The animal rights organization PETA is giving James Gunn the "Not A Number" Award for the depictions of animal cruelty in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
While some are criticizing James Gunn and co. for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 not getting an R-rating in light of scenes depicting animal cruelty, at least one organization is not only happy about the scenes’ violence, but are actually giving the writer/director an award for them. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, is giving Gunn what they’re calling the “Not A Number Award” for Guardians 3. The organization calls the film “a beautiful and compassionate story about testing on animals” and celebrates it being delivered “to a Marvel-size audience.”
The third of James Gunn’s Guardians films gives us the origin of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who we learn starts off as an ordinary raccoon before becoming a test subject of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). Along with the violence inherent in the cybernetic changes made to Rocket, we often see characters like the Evolutionary or his subjects abusing Rocket and other test animals out of anger and/or pure sadism.
Rocket makes friends out of three other test subjects: the otter Lylla (Linda Cardellini), the walrus Teefs (Asim Chadhry), and the rabbit Floor (Mikaela Hoover). All four of them are kept in cages, forced to live among garbage and food pellets. They also all choose their own names, because the Evolutionary gives them only numbers.
As difficult as a lot of the animal cruelty scenes are to watch, in a press release on the organization’s website, PETA’s Rachel Harp praised James Gunn for including them:
The film features gorgeously animated animals, including Rocket… Lylla, Floor, and Teefs, who take moviegoers on an emotional rollercoaster while exposing the evils of animal testing. James Gunn’s screenplay doesn’t back away from the tough (but often true-to-reality) subject matter, and we’re thrilled by a story about having empathy for all living, feeling beings.-PETA’s Rachel Harp
Harp writes that James Gunn’s depiction of the abuse and the animals themselves remind “moviegoers that animals tortured in laboratories are sentient beings and not the numbers tattooed on them.”
According to PETA, James Gunn pulls a lot of the details of Rocket’s origin from real life animal testing procedures. The practice of tattooing test animals with numbers is common, according to Harp, and she also writes that the device used to restrain the infant Rocket is “eerily similar” to devices used to restrain primates during testing.
Curiously, there is at least one subject PETA is silent on — the villainous Ani-Men. High Evolutionary has an army of cybernetic monsters at his command, like the Judy Greer-voiced War Pig. James Gunn’s film takes quite a bit of joy in killing off these more threatening animals, particularly in a hallway fight scene delivered in slo-mo and a more expansive battle on Knowhere.
This isn’t the first time PETA has surprised the entertainment industry with an award. A little less than a year before James Gunn’s latest film hit theaters, the organization honored Amazon’s The Boys for a scene in which the aquatic hero The Deep (Chace Crawford) eats a live octopus as it begs for its life. Specifically, PETA praised the show for using a CGI animal rather than a live one, and for giving the octopus character and depth.