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I just rewatched the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie and this part wasn't well explained. Why would Groot die just because he wrapped up his friends? He was already shown to be able to expand/stretch his body with no repercussions, but as soon as he starts to expand to encircle his friends in a protective tree wrap Rocket says "No Groot, you'll die!"

Did I miss something, why would changing his shape into a protective sphere kill him?

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    Did you miss the part where they were surrounded by a massive explosion? Groot absorbed all of that energy. It's the equivalent of throwing yourself on a grenade to save your comrades. After the explosion, Groot was just sticks, but his friends were alive. It wasn't the shape change that killed him, it was the explosion. – Tim Aug 29 '17 at 21:12
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    It's not the stretch that kills - in order to shield them all from death, stretching around means he takes the hit instead of them. – PoloHoleSet Aug 30 '17 at 17:27
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I found this on MCU wiki page about Groot:

Groot sacrificed himself by forming his body into a protective crash sphere to save the other Guardians, allowing them to survive a crash from low orbit, but shattering him in the process.

It wasn't the changing of the shape that killed him, it was the impact of the high speed crash.

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To expand on other's answers here, we don't know the full extent of Groot's regenerative capabilities. We DO know that he can regrow smaller parts quite quickly, but it takes him a little bit of time (we don't know exactly how long) to regrow his arms when they were cut off by Gamora.

Rocket probably has the best understanding of Groot's capabilities, having been friends and partners for who knows how long. Rocket's estimation of Groot not surviving the crash and impact was technically correct, given that the new Groot is still an infant/toddler in Guardians 2 and is most likely an off-spring/clone of Groot, rather than the original Groot regrowing.

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Groot is destroyed in the ship crash. He is shielding everyone else by encircling them, absorbing most of the damage. Even so, the characters are all seen immediately afterwards with injuries, and Groot is gone. Rocket says "No Groot, you'll die" because he knows the crash will destroy him.

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