Guardians 3’s Most Surprising Decision Makes More Sense Than You Think
James Gunn believes there’s more to suspenseful storytelling than axing popular characters.
Marvel movies are famously resistant to killing off major characters. It’s only in massive event movies, like Infinity War or Endgame, where superheroes meet some sort of consequential end, and even then there are often still awkward workarounds to bring them into future films (hello, Gamora 2.0).
Despite its laborious efforts to create finality, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 doesn’t kill off anyone of importance. But in an interview where Collider asked Gunn about killing characters and the superhero genre’s inability to permanently and purposefully end its stars, Gunn argued that killing one of the more important Guardians wasn’t needed to give Vol. 3 closure.
“I don’t think that killing characters is necessary,” Gunn said. “One of the things I’ve discovered over the years, as I’ve killed characters in different movies, people know I’m willing to do that.”
Gunn pointed out that characters have died in his movies, like Yondu (Michael Rooker) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, “original” Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, and “everybody” in The Suicide Squad. “People know I’m a guy who’s willing to go there,” Gunn said.
The director added that he feels it’s more important for movies to feel like they have life-threatening stakes than to necessarily follow through on them. “I don’t really think that Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible is going to die. But for the most part, you need to feel that sense of stakes, and I think that’s what’s important, moreso than actually killing someone.”
Gunn has a point. No one is going to believe Ethan Hunt will die in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning when its second part has already been announced. But what makes the Mission: Impossible movies so exciting is that, in the moment, it’s exciting to find out how Ethan Hunt lives.
However, the Marvel franchise is guilty of stretching audience disbelief too far, too often. While Marvel’s characters are generally everlasting in comics, movies are a different medium where closure is essential. This is why it’s disappointing when movies like Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians Vol. 3 bend over backward to promote themselves as the end of a story, only to keep the characters alive in case they’re needed for a sequel or another hero’s movie.
It’s true characters don’t need to die for stakes to feel real, or for closure to be had, and always killing off heroes would become just as predictable as always letting them survive. But when the trailers promote finality only for the end credits to tease “THOR WILL RETURN,” as Love and Thunder did, it makes you wonder how long audiences are willing to believe anything Marvel says it’s going to do.