Fans of Marvel's comic book and cinematic universes know that today (August 1st) sees the release of the latest film from Disney's Marvel Studios, Guardians of the Galaxy. Helmed by Troma and independent film veteran James Gunn (responsible for Tromeo & Juliet, and his own excellent Slither and Super), it's a bit of a departure for a company that has thus far focused on household names like Iron Man and Captain America in their releases.
Guardians is based on some long-running characters who have flown under the radar based on their being literally and figuratively on the fringes of comics' continuity. The project was initially seen as a box office risk because of that (not so much now, with great reviews rolling in and a ton of buzz among fans), but that's also what lands a movie like this in the hands of a guy like Gunn, and with a cast of players headlined by a star who's mostly famous for a supporting role on a cult sit-com (Parks & Recreation's Chris Pratt as the group's "leader", Peter Quill).
And a professional wrestler.
The reason GotG gets play on Cageside Seats isn't just because I'm a Marvel geek from before many of you reading this were born, but because it gives WWE Superstar Batista (billed under his real name, Dave Bautista) his highest profile role yet. He's had small roles in genre fare like Guardians co-star Vin Diesel's Riddick and RZA's The Man With the Iron Fists, but being front and center in a Marvel movie is like going from Chikara to WWE.
We already know that Gunn, Pratt, Bautista and company will return to this now-franchise, as Marvel announced at San Diego Comic-Con that they've greenlit a GotG sequel for a 2017 release. Based on the reviews of his performance as Drax the Destroyer, that might just be one of several films on Bautista's plate in the years to come.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone loves the movie and says that the man we sometimes call The Animal "brings ferocity and feeling to Drax the Destroyer". Mahnola Dargis at The New York Times calls him "terrific".
In his three (out of four) star review of the film, Rafer Guzman of Newsday says that the pro wrestler reveals "a gift for deadpan delivery". David Hiltbrand at The Philadelphia Enquirer offered up three of four overall stars, and says that the whole movie is "straight out of the professional wrestling handbook". Of Bautista's Drax, he calls the performance "a wonderful turn" for the former WWE Champion.
The Charlotte Observer's Lawrence Toppman gets some of the details wrong, but he loves him some Big Dave. "The find here must be Bautista," he writes, "who was known as The Animal on the World Championship Wrestling circuit. His juggernaut fighting skills and dry delivery make him the likeliest reason to sit through any sequel."
But that's nothing compared to The Sacramento Bee's Carla Meyer, who is downright effusive in her praise of the man who walks alone:
WWE wrestler Bautista...brings unexpected nuance to the puffed-up Drax. Bautista shines in scenes contrasting Drax's rough appearance and formal speech. When a fellow Guardian comments that sarcasm goes over Drax's head, because Drax hails from a literal culture, the big guy responds that it is impossible for anything to go over his head. He's too flexible. Though Bautista is gentle at times, his bulk always reassures. A band of heroes consisting of a strong but dorky scavenger, a skinny green lady, fierce but tiny raccoon and a tree needs a Drax in its mix to appear capable of guarding a corner grocery store, much less a galaxy.
With Bautista already openly thinking about retiring from pro wrestling, it would behoove fans to enjoy him while they can when he returns to WWE this fall. As age catches up to him and a new career calls, future reviews may be referring to him as "Marvel's Drax" instead of as "WWE's Batista".
Deal with it.