The grim question is on our minds thanks to the present discourse surrounding Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, director James Gunn's planned final foray into the stars alongside the crew of the Milano. Rumors are flying fast and furious about the death of the beloved hero Drax the Destoyer thanks to comments made by actor Dave Bautista himself. Paired with the Guardians franchise's own violent history with its main cast, it's easy to leap to conclusions about Drax's fate.
But perhaps we shouldn't follow Drax's own lead, jumping into the gaping maw of the great beyond with both knives in hand. There might be a simpler suggestion for what's happening with Drax, one that both has comic book roots, as well as huge possibilities for the MCU moving forward.
The News — In a recent interview, Bautista signaled that he's done playing Drax following the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie. With headlines about Drax's impending demise making the rounds, Bautista took to Twitter to correct the record — but still confirm his plans to leave the MCU.
"Drax isn’t going anywhere," said Bautista. "He just won’t be played by this dude!"
Bautista's remarks triggered the following response from Gunn: "There's no Drax without you, buddy!" The filmmaker described Bautista, who has recently been cast in director Rian Johnson’s upcoming Knives Out sequel, as someone who "could never be replaced."
But is it true that Drax can't be replaced in the MCU? As Secretary of Defense Nimzicki tells President Thomas Whitmore in Independence Day, "That's not entirely accurate."
New Face, Who Dis? — For those dead set on Bautista as the MCU's Drax, it's worth preparing for the possibility of recasting. Here are a few potential routes for how it could go down.
There's the straight-up version where someone new comes in and plays Drax in a future Marvel movie. It's certainly been done before: Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as War Machine, Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton as Hulk, Zachary Levi replaced Josh Dallas as Fandral in the Thor movies.
In other words, someone else could step in and become the new Drax and it wouldn't violate Marvel's own precedent. Heck, once upon a time, Jason Momoa was very nearly cast in the role … maybe it's not too late for the once and future Aquaman to make his Marvel debut.
But there are two other possibilities with even bigger ramifications for the MCU. For one, in Marvel Comics lore, Drax the Destroyer has been known to occupy multiple bodies. It's entirely possible that Drax (and maybe even other members of the Guardians) could have their consciousnesses uploaded to androids or other forms of synthetic bodies, paving the way for a bunch of different actors stepping in as the Guardians. Seems like a reach, but it's not impossible.
Then there's the looming threat of the Multiverse of Madness, both in the form of the Doctor Strange sequel, as well as its likely arrival in Spider-Man: No Way Home. The MCU's third Spider-Man movie is rumored to feature at least three different versions of Peter Parker: Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield. It's likely to establish that different versions of the same hero can exist across the multiverse, all of them sporting different likenesses while still sharing the same basic name and identity. In that regard, perhaps there's another Drax out there?
The Inverse Analysis — Is Drax the Destroyer going to die? Quite possibly. If not, will Marvel recast the role? Quite possibly. At the very least, there are paths forward should Marvel choose to pursue them.
But the other likely possibility is Bautista is simply ready to hang up the knives and call it a day as Drax, and Marvel is likewise ready to pursue other cosmic characters in the universe. It's not worth stressing out over until we know a little more, especially because the possibilities for how to handle the future of the Guardians are as vast as the cosmos themselves.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 flies into theaters on May 23, 2023.