Marvel Studios is currently in the hot chair for all the anonymous reports that are coming out about their borderline abusive treatment of VFX artists. Well, it’s not exactly in the hot chair because Marvel and Kevin Feige have successfully brainwashed an entire generation of entertainment consumers to not critique something they love. Add to that the lack of knowledge about how a monopoly on the industry, money, working hours, and mental health correlates to one another, and you’ve got a large group of people cheering the decay of cinema and TV. So, it does feel weird to sit and talk about a completely CGI-animated anthology series, “I Am Groot,” that wants us to forget about all this and have fun watching the Guardian of the Galaxy do the most inconsequential things ever.
All the episodes of “I Am Groot” are written and directed by Kirsten Lepore. They are executive produced by Brand Winderbaum, Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, and James Gunn. And, yes, Vin Diesel returns to voice Groot.
‘Groot’s First Steps’
As far as I can tell, this takes place between “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”. In a brief montage, we see him grow from a sapling to the fully formed Baby Groot that we see throughout “Vol. 2.” It seems like the episode is about Groot learning that the moment you learn how to walk, you have to take care of yourself and that you’ll be replaced by someone who is more aesthetically pleasing. And at that point, you can either choose to be vengeful, or you can choose to co-exist. But it’s told in the fun, playful tone that Groot is synonymous with. It sets your expectations for the animation, the comedy, and the voice-work. Which, for better or for worse, is all fine. It’s not on par with what we see on the big screen, and it’s not bad enough to make you want to gouge your eyes out. It is fine.
‘The Little Guy’
We see Groot learning to build a house of his own, complete with a wind-chime of sorts. But soon, it’s taken over by a bird-like alien that’s bigger than he is, which is then eaten up by an even bigger bird-like alien, decimating Groot’s house in the process. This causes the little guy to throw a fit. A very long fit. However, that’s when Groot learns that he isn’t the smallest person there and starts to feel like a god. So, now he has two options in front of him: being a destructive god or being a benevolent one. The short shows him doing a bit of both and ultimately (accidentally) committing genocide. Well, it’s a Disney+ show. Do you really think the makers are going to let kids see their favorite character kill a civilization? No. That said, it is hilariously disturbing to see that Groot thinks he can get away with it. Here’s to hoping that the little guys do get their revenge.
Do you remember the “Toys in the Attic” episode of “Cowboy Bebop,” where the members of The Bebop are haunted by an alien goop? Then Spike (Koichi Yamadera/Steve Blum) goes after it and finds out that it has come out of a fridge in which all kinds of discarded food and junk are rotting. Yes, this short is essentially the “Guardians of the Galaxy” iteration of that. Heck, it even ends the same way as the episode of “Cowboy Bebop” did. Except the alien goop in “I Am Groot” doesn’t harm anybody or Groot. It just makes the sapling and us realize that there can be only one Groot. Until Groot comes across various versions of himself from the entire multiverse, of course. The episode also goes to show that Groot will choose a dance-off with his enemy before going for the jugular. Also, if you’ve always wanted to see Groot dance to “Ran Kan Kan,” this will scratch that itch.
‘Groot Takes A Bath’
I am going to go ahead and say this episode is a commentary on hair loss. In particular, hair loss that happens very early in one’s life, also known as androgenic alopecia. So, technically, Groot is hairless, if we consider his leaves to be his hair (which gives the second episode a whole different meaning). He finds a puddle with alien properties in it that allows him to grow leaves all over his body, which can be considered as a metaphor for all the illegal, experimental hair products whose results are temporary and finite. This irks an alien with a proper pompadour hairstyle, and it literally boasts about its full set of bodily hair. Hence, Groot teaches that alien a lesson while being happy about the hairlessness of his body. If you think that this is a stretch, please feel free to analyze it in your own way. But before doing so, think hard and long about who voices Groot. That’s right. Vin Diesel! The most famous bald man on the planet?
Talk about ending things with a bang. The final episode of this anthology series shows Groot going absolutely ballistic in his attempt to express his love for the Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s a silhouette cameo by Drax (Dave Bautista), a poster of ALF, a classic from Quill’s Zune, i.e., “You Can Get It If You Really Want” by Jimmy Cliff, and a proper cameo by Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper). Look, Groot is cool. But he becomes cooler when he has someone to interact with. And his bond with Rocket is simply magical. So, the one thing that this episode proves is that “I Am Groot” should’ve gone the “Falcon and Winter Soldier” way and made a “Rocket and Groot” show instead. Yes, Groot on his own is fine, and his shenanigans will please a lot of kids (who are the target audience, I guess). But Rocket as a character is ballsy enough to elevate that kind of comedy and make it kid-friendly instead of being “just for kids”, if you know what I mean.
Although the majority of the populace are thronging to the theaters to watch Marvel movies and tuning into Marvel’s TV shows, I am getting tired. Because everything post “Avengers: Endgame” feels inconsequential. Not because there’s no big bad being set-up (there is a big bad on the way, and his name is Kang, who’s being played by Jonathan Majors). Not because all the stories aren’t interconnected. Not because there aren’t enough cameos. It’s because all the stories post “Endgame” seem frivolous, hokey, and devoid of any passion. There’s no drama. The character growth is insanely repetitive. And the jokes! The jokes are not funny. “I Am Groot” is the epitome of this issue in Phase 4. It’s a lot of wishy-washy stuff meant to keep you in the hamster wheel that’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe.