American actor, former bodybuilder and mixed martial artist, and retired professional wrestler, David Michael Bautista Jr.'s performance as Drax the Destroyer from Guardians of the Galaxy made him a movie star. His character is a fan-favorite whose crippling inability to detect sarcasm is made up for by deadly skills in hand-to-hand combat (at the exclusion of not knowing what it means to put his finger to someone's throat) and his warrior's physicality.
James Gunn's reimagining of this character suitably combines comedy and tragedy, said tragedy defined by vengeance against the villains who murdered his wife and daughter, yet while his original incarnation from the comics is similar in many ways, he is also vastly different in others. Some might say such changes are for the better. Others say these might be for the worst.
8 Best: Drax's Original Backstory Would've Been Too Dark
While Drax's backstory in the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes him a tragic character, his origin story in the comics, while similar, is much darker. In an issue of The Invincible Iron Man published in 1973, Marvel writer Jim Starlin introduced a character named Arthur Douglas, who was subjected to murder along with his wife by the Mad Titan Thanos, who abducted Douglas's daughter and took her as his own child. It just so happened that an Eternal named Kronos was looking for a fighter powerful enough to challenge Thanos, so he took the spirit of this murdered man, burning with the desire for vengeance, and melded this vengeful spirit with a strong body of his own creation. Here, Drax the Destroyer was born with one singular purpose: to kill Thanos.
This dark origin story would have run a major risk of contrasting with the Marvel Cinematic Universe's attempt at a lighter tone, as well as taken time away from other characters. In the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax's grudge is originally against one of Thanos' pawns, Ronan the Accuser, the one directly responsible for the deaths of his family. With Ronan's death at his team's hands in the climax of the movie, Drax's mission is at least partially fulfilled. Though he still has a remaining vendetta with Thanos, his vengeance is still at least partially carried out, thus making his story less about vengeance and thus more unified with the central family unit of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. A character as obsessed with vengeance as his comic counterpart would have been too far off in another direction.
7 Worst: He Can Be TOO Funny
The Marvel Cinematic Universe sees one of its more vocal critiques for its frequent engagement in something called bathos. First coined by 18th-century English poet Alexander Pope in a 1727 essay called Peri Bathous; Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry, it describes moments where the tone makes a sudden switch from serious to trivial for simple comedic effect, which can tend to undercut drama.
Movies seen in Hollywood, particularly Marvel movies, have often found criticism for laying themselves adrift in bathos. In the second movie, he lays the comic relief on thick, often playing the role of a scene's laugh track far longer than he should. The original incarnation in the comics had a serious personality through most of his run. And when he joined the Guardians of the Galaxy with his sense of humor in the comics, it rarely disrupted the dramatic flow.
6 Best: Drax Made Good Use of a Serious Tone in the First Movie
In his earlier years, Drax was quite literal-minded and simple, but by the time he joined the Guardians of the Galaxy he had developed a penchant for sarcasm and a sense of humor.
But in the first movie, which already has Peter Quill and Rocket the Raccoon competing for the role of comic relief, not to mention Groot and his memorably limited vocabulary, the team needs a straight man, and Drax's status as such made the comedy that much more effective, with the subtlety of everything being lost on him, which gave the jokes in the movie the harder hit they benefited from.
5 Best: Drax Is Not as Powerful
While Drax might not be as powerfulin the comics, him being hit with the proverbial nerf hammer does better for the movies' atmosphere and narrative. On top of avoiding Hulk déjà vu, making Drax weaker than his comic counterpart did better for the story and his dynamic with his fellow misfits from outer space.
Contrary to the Avengers, who are far less likely to engage Ronan the Accuser in a dance-off, the Guardians of the Galaxy and the movies centering on them are more light-hearted and therefore, the focus is less on the action and the powers that make it possible and more on the characters' evolution from a band of good-hearted, but self-centered misfits with purely personal quests to heroes who save the galaxy from destruction to the tunes of Star-Lord's cassette.
4 Worst: Drax's Daughter
In both comics and the movie, Drax’s motivation is vengeance against Thanos for murdering his family. While the movies barely touch on said motivation after his debut, it's still made apparent. As briefly mentioned before, in the comics, Drax’s daughter survived the destruction wrought upon her family by Thanos and became a powerful telepath known as Moondragon.
Thanos' father, Mentor, discovered her after the attack and trained her to gain and hone her powers. This makes Moondragon an exceptional comic book character, gaining her powers through hard work rather than purely outside interference. And several years later, Moondragon learned that her father had survived Thanos as well. Later on down the road, she would become an unofficial Guardian of the Galaxy.
3 Worst: Drax and Thanos Barely Interact
The relationship between Drax and Thanos is one of revenge in both the comics and the movies. However, the animosity between the two is much more prevalent in the comics. There, the number of characters who single-handedly pose a threat to Thanos can likely be counted on one hand. And yet Drax's entire purpose is to be strong enough to fight and kill Thanos. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Drax is little more than a blip on Thanos's radar.
Apparently, Drax couldn't even have a single word of the Mad Titan's memorable dialogue addressed toward him. Nor is there a single scene with him after their tragically brief encounter on Knowhere in Avengers: Infinity War. It does much to make Drax seem much less significant in the grander scheme of the MCU.
2 Best: Drax Is NOT Stronger Than Thanos
As mentioned before, in the comics, Drax has killing Thanos as his express purpose. Introducing a character even stronger than Thanos so early would have killed Thanos's presence as the ultimate evil. Thanos was so cunning, evil and powerful it took all of the movies' heroic forces to stand a chance.
That was the build-up. And such build-up needs proper pay-off. So yes, they made the right decision on making Drax a character who was not literal Thanos-kryptonite.
1 Worst: Drax Will Never Guard An Infinity Stone
Without giving too much away, the role of the Infinity Stones ended in Avengers: Endgame. This means that we will never get to see Drax as a guardian of an Infinity Stone. After the Living Tribunal allowed Adam Warlock to choose the Infinity Gems' guardians, Adam gave Power Gem to Drax. At the time, Drax was about as intelligent as a child due to damage sustained in battle with Moondragon and could not draw upon the gem's power of his own volition. So he swallowed it and when given the choice between the Gems and watching Alf, Drax almost chose Alf.
While in possession of the Power Gem, Drax's already superhuman strength greatly increased. In Warlock and the Infinity Watch #13, Drax was able to match the Incredible Hulk blow for blow during their fight in Reno, Nevada after Drax's memories returned, much to the confusion of his already damaged psyche.