Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is out, and while there is a lot to say about the film, an absolute standout performance caught our eye – that of Dave Bautista.
Bautista, a former WWE star segued into acting from the wrestling ring way back when in 2006 when he had a small part in the largely forgotten Relative Strangers, alongside Danny DeVito.
From there he has maintained a steady flow of roles but it was his 2014 turn in Guardians of the Galaxy which really cemented his place in Hollywood as a viable action star and potential rival to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the wrestler-turned-actor stakes.
In GOTG he’s Drax The Destroyer, an alien warrior out for revenge after his family are killed by the first film’s chief villain Ronan.
He eventually meets up with the other characters forming the Guardians, and the rest is history. Drax has a few memorable lines, and Bautista did well executing them with perfect dryness, living up to the personality of his character’s kind which Rocket emphasises in the first movie:
“His people are completely literal, Metaphors are gonna go over his head.”
Indeed they do, and it’s usually hilarious.
But if the first film showcased Bautista’s stoic on-screen ability as a vengeful hero, it’s his turn in James Gunn’s impressive follow-up, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, that really sees him shine.
It’s part of a film in which Gunn gives fans a more in-depth look at the people, aliens, raccoons and trees that make up this rag-tag bunch of heroes.
Yet it’s Drax that really stands out in all his frank, hilariously tactless glory, and Bautista is given a chance to really flex his comedic chops as well as his muscles.
Ably supported in a series of amusing scenes alongside newcomer Pom Klementieff who plays Mantis, a goofy, gentle and empathic creature with glowing antennas capable of absorbing the feelings of others once she touches them, their scenes together are among the best in the movie.
One especially funny moment is when Drax confuses Mantis’ urgency to wake him up with her trying to get between the sheets.
“I prefer full-figured women,” he insists.
There’s also a line towards the end of the film where Drax finally confesses that Mantis is in fact, beautiful -“on the inside.”
There are some poignant moments between the two as well; one sees Drax confessing his grief at the loss of his wife and daughter. Mantis responds by touching him, bursting into tears after taking in his sorrow as only an empath could.
Bautista definitely brings more nuance to Drax this time around, and perhaps his new partnership with Mantis is helping, “She’s, kind of, the counter for Drax. I think there’s definitely a lot more to be seen there,” Bautista told Digital Spy.
Perhaps Drax shines the most in this film because Gunn was able to write the script solo, as opposed to the first time around when Gunn shared credit with Nicole Perlman. In GOTG2 the filmmaker was able to inject more of his dry sense of humour into the dialogue, with Bautista’s Drax the main beneficiary.
“Drax is the vehicle for James Gunn’s twisted, witty sense of humor. I love when I’m shooting and delivering stuff that I can hear James off in the distance laughing because I know that it is what he wanted,” Bautista told PhilStar Global.
It helps that the character of Drax, almost perversely, lends itself to an actor almost willing to be as wooden as possible, but that would detract from the bang up job Bautista does in not only delivering killer lines with a straight face but also making audiences laugh time and time again.
Drax is coming back in the third instalment of the Guardians franchise as well as an appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. It seems there will be a lot more laughs ahead.