The Big Picture
- Throughout the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Groot’s limited vocabulary of “I am Groot” has been a defining characteristic that fans have come to love.
- Our understanding of Groot’s language is not about learning a new language, but about forming a deep connection with him that goes beyond words.
- Groot’s final words of “I love you, guys” in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 signify the strong bond between Groot and the Guardians, as well as the bond between the audience and the characters.
Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.If you are one of the millions of fans who’s seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, you may have found yourself caught off guard by a surprising moment at the end of the film: Groot SPEAKING. But the real question we should be asking isn’t how he was suddenly able to talk, but why we were finally able to understand him. Throughout the appearances of both the original Groot and his son (both voiced by Vin Diesel) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the characters have been known to only say two phrases: ‘I am Groot’ and ‘We are Groot.’ So what changed?
As director James Gunn explained many times in the past, understanding Groot is less about mastering a new language and more about forging a connection with the character that goes beyond words. It wasn’t until we formed that deep connection with him that we were finally able to understand him saying “I love you, guys” to his family at the end of the trilogy’s emotional final installment. Now that we’ve had a chance to process the tearful goodbye of our favorite found family, let’s unpack the significance of Groot’s final words, chart how our relationship with this beloved character has evolved throughout the trilogy, and examine how Gamora’s connection with Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 offers a vital clue to his true nature.
The History of Groot’s Language
Groot’s limited vocabulary is not only a defining characteristic of his unique species but also a source of humor and heartwarming moments throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a Flora colossus from Planet X, Groot’s language is nearly impossible to comprehend due to the inflexibility of his larynx, resulting in his dialogue consisting of solely one phrase. Or, as Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) explains to Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy, “Well, he don’t know talking good like me and you, so his vocabulistics is limited to ‘I’ and ‘am’ and ‘Groot.’ Exclusively, in that order.”
The limitations of Groot’s language have resulted in some of the most entertaining moments in Marvel history, such as his iconic first meeting with Captain America where he simply replied, “I am Steve Rogers.” However, not all characters in the MCU are left as confused as Steve by Groot’s language. In some instances, the audience and characters who don’t know Groot can even rely on characters like Rocket to translate the true meaning behind his words. Take, for instance, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, when Rocket deciphers one of Groot’s messages to Yondu (Michael Rooker) as “Welcome to the frickin’ Guardians of the Galaxy,” but points out that Groot didn’t use the word “frickin’.”
Other times, the audience has had to depend on context clues to understand what Groot meant. For example, in Avengers: Infinity War, when Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) tells Groot to put his game away and Groot responds with a sarcastic “I am Groot,” leading the Guardians to react with shock, communicating to viewers that he had said something incredibly offensive. Despite the constraints of Groot’s verbal communication, fans developed a deep emotional attachment to the character over the years that transcends language. As it turns out, it was this bond that allowed us to finally understand Groot in the heartwarming final goodbye sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, when he turned to his family and said, “I love you, guys.”
James Gunn Confirms Fan Theory
The final goodbye sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 left fans stunned, prompting many to wonder how Groot was finally able to speak. While many theories circulated among fans, the most popular hypothesis was that our connection with Groot had grown so much that we were finally able to understand him. This theory was based on James Gunn’s words in previous Q&A’s. “He doesn’t have a universal translator,” Gunn said on Twitter back in 2020 in one such discussion. “And people don’t learn Groot through knowing the language – they learn it through connecting with Groot.”
Gunn’s official confirmation on Twitter earlier this week left fans feeling vindicated and moved. When a fan shared a Gizmodo article covering the popular theory with the caption “I really need this to be true,” Gunn replied, “Spoiler… Yes, that’s exactly what it means!” This revelation was a real gift to fans who had grown to deeply love the character over the years and a clear indication that Gunn undoubtedly values him as much as we do.
James Gunn’s dedication to capturing all the nuances of Groot’s character has always been evident in his work. Vin Diesel even reflected on how lucky he was to have a director who cared so much about capturing the character’s nuances. In an interview on the red carpet of the Guardians of the Galaxy world premiere, Diesel said, “When I came into the recording room, there was a fifty-page document that on the left-hand side it said “I am Groot,” and on the right-hand side, it would have a paragraph or a sentence explaining what he was really meaning or what he was really trying to say.” This attention to detail is a testament to Gunn’s commitment to making Groot a beloved and relatable character to audiences around the world.
Groot’s Evolution During the Guardians of the Galaxy Franchise
In Guardians of the Galaxy, we are first introduced to the adult Groot, a grown character with an already-established friendship with Rocket. Throughout the film, Groot’s communication is limited to solely “I am Groot,” and Rocket is the only one who understands him. Once the other characters and audiences get to know Groot, he makes a decision to sacrifice himself for his new friends, departing with a farewell “We are Groot.” This was the one instance where we ever heard Groot say anything but “I am Groot,” and it can be argued that the entire group of characters and the audience were meant to understand that Groot was literally saying, “We are Groot. I will live on through you, my new friends.” This scene solidified Groot as a fan favorite and set the stage for his continued growth throughout the franchise.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 introduces a new character, Baby Groot, who is unlike his father from the first film. He is shy, innocent, and cautious about who he forms friendships with, notably taking his time to warm up to Drax (Dave Bautista) until the end of the film. Throughout the movie, we witness Groot’s growth as he learns to navigate and understand the world around him, including handling the loss of a friend (Yondu), all without his father’s guidance. In the post-credits scene, we meet Teenage Groot, who displays typical teenage behavior and wants nothing to do with the adults around him.
Despite facing immense trauma through his dematerialization in Avengers: Infinity War and subsequent return to immediate war in Avengers: Endgame, Groot is still very much a child trying to find his place in the universe and on his team when we meet him again in Thor Love & Thunder. It’s not until the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special when we meet “Swoll Groot” that we start to see him grow into a mature young adult. At the end of the special, he gifts his closest friends with hand-made mini-dioramas that showcase special moments from the film. This moment allows us to understand who Groot is at heart and see him in his true element as an artist, which we saw a glimpse of in the I Am Groot series when he set out to create an art project featuring himself and the Guardians. Seeing the depth of Groot’s warmth and compassion as he shined in his element and basked in the joy of his family made us feel that much closer to him and set the stage for our relationship to grow in the future.
The Audience & Gamora Learning To Understand Groot in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’
The return of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 really embodies the final stage of the journey fans were about to embark on with Groot. When we first reunite with Gamora after her clever resurrection in Endgame, she is no longer a part of the Guardians and has no memory of her past adventures with them or her relationship with Groot. As a result, she can no longer understand Groot’s language, and the team has to translate for her. She even makes a joke that the team is just “making stuff up” that he’s saying. This moment highlights the distance between Gamora and her former family, as well as the profound changes that have taken place since her departure.
She now finds herself a member of her newfound family, the Ravagers, and is recruited by Nebula (Karen Gillan) to assist in rescuing Rocket. Despite the extreme awkwardness, Gamora gradually cultivates fresh bonds with the Guardians, particularly Star-Lord, Drax, and Mantis (Pom Klementieff), during their quest to save Rocket. However, it is her reunion with Groot that is the most stirring. As she spends more time with the group, she begins to comprehend Groot’s language once more. This moment of communion represents a significant juncture in Gamora’s odyssey, demonstrating her reintegration into the family.
Groot’s parting words in the film, “I love you guys,” bear additional significance in light of Gamora’s voyage. His words embody the overarching theme of the film, family, and bear testament to the profound bond between Groot and the Guardians. For the audience, the impact of Groot’s words is twofold. On one hand, it represents a moment of catharsis, as we witness the apex of the relationship between Groot and Gamora. On the other hand, it serves as a reminder of the shared journey that both Gamora and the audience have been on. Just as Gamora learned to understand Groot, we too have become a part of this unconventional and marvelous family.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s Parting Message To Fans: “We ARE Groot”
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 delivers an incredibly satisfying conclusion to the beloved franchise, with each character coming full circle in their respective journeys. From Drax the Destroyer returning to his roots as Drax the Dad, to Rocket finding closure on his past, freeing him to step into the protector role he always wanted to be for his former family, to Nebula’s standout arc where she transitions into becoming the caregiver she always needed, for the children she and Drax vowed to protect.
But it’s Groot’s parting words that leave the biggest impact because it’s a message that speaks directly to the hearts of every fan who has been on this journey with the Guardians. Because in that bittersweet moment, we realize that the journey was never just about the characters on screen; it was about the bond that we, as fans, formed with them. Through their highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies, the Guardians of the Galaxy became our family, too. And as our favorite found family bid farewell to each other, it’s clear that they were saying goodbye to us, too. This powerful send-off is brimming with meaning, reinforcing that the Guardians’ family bond extends to everyone who cherishes the franchise. With Groot as his vessel, James Gunn delivers one final message: “You were as much a part of this as we were. We are Groot.