Dave Bautista Isn’t Giving His Performances as Drax Enough Credit

Jan 20, 2023

Marvel Cinematic Universe star and actor Dave Bautista recently raised some eyebrows with his comments during an interview with GQ regarding his MCU role of Drax the Destroyer. While Bautista expressed gratitude for getting the chance to play Drax, he also said, “I just don’t know if I want Drax to be my legacy — it’s a silly performance and I want to do more dramatic stuff.” It’s understandable that Bautista has ambivalent feelings about the role he portrayed and excelled at for almost 10 years. It’s equally understandable that Bautista as an actor wants to prove himself in more serious, dramatic roles. At the same time, he might be selling his performance and characterization of Drax a bit short. Bautista’s many appearances as Drax within the MCU heavily emphasize the sillier parts of Drax’s personality, but if you take a deeper look, Drax has a generous share of poignant moments throughout his numerous film appearances.

It speaks to Bautista’s talent and versatility as an actor because Drax as a character needed a multi-faceted personality. Otherwise, the character would be nothing more than a buffoonish oaf. The role required more than just a grumpy, grunting, brooding muscle head who was short on words. The character also required more depth than providing mere perfunctory comic relief in Guardians of the Galaxy. While there is certainly precedence in the character for Drax having a silly, goofy side, Bautista nailed not only Drax’s comedic sensibilities but solemn moments as well.

The Tragedy, Pain, and Sadness Underneath Drax the Destroyer
When audiences first meet Drax the Destroyer, he’s a Kylosian prisoner and inmate aboard the Kyln, an intergalactic Nova Corps prison where he would meet his future teammates. Drax is introduced as a broken and tragic individual, still reeling from the loss of his family. His introduction is not a comedic moment, but a rather serious one, where he is ready to kill Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) as retribution for the murder of his wife, Ovette, and daughter, Kamaria. His family was slaughtered as part of Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) galactic-wide depopulation movement at the hands of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). While the scene did establish that Drax has a weak grasp on metaphors and idioms, taking expressions literally, the fairly serious scene establishes that Drax is hellbent and driven by revenge, and he’s willing to take it by any means necessary.

RELATED: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3′: Trailer, Release Date & Everything We Know About the Final Film in the Trilogy

Image via Marvel

Throughout the first Guardians film, Drax joins with Star-Lord, aka Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Gamora to get closer to Ronan the Accuser, who is tracking them to retrieve the Power Stone, to enact his revenge. Growing impatient after reaching Knowhere, Drax takes it upon himself to contact Ronan and his forces to bring them to Knowhere, putting the entire city and the future Guardians at risk. Drax is finally granted his fight with Ronan, but he’s soundly beaten. The fight humbles Drax, who later admits his failings to Rocket after being revived by Groot. The humiliating defeat incites Drax to rejoin his newfound friends and rescue them as a means of atonement, convincing the reluctant Rocket to assist. This sequence and development of Drax were executed in the 2014 movie in a fairly serious, no-nonsense manner. Also, after the final battle, Drax is the one who comforts a grief-stricken Rocket, petting him as means of consoling his newfound friend, who was devastated by the loss of Groot. While Drax had his comedic moments, he was a relatively balanced character in the first Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 certainly does dial up Drax’s jokes and comedic side. However, that’s more a result of the charismatic and talented Bautista as a comedic talent and performer. There were a lot more jokes with Drax in the second film. But, even with all the comedic scenes involving Drax, a seriously dramatic and melancholy scene in the middle of the movie truly stands out. Despite Drax’s rather blunt comments about Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a running gag throughout the film, he honestly speaks about how the pools on Ego’s planet remind him of the forgotten lakes of his homeworld — a place where he took his daughter Kamaria before she was murdered. Here, Drax wistfully recalls how Mantis reminds him of his daughter, not “disgusting,” but “innocent.” Mantis then reaches out and touches Drax’s shoulder, feeling the rush of Drax’s emotions and thoughts regarding his lost daughter. The wave of emotions moves Mantis to tears. Following the moments of levity regarding Drax and Mantis’ comedic banter, the scene throws a curveball by developing into a very emotional, character-driven moment. Underneath Drax’s boastful bluster and comedic machismo, he is still a very broken, sad, and tragic individual. Drax is a man haunted by the loss of his wife and daughter, and the wounds from their loss have never truly healed. Drax’s emotions likely influence Mantis to help the Guardians when they realize the danger of his expansion plans for the entire galaxy. Even at the end of the movie, when the Guardians evacuate Ego’s planet before it blows up, Drax angrily yells at Rocket, wanting to know Peter Quill’s whereabouts. It’s a short moment, but it establishes that Drax cares about his friends and sees them as his family. There is nothing comedic about that character beat.

Image via Marvel Studios

Drax’s Guest MCU Appearances Have Provided Further Glimpses Into the Character
Since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was the last full-on Guardians feature in the MCU until this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, there were not many additional opportunities to significantly develop and round out Drax further in his various guest appearances. There’s a brief moment in Avengers: Infinity War, when Gamora is explaining Thanos’ modus operandi, and Drax points out that his homeworld was among those massacred during Thanos’ galactic genocide. He is also the one who solemnly reveals to Thor (Chris Hemsworth) that Gamora is Thanos’ daughter. Later on, when the Guardians confront Thanos on Knowhere, Drax’s thirst for vengeance overcomes him as he rushes the charge against the Mad Titan. While the sequence was mainly centered around Peter Quill and Gamora’s relationship, Drax’s presence further establishes how deeply the loss of his family has affected him and still drives him years later.

Drax continued to appear in the MCU in Avengers: Endgame, Thor: Love and Thunder, and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. In Endgame, Drax is absent for most of the movie until the heroes who were snapped out of existence by Thanos are brought back by the Infinity Stones. Drax appears in the final battle and a coda scene with Thor and the Guardians when Thor decides to accompany them to travel the galaxy. Subsequently, Drax appears only briefly, early on in Thor: Love and Thunder, when the narrative picks up with Thor still fighting alongside the Guardians following the events of Endgame. The recently released Holiday Special heavily focuses on Drax and Mantis, but it’s mainly a comedic, holiday-themed interlude. Most of Drax’s material in the special focuses on comedy and humorous banter, but it all comes from a place where Drax and Mantis try to do a good deed for their friend Quill, to make sure he could enjoy Christmastime. The special is meant to inspire yuletide joy and happiness and not focus so much on Drax’s more tragic, dramatic aspects.

Audiences will get to see Bautista as Drax at least one more time in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, due out in May. From the looks of the first trailer, it will have comedic material involving Drax, but it also appears to be a dark, intense story that will be a sendoff to this iteration of the Guardians in the MCU. It would not be surprising if Drax were to meet his end or make a heroic, noble sacrifice to protect his chosen family. Regardless, while Bautista’s Drax is known for his scene-stealing one-liners and comedic banter in the MCU, he demonstrates remarkable versatility as a performer through the character. While there is definitely a heavy emphasis on Drax’s silliness and mirth, there is still a very tragic, sad, and genuine side to the character that cannot be discounted. A large part of that is due to Batista’s wonderful performance, which should not be overlooked

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