No actor or actress stays in a role forever, this much is obvious. Though these days with the length of some franchises, it can feel like we know these characters as well as we know ourselves. This is why when we hear that someone is leaving a massive role, maybe even before the studio thought it would happen, it’s a bit surprising. But that’s the case with Dave Bautista who has said that he is hanging it up as Drax the Destroyer in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. More than a little surprising to say the least.
Former pro-wrestler Dave Bautista was asked point-blank on social media if Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 was his final rodeo as Drax the Destroyer, he said yes and didn’t think much of it. In Hollywood, no movie is ever the end, so the interwebs thought he was joking. But his contract is about to expire and he’s been in enough MCU movies plus a trilogy — Bautista told The Ellen DeGeneres Show a few days ago his departure should’ve been a no-brainer.
It’s clear that Dave Bautista is moving on with things. It’s an admirable and rare thing these days to walk away from a franchise of this size and scope. Here’s part of what he had to say when asked about his future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
“It will (be my last). Yeah, you know it’s weird because when I said it, and I said it recently because I’ve been doing interviews and talking a lot about Guardians, and I didn’t think it was going to be news ‘cause I figured everybody assumed that this is how this worked. We were working on trilogies and James Gunn has already announced it’s his last film, and when James is done, I’m done… And I’m also going to be 54 years old by the time Guardians 3 comes out and just, like the shirtless thing is getting harder and harder for me. So, yeah. The journey has come full circle and I’m ready to kind of step aside, wrap it up.”
A comic book character’s cinematic journey changes concurrently with the times. Dave Bautista understands this. When superheroes first started attracting casual viewers, production companies capitalized on the craze by making as many movies as possible. Christopher Reeve was Superman till The Quest for Peace bombed. On the other hand, Hollywood couldn’t stick to one Batman longer than three movies, but still released something every couple of years to keep fans sufficiently hooked.
Then the 2000s happened and Marvel films began dominating theaters. Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men were still owned by competing studios, but from the depths, a formula cropped up. One trilogy for every superpowered property and an occasional spinoff on the side. Franchising was born, and the makings of an empire along with it. That empire grew into the Marvel Cinematic Universe of which Dave Bautista eventually became a part, a string of interconnected trilogies, spinoffs, television specials, streaming exclusives, and solo movies that had arcs, beginnings, and endings, and a corporate blueprint that could have Marvel Studios churning out interwoven stories forever.
The concept of a reciprocal film universe was lifted straight from the comics and didn’t exist until Joss Whedon’s The Avengers proved it could happen — and now everybody wants to do it. It’s a legacy that keeps on giving. Heroes die (like Tony Stark) or are permanently retired (like Steve Rogers), with incidental characters picking up where they left off.
Like most working actors these days, Dave Bautista understood the schematic and obeyed it without question. Actors would have to hang up their costumes at some point whether they liked it or not; it was the unspoken rule of being the live-action equivalent of a beloved comic book character. Action movie icons like Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto don’t abide by any such blueprint; theoretically, they could fight terrorists and drive cars down a steep highway for as long as they’re able and studios wouldn’t mind. But comic book films have arcs that need to be respected. Like in the 2000s, characters have three films and a few extra cameos to make their mark — and then it’s off to a new generation of heroes and villains. It’s a constantly rotating cycle.
Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer first appeared in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy as one of Star-Lord/Peter Quill’s would-be allies. The team becomes something of a family while working together to defeat Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a Kree zealot responsible for the murder of Drax’s family. The character has been in many other adventures since then. As an artist, Dave Bautista has no qualms about finally retiring his red suit and dual knives, but the reason may be more complex than it appears.
Sure, there’s the end of his contract, but Bautista is reportedly no longer satisfied with the studio’s creative choices for Drax. The third-generation Filipino actor told interviewers he wasn’t happy with the way Drax’s character arc was handled. “I really wished they would have invested more in Drax, personally,” he tells Collider. In the interview, he lamented that Marvel just didn’t do enough to round out Drax’s backstory. There were more emotional ways to go with the character, but they simply chose another direction and this was frustrating. The former Kyln inmate was an emotional rage monster in the comics. In the films, he was reduced to a punchline. In the movies’ defense, Bautista does play comedic relief like a seasoned funnyman. Regardless, there definitely is more to Drax than meets the eye.
So, is the not-so-invisible invisible man dying in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 or simply taking an extended leave of absence? James Gunn once responded to a Q&A on Instagram, teasing the arrival of Drax’s daughter Kamaria, who could be taking his place among the future Guardians once the trilogy wraps up. Dave Bautista never made mention of Kamaria off-set, but he seems to already know Drax’s fate ahead of filming, judging by an interview with Digital Spy. He says that he’s in Guardians 3 and that’s going to be the end of it. Citing contract timelines, Bautista was ambiguous about the future. Vague, but we place our bets on the character possibly giving up his life in defense of his daughter and new family. Guardians of the Galaxy is big on familial sacrifice, with Groot putting his life on the line in the first film and Michael Rooker’s Yondu losing his trying to protect Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) in the second movie.
Fans will not want to see Drax go, and Dave Bautista knows it. In an extended interview with Collider he had a lot to say about the place of the franchise in the minds of the fans and him as well.
“That’s a full journey. We started together. … These are not my words, I don’t want to get beaten up for this, but I’ve heard people say this is like the new Star Wars. People are going to look back on Guardians the way our generation looks back on Star Wars. Someone saying that, like that’s a bold statement. That hits me. It’s yet to be seen, but if I can have somebody feeling that way about Guardians the way I feel and look back on Star Wars, that’s a life worth living. That’s a legacy, man. I’m really excited to wrap up this whole journey with these guys. I love them. I love the Guardians cast like family. They know it. I think everybody knows that I’m pretty vocal about it.”
So, where does that leave Dave Bautista after Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3? Well, the 52-year-old is currently the hero of Zack Snyder’s zombie heist movie Army of the Dead, a long-awaited release that marks the Justice League director’s first feature since being booted out of the DC Extended Universe.
Dave Bautista is also in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, alongside Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and many others. Plus, don’t forget Thor: Love and Thunder comes out before Guardians 3 and Drax is still in it. The Guardians back Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and former beau Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in foiling Gorr the God Butcher, played by MCU newcomer (but longtime comic book actor) Christian Bale. So, don’t you write off Drax just yet. This rugged Kylosian still has plenty of rage (and memorable quips) left in him. The film is directed by Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi and hits theaters on May 6, 2022.