Drax the Destroyer is an unstoppable force of nature in the Guardians of the Galaxy comics, so why is that not the case in the MCU films?
For fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy comics, there are many noticeable differences in the big-screen adaptations. Groot is not a hulking monster, Gamora lacks her iconic white armor, but most of all Drax seems severely underpowered. Even his signature knives seem like kitchen cutlery compared to their comic counterparts. However, there is in fact a method to this madness, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, along with writer/director James Gunn facing no other choice.
Drax the Destroyer has not done a lot of destroying thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It seems that Gunn prefers this Christmas-colored alien to crack more jokes than skulls. The films do not seem to suffer from it, as the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the characters themselves are some of the most beloved parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by critics and fans alike. So why did James Gunn severely under power Drax? When taking a character from a comic book to a feature film, he had to consider storytelling stakes, the dynamics of the team, and the larger picture of the MCU.
Bringing Guardians of the Galaxy to the Big Screen Required Changes
The stakes in a film are one of, if not the most important aspects of the story. In order to be engaged in an action movie, the audience needs to fear for the characters’ lives, to believe that they are actually in danger. If Drax were an unstoppable killing machine, he would become a boring shadow of a character. The audience needs to be on the edge of their seat when Drax is fighting Ronan, and they need to feel like the underdog when Drax swings his blades at the omnipotent Thanos. If Drax were as strong as he is in Marvel Comics, he would have killed these two tyrants easily, resulting in no stakes for the films. It also helps to add some realism regarding his backstory, with the tragic death of Drax’s wife and daughter. Drax couldn’t save them, and that is his core motivation for wanting to save the lives of others.
The filmmakers also had to consider the fact that Drax is not the only member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The roster has included many powerful beings over the years, including Iron Man, Adam Warlock, and even Venom. In the current team lineup, there are already some extremely strong characters, such as Gamora and Groot. If Drax were an unstoppable force of nature like he is in the comics, the other characters would not have any time to shine on the big screen. In the final battle of Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord, Groot, and Drax are tasked with fending off the Sakaaran soldiers. This is an incredible scene because Groot shows off his stretching powers, and Star-Lord uses his iconic wit and gadgets. If Drax were able to kill off the Sakaaran without question, the other characters would be sidelined.
Drax’s Power Level Affects the Grander MCU
Drax’s decrease in power levels can also be traced back to the fact that this version does not inhabit a standalone comic book series but the grander story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If Drax were vanquishing foes left and right, Ronan would not be a threat in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ego would not be dangerous in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and most importantly, Thanos would not be as formidable in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. With Thanos partly responsible for the death of Drax’s family, he would have killed Thanos immediately if he was as strong as his comic book counterpart. This would have denied the important sendoff and sacrifice of one of the main characters of the Infinity Saga, Tony Stark.
Comic books are a great medium for showing heroes at their most powerful, decimating enemies, being one-man armies. However, when being transferred to the medium of filmmaking, changes need to be made to ensure the overall quality of the story and the enjoyment for the audience, who needs to fear for these characters’ lives. Many characters need to become underpowered, such as Thor, Superman, and The Hulk when working with a team to ensure that everyone receives iconic moments. The Marvel Cinematic Universe depends on the representation of many diverse characters to accomplish this, and lessening Drax’s powers is crucial to this. However, his story is not finished yet, as Drax has some destroying left to do in 2023’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.