For now, the band’s getting back together. Marvel is sending its most eccentric franchise back into intergalactic battle with the releases of next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and 2023’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The latter project could be the last time all the Guardians appear on-screen together, with some characters rumored not to make it out of the threequel alive. One of the film’s stars doesn’t think fans should be surprised by that.
The Latest — In a recent interview on The Ellen Show, actor Dave Bautista – who plays Drax the Destroyer in the films – reiterated that he plans to step away from his acclaimed role in the MCU after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Bautista also said he assumed fans knew the film would be his last, since writer-director James Gunn has similarly stated he plans to wrap up his time with the franchise after Vol. 3.
Part of the actor’s desire to stop playing Drax has to do with the intense physical demands of the role, he explained:
"I've been doing interviews and talking a lot about Guardians, and I didn't think it was going to be news, because I figured everybody assumed that this is how it works. We work in trilogies and James Gunn has already announced that 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. The journey has come full circle, and I'm ready to just kind of step aside and wrap it up."
The Never-Ending Franchise — Bautista’s comments highlight a major issue within the MCU — one that’ll only grow as the franchise expands in seemingly infinite directions. How does the studio signal to audiences which of its stories are more limited than others in a franchise that shows no sign of ever really ending?
Most Hollywood franchises tell their stories as trilogies, with clear beginnings and endings. That’s been the case in the industry for decades, and even Marvel appears to have followed the rule of three with its Iron Man film series. Bautista is right that, most of the time, audiences expect the third film in a franchise to bring any overarching story to a grand conclusion.
But the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t your typical Hollywood franchise. None of Marvel’s solo series, nor the MCU itself, are necessarily designed to end after three installments. Even now, the studio is in busily filming the fourth Thor outing, developing a fourth Captain America, and moving the MCU into the early stages of its fourth overall phase.
With that pattern in mind, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 might not be the end of the team’s on-going story within the MCU. But Gunn’s plan to end at least his version of the Guardians’ story will at least make Vol. 3 feel especially unique for fans.
The Inverse Analysis — It’s worth noting no one yet knows for sure what the future holds for Bautista, Gunn, and the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. It’s possible either the actor or his writer-director could change their minds after Vol. 3 and return for another Marvel collaboration. If that never comes to pass, the studio could also choose to keep the Guardians franchise going with a new creative team.
But if Vol. 3 marks the end of the line for at least this incarnation of the series, it could end up being one of the only franchises in the MCU to follow Hollywood’s long-established trilogy tradition. Ultimately, only time will tell. Maybe all Marvel needs to do to keep Bautista around after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is give Drax a shirt. He’d certainly have earned it.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is set to hit theaters May 5, 2023.