“When you’re ugly and someone loves you, it means they love you for who you are”
– Drax the Destroyer
That quote, and that name. If you’ve ever wanted to locate the most overt antithesis condensed into a single quote, then look no further than Guardians of the Galaxy 2. This heavenly union of wit and sincerity is what gives the film its wings, and allows it to soar above the cannon fodder Iron Man 12’s and Captain America: Bit of a Squabble.
James Gunn’s sequel to the 2014 hit once again follows the intergalactic adventures of the eponymous heroes as they encounter Ego, the living planet. As a sequel with established characters, the film does not have to spend its two-hour run-time meandering around introductions. Instead, it delves deeper into the intricate motivations and personalities behind the members of the renegade team. Of course, a hearty supply of pop culture references and adorable talking trees always helps, but it’s a welcome change to see a Marvel film interact with its audience on an emotional level.
Nowhere can this be seen more prevalent than with the character progression of Drax the Destroyer, portrayed by Dave Bautista. In the first movie, his only defining feature is his unyielding hatred towards Ronan for the murder of his wife and daughter. However, with this subsequent instalment his overall disposition is noticeably mellowed, with an almost insane emphasis on his new-found sense of humour. Speaking of which, the sheer bluntness of his remarks towards Mantis (as portrayed by Pom Klementieff) act as one of the most defining features of the movie. Every scene with these two sent the audience into a hysterical laughing fit! I can’t help but admire the transformation, as most Marvel super-heroes in the cinematic universe are contained within a stalwart, unchanging archetype (Cap’n Murica’s freedom obsession).
As well as this, through the character Drax, Marvel has however unintentionally opened a dialogue about mental health previously unseen in the superhero film industry. In an interview with ABC News, Matt Asner – who serves as the vice president of development for the Autism Society of America – details his experience of taking two of his six kids to watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Asner had this to say:
“I remember seeing it … and just thinking to myself, ‘He’s autistic!’ He has no editor whatsoever and he just says it like it is.”
“It’s something that happens with a couple of my kids a lot, they don’t have that edit button. It’s great for them to see a character like this… Not just for people who have autism, but people who are out there who don’t really know what autism is.”
As Asner details, his greatest admiration of the films foray into crafting convincing characters with individual traits, is that they aren’t seen as a statement, but the norm. Neither James Gunn or Marvel have made any official comment on the subject, but regardless, Drax is yet another positive step towards the normalisation of mental health in the creative industry.
Portraying characters in this organic way is the best thing for a Hollywood cavalcade as sprawling as the MCU, because it stops them from becoming stagnant. All you have to do is to look at GoG2’s incredible box office opening for proof. Compare that to the comparably slow crawl of The Wolverine which boasted the same trickle plot and character types as the previous entries in that franchise, and the writing’s on the wall. I and many other hope to see how this industry continues to expand and spin new tales of interesting characters, whilst also providing fair representations and opportunities for all.
Feature Image sourced by: Marvel Entertainment Studios