This summer’s blockbusters gave us plenty to pontificate about: interspecies identity politics in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; the fetishization of cars/industrial weaponry in Transformers; climate resilience and the ongoing U.S. drought in Disney’s Planes II; Guardians of the Galaxy’s savior complex … you know what, let’s just not! Here are some GIFs instead.

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There were a lot of good things in Guardians, Marvel’s send-up of the over-the-top space cowboy genre that won the summer. While I don’t want to give short shrift to Chris Pratt, who danced his way through a whole galaxy of danger, or the foul-mouthed raccoon, Rocket, who does NOT want you to call him Ranger Rick — I will anyway. Because easily the best character in any movie I’ve seen all summer is a walking, talking, d’aww-inducing tree named Groot. Well, technically “talking.” Let’s just say his arsenal of conversation topics is a bit limited — specifically, to one three-word phrase identifying himself.

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If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll have to believe me when I say the guy is more eloquent than you might expect. He is also, literally and figuratively, one of the greener heroes to crack the charts of late (not counting Gamora). Here are five reasons Groot is your new favorite superhero.

1. He’s adorable.

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I don’t usually consider myself a tree hugger in the literal sense — I mean, I like trees, but we’re not close like that — but this dude is surprisingly cuddly for an ambulatory bundle of sticks.

2. That smile.

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Enough said.

 

3. He’s a badass.

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This gentle giant knows how to break out a can of whoop-ass when his friends are in trouble. I’m not going to say he is the MOST badass of the Guardians, but, well, when you have the superpowers of 50 percent of the Fantastic Four and then some, it’s kinda hard for anyone else to keep up.

 

4. He makes us think.

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No, not JUST about how cool it would be to have your very own pet Ent (I’ll feed it and clean its box and take it for walks every day, PROMISE). At one point, Groot’s arms are destroyed in a firefight. He looks, understandably, a little put out, but his friends dismissively remind him that they’ll grow back. WHOA. Is this some kind of metaphor for the way we treat Earth’s renewable resources? Marvel, are you that sly?

 

5. He’s MAGIC.

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When he isn’t busy giving life and limb to save his friends, Groot gives some rare glimpses of wonder. The wise-cracking and head-smashing and sweet ’70s soundtrack all take a break to revel in the quiet and inexplicable powers of those little glowing light-y things. Maybe you even cried a little. No judgement.

 

6. He’s a giver.

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Marvel Studios

By the end of the movie (a.k.a. spoilers ahead) shit gets real. Groot gets the gang together for one last group hug before they hit the ground at terminal velocity and our hardwood hero is reduced to a handful of charred toothpicks. But not before he utters his second line of original dialogue in the movie: “We are Groot.” If that’s not an easter egg of an earth-mother motto for the modern generation, then I don’t know what.

 

Oh, and p.s. — lil bro’s got moves:

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