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Dave Bautista's MCU Exit Might Point To A Larger Problem For Disney And Marvel

At this point, it kind of feels like every single actor on the planet has appeared or is set to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Disney, one of the six media juggernauts on the market, controlling the MCU, these movies and TV shows — which now span double digits in numbers, four phases, and have earned an absolute fortune at the box office — feature everyone from Michelle Yeoh to Tom Hiddleston to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and there's no sign that this trend will slow down any time soon.

That said, there have been actors who have elected to step out of the MCU spotlight and move on to other projects; when Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, two of the original Avengers, were faced with expiring contracts, both chose to exit the cinematic universe entirely and give up their respective mantles as Iron Man and Captain America. Now, a newer MCU star — and one who made it big as an actor in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies, among others — is opening up about his decision to leave this universe behind, and it may just indicate that there are larger problems at play in the MCU.

Dave Bautista is ready to put Drax behind him — and wants to chart a new path

After years in the wrestling world, Dave Bautista started appearing on the big screen in 2011 in projects like "House of the Rising Sun," but inarguably, it's his role as Drax the Destroyer in the "Guardians" films that put him on the map. With the third "Guardians" movie filmed and forthcoming and Bautista's recent appearances in "Glass Onion" and "Dune" putting a spotlight on his very real acting chops, the wrestler turned actor wants to put Drax in the rearview.

"I'm so grateful for Drax. I love him," Bautista told GQ in a feature. "But there's a relief [that it's over]. It wasn't all pleasant. It was hard playing that role. The makeup process was beating me down. And 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." From there, he recounted an anecdote about showing "Glass Onion" to his fellow actors on "Dune: Part Two" and feeling nervous until Oscar winner Javier Bardem literally embraced him. "It felt f**king surreal," Bautista remembered.

Anyone who's seen "Glass Onion" or is excited for Bautista's upcoming leading turn in M. Night Shyamalan's "Knock at the Cabin" knows that Bautista's acting talent certainly expands beyond the extremely literal and often murderous Drax. But the real question is this: is Bautista speaking to a larger point?

Does the MCU stifle actors' creativity?

Bautista's underlying point can't really be overlooked: whether it's due to constricting makeup, contracts, or storylines that have to go a specific way in order to fit into a larger framework, it stands to reason that the Marvel Cinematic Universe can stifle an actor's overall creativity. Performers like Evans — who, like Bautista, collaborated with Rian Johnson on a "Knives Out" movie after leaving the MCU, though Bautista's final turn is still yet to release — has stretched his creative muscles, making his Broadway debut in "Lobby Hero" and will play Gene Kelly in an upcoming biopic. (Downey Jr., whose first post-MCU project was "Doolittle," maybe hasn't fared quite as well.)

Some actors, like Natalie Portman, were so dismayed with their MCU turns that they left part way through their storylines (though, famously, Portman returned to collaborate with Taika Waititi on "Thor: Love and Thunder"). Even current MCU standbys like Elizabeth Olsen, who has played Wanda Maximoff since before she officially earned her moniker as the Scarlet Witch, have expressed dismay at the stranglehold Marvel has on an actor's career. In a 2022 interview with The New York Times, Olsen said the MCU has prevented her from taking jobs in smaller indie movies, revealing, "[the MCU] took me away from the physical ability to do certain jobs that I thought were more aligned with the things I enjoyed as an audience member," Olsen said. "And this is me being the most honest."

Marvel might provide a steady paycheck and worldwide fame, but it can also stymie a performer in their prime. Martin Scorsese famously (and controversially) compared superhero movies to "theme parks" — and it stands to reason that, after a while, some of these actors might want to head home.