The Destroyer

Guardians of the Galaxy 3: Dave Bautista’s exit reveals Marvel’s biggest problem

What happens when a cinematic universe has more characters than it can handle?

Drax the Destroyer is leaving the MCU. At least, that’s the word on the street, thanks to some recent comments from Dave Bautista.

The wrestler turned actor made waves online last week when he announced that he wasn’t planning on reprising the role again after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Bautista quickly attempted to clear up some of the confusion caused by his initial comments, tweeting that he wouldn’t be playing the role anymore simply due to his age (he’ll be 54 when Vol. 3 is released).

But age isn’t the only reason Bautista plans on stepping away from Drax and the MCU as a whole, according to even more recent comments from the actor.

The News — In a recent interview with Collider, Bautista reflected on his journey as Drax. While the actor expressed eternal gratitude for being chosen to play the character, he also opened up a bit about his frustrations regarding Drax’s limited role within the MCU.

Bautista touched on the opportunities he believes Marvel missed by turning Drax into a fairly one-note, comedic character — namely, the opportunity to explore Drax’s backstory. The actor said he wished the studio had “invested more in Drax,” but also stated that wasn’t a specific “dig on Marvel.” Here’s some of what Bautista had to say:

"I think they really missed the ball on Drax. He has such a great backstory. Selfishly, as a performer, that would have given me the opportunity to show different sides of Drax, emotionally. And physically as well. Because, if you notice, Drax, although he looks like a badass, you look at him and he looks terrifying, but Drax gets his ass kicked more than any other Marvel character... The whole “Destroyer” thing they just threw that out the window... people just fell so in love with the comedic side of Drax they tapped into that, then they tapped into it more, then they really dug a hole into it. But we missed a huge boat on that character and I don’t think it’ll ever come back around. But I’m really just looking forward to finishing out this whole journey."
Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy.Marvel Studios

A Sign of Things to Come — Bautista being done with the MCU after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 doesn’t mean that the Guardians franchise won’t continue after him, nor does it necessarily signal that James Gunn, Kevin Feige, and company are planning on killing off the character —although it certainly could. What it does mean is that the actor (and likely the character) won’t be seen again in the MCU after Vol. 3 because Bautista is, understandably, ready to move on.

And that’s emblematic of a growing problem within the MCU — one that could very well cause serious issues for the franchise (and Marvel Studios) moving forward.

To put it succinctly: the Marvel Cinematic Universe just has too many characters.

Too many characters, too little time.Marvel Studios

An Overcrowded Universe — Over the past 13 years, Marvel Studios has built a massive and complex cinematic universe for itself. It’s a world populated with standalone film franchises, crossover event movies, and TV shows, all of which exist within the same fictional realm. And with each of those franchises and shows has come more main and supporting characters for the MCU to balance. The result is a universe that feels densely populated and impressively connected, but also overcrowded.

To be fair to Marvel, that latter quality is only a more recent development, but there’s no denying that it’s a problem now. The universe simply has too many heroes to balance, and more and more of them are starting to get sidelined.

You need not look any further than Marvel’s first two Disney+ shows, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, for proof of this issue. It took six and seven years for characters like Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), The Vision (Paul Bettany), and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) — all played by talented and proven Hollywood performers — to be given the time in the spotlight that they deserved. Why? Because they weren’t the main characters of a solo MCU franchise.

They’re not the only important characters within the MCU who haven’t been developed as deeply as the universe’s core heroes (Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Thor, etc.) either. That list is only going to continue to grow the more the MCU does too.

The Guardians of the Galaxy.Marvel Studios

The Inverse Analysis — Marvel’s growing problem with character management is especially unfortunate considering the MCU’s success is almost entirely a result of how well-developed its original group of heroes was. But that was because they were the leads of their own films, and the characters who don’t have that luxury just haven’t been as thoroughly explored.

So it’s not surprising that Bautista feels disappointed and frustrated over Drax’s lack of development. He’s probably not the only Marvel actor who feels that way right now either, and that’s a problem if the studio hopes to keep its actors invested in the MCU through any means other than financial ones.

Of course, Bautista could very well be talking about quitting the MCU right now in order to incentivize Marvel to try harder to keep him. That’s possible. It just doesn’t seem like that’s the case this time around.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be released in theaters on May 5, 2023.