalued and vulnerable. Now an Asgardian beefcake is pegging him as a leader? It's a great look on Rocket, whose enjoyment of power is infectious considering he takes cues from both Yondu and Star-Lord.

Emotions never come easy for Rocket, but it's obvious that Thor seeks comfort after being found brutalized by Thanos, mourning his brother and friends, obsessed with vengeance, etc. Rocket collects himself, plasters a smile on and attempts to console Thor – in the most Rocket way possible. The gesture exudes about 50% sincerity and genuine understanding, yet still permits Thor to lay all his cards on the table – even though it does little to sway his desire to forge a weapon mighty enough to slay Thanos. Still, Rocket proves the words of others are not lost on him and there's an actual strive to be a better Guardian. D'aw.

Then again, Rocket's standout moment is the most Rocket sequence you can ask for.

Thor Bifrösts his way to Wakanda with Rocket and Groot as his flanking entourage. Captain America, Black Panther and more are already holding the frontlines against advancing Thanos beasties, so Rocket gets to blasting. He ends up right next to Bucky, who – as odds mount – picks the trigger-happy animal up with one hand and starts spinning in a circle as to dual-wield two guns. Except one blaster is a snarling Guardian of the Galaxy.

Unfortunately, Bucky won't give up his modded-out tactical assault rifle when Rocket asks. Although Thor does receive a spare eye implant from Rocket's pocket so he can shed that pesky patch!

Drax: A

Throughout the happenings of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Drax and Mantis' chemistry quickly cemented the MCU's top platonic couple no one asked for. In Avengers: Infinity War, that statement is proven tenfold – but Drax is still given heavier weights to lift. Drax is filled with rage, and it's time for his self-motivating deathwish to be paid off with Thanos' arrival. That's when he's not turned into a heap of decorative chunks by the Reality Stone.

Also still relevant – more than ever – is Drax's grasp on humor. Find me someone funnier in the MCU at this very second and you'll be wrong. The only feature on Drax bigger than his muscles is a brazen confidence that makes for some of the most oddball lines of Infinity War, from "mastering the art of invisibility" to this burst-out-loud exchange between new friends:

Peter Quill: "Where is Gamora?"

Tony Stark: "I'll do you one better: Who is Gamora?"

Drax: "I'll do you one better: Why is Gamora?"

Even Drax's least noteworthy lines still make such brilliant use of the most well-fleshed character Marvel has to offer, if only because there's nothing to hide. Drax says what he means, be it ignoring Tony's plans (and telling him) or accentuating how Thor is a real "man" and Peter Quill is but an average "dude" in comparison. He's the friend you try to stop from verbally embarrassing themselves so you shoot them a glare – yet they keep talking, digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole.

Thankfully, for us, Drax doesn't, nor ever will, care.

Mantis: B

I thought about lumping Mantis in with Drax but opted out because Drax has plenty of his own lines that needed singular treatment. She's more of a sidekick to Drax (who eggs on his stone-dead brand of humor), in addition to acting as an emotional channel for other heroes who lack the openness to share their most intimate feelings.

Then I recalled the despair I felt when Thanos' Reality Stone turned her into a spiraled apple peel or some kind of abstract figure painting.

Mantis works tremendously well as Drax's plus-one – Infinity War proves this further – but she's more than an additive. Mantis and those big, beady insectoid eyes strive to add another wacky perspective on an already motley Guardians crew. Case in point: have we ever seen her creep around like an actual praying mantis – hands held frontwards and craned – before Avengers: Infinity War? She's earned her place as a Marvel hero thanks to loyalty displayed in this epic team-up.

Sidenote: I'd pay anything for a Drax and Mantis road trip comedy.

Star-Lord: C

Star-Lord gonna Star-Lord, am I right?

Chances are you probably had to be restrained once it became dreadfully obvious that Peter Quill's untamable rage was about to awaken Thanos from Mantis' sleep, thus keeping the Infinity Gauntlet snug around his hand. But, if you paid attention to Doctor Strange, the outburst had to happen. Yes, Star-Lord is the entire reason half of the Avengers turn into cigarette ash (maybe). No, it wasn't out of character. Absolutely, it will be proven a positive action come the next movie.

That said, the head-bashing outburst is not a good look for Star-Lord.

It's not even the idea that Peter Quill is so unstable and plagued by loss that Gamora's death would cause him to doom Earth. That I can buy – he's a blowhard egomaniac who still cares for himself (but he's learning). What jolted me is the line afterward (or something similar): "Did we just lose?" Such a revelation is supposed to highlight how those who've only experienced victory have never known such defeat, but it's a bit clownish. Like, what did you think was going to happen when you sabotaged the one-time-only plan to kill the universe's most powerful being?

Elsewhere, Star-Lord is charmingly addicted to attention and still one of my favorite Marvel characters. A few jokes try to force James Gunn's more "juvenile" sensibilities – a particular grenade-testicles gag, for example – but the Thor sizing-up sequence plays just right. Peter is completely emasculated, jealous and stripped of cool in a humbling way that benefits the typically dashing moonman of mystery. He's still the same Star-Lord that turned Chris Pratt into an international megastar, complete with a middle-finger Thanos' way as he leaps into Dr. Strange's dimensional portal. It's, that Thanos wake-up.

Marvel really knows how to milk a moment, and by "milk," I of course mean "reuse the same last-minute 'dramatic' cop-out formula over and over again like we should be surprised."

Gamora: D-

Avengers: Infinity War failed no character more than Gamora. Hard stop. I've already surmised my feelings on the inadequacy of her demise in my larger rundown of Marvel's "death" problem and will gladly do so again. It is, in my eyes, a tremendously unceremonious "farewell" that doubles back not only on James Gunn's character evolution, but the MCU's own noticeable steps to balance female representation where capes and saviors are concerned.

Gamora is not only made into a girlfriend pawn' sacrifice that motivates Star-Lord's continued life, but she dies at the gargantuan hand of her fatherly abuser."I get the emotionality of having Thanos throw his only daughter off a cliffside ledge – splatting onto the ground below – but it's so very situational. Just like most coincidental-to-a-fault Marvel pivot points. "Infinity War's only shocking death couldn't be one of your countless interchangeable white bro egomaniacs who all share the same chiseled traits?"

Marvel is a well-oiled machine when it comes to torn-from-panel action and extravagance, but dramatics lack equal greasing. Gamora is a casualty of quickie stake-raising whose core functionality is to advance the arcs of men around her – a kiss for Quill, roided-out Grimace's tears – and at too rapid a pace despite Avengers: Infinity War running 16 hours. Gunn gave the world an unlikely hero on a personal salvage quest, but the Russo brothers just knocked a rook off their cosmic chess board.