Iron Man and Black Widow currently hold the title for most shocking and emotional Marvel Cinematic Universe deaths to date, but not for long. Who knows what the future holds for the MCU with all the various films on the way, but there will certainly be further departures the size of Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff.
In fact, for signs of the next big death, look no further than Avengers: Endgame. The Russo Brothers' final Marvel movie holds the key to one of the next major deaths MCU, and none of us are ready for it.
Whatever It Takes — Let's start with Avengers: Endgame. The movie centers on the surviving heroes from Infinity War doing "whatever it takes" to reverse Thanos' actions, bringing back all the life the Mad Titan snapped out of existence. It works, too, but not without enormous tragedy.
In order to secure the Soul Stone, a sacrifice must be made — and Black Widow makes it, giving her life for the rest of the world. In order to stop Thanos from doing it all over again, another sacrifice must be made — and Iron Man makes it, giving his life for the rest of the world.
It's powerful stuff, made all the more powerful by the fact that two old-school Avengers fall on the proverbial sword for the greater good. But there were other members of their time-heist crew who were ready to make similar sacrifices — including one particularly surprising contender, given this person's sarcastic story in the MCU thus far.
The Last Guardian — Rocket Raccoon represents the Guardians of the Galaxy in Endgame, alongside Nebula. The daughter of Thanos gets the meatier arc in the movie, but Rocket's story moves forward due to how his personality contrasts with what we know from his history in the MCU to date.
While Rocket still gives Thor the business, the wise-cracking "Rabbit" makes it clear at certain points just how seriously he takes the conflict, reminding the Thunder God that he's lost everyone he ever cared about thanks to Thanos.
Luckily, Rocket and his friends are reunited at the end of Avengers: Endgame, even though we don't get to spend enough time on how much the Guardians' revival means to him moving forward. Good news: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is just around the corner. Bad news: Rocket's gonna die.
Rockets Away — Why do I think Rocket Raccoon is going to die in the third Guardians movie, especially with all eyes on Dave Bautista's Drax the Destroyer right now? A bunch of reasons, but for our purposes, the following will suffice.
Rocket Raccoon is a genetically modified raccoon, but he's still a raccoon, and the raccoon's lifespan? Not great. Five years of real-time pass in Endgame, pushing Rocket closer to the end of his natural life. From that standpoint alone, Rocket may be poised for a Yoda-like departure, even if it's not in quite the same way as passing away in a faraway swamp.
For his part, Guardians director James Gunn has previously talked about his vision for his third and apparently his last movie in the series, telling Deadline in 2019: “When you asked me what was saddest for me when I thought it was gone—and anybody at Marvel can tell you—it’s this very strange and attached relationship to Rocket. Rocket is me, he really is, even if that sounds narcissistic.”
“I relate to Rocket and I feel compassion for Rocket, but I also feel like his story has not been completed. He has an arc that started in the first movie, continued into the second and goes through Infinity War and Endgame, and then I was set to really finish that arc in Guardians 3. That was a big loss to me—not being able to finish that story—though I was comforted by the fact that they were still planning to use my script.”
The Inverse Analysis — Rocket fans, it’s not looking good.
Examine the character’s past, and you see a raccoon changed by Yondu's sacrifice in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, not to mention the herculean effort of bringing his friends back from non-existence in Endgame. Pair it with Gunn's own stated desire to bring Rocket's arc to a close, and pair that with Gunn's imminent departure from the MCU … and then pair all of that with how much Rocket aged over the course of Endgame.
Every single Guardians movie features a major character death, and while smart money puts it on Drax right now, you would be wise to prepare for losing the Bradley Cooper-voiced Rocket Raccoon; he might be reuniting with Iron Man and Black Widow sooner than later.
Avengers: Endgame is streaming on Disney+.