Everyone knows that death in superhero comic books is (generally) only temporary. It’s easy to kill a character, but it’s awful hard to keep them dead — even when a company goes to incredible lengths to send them on their final journeys. The Death of Superman was a national media event way back in 1992, and was even kinda-sorta depicted in Batman v Superman (2016). More recently Marvel “killed” Captain America and Wolverine in their comic books, but again, only for a short while each. Superman, Cap, and Wolverine all came back to life, albeit in really elaborate, marketing-driven events.
For comic book fans, these returns from the grave surprised precisely no one.
Killing characters is obviously nothing new in comics, and neither is bringing them back from the dead. It’s become so common as to be cliche, which quite obviously robs the original events of their power — it’s a compounding problem too, as each subsequent major character death becomes less and less meaningful to savvy audiences. However, comics get away with it (and have for decades), because fans understand that there’s a need to sell 12 books a year per character (or 24, 36, or even 48 if you’re Spider-Man or Batman). Ultimately, these are beloved, iconic characters that fans want to live on into the future.
Character deaths in superhero films is a much different problem, however. Each franchise superhero movie takes between 2-5 years to reach the big screen, which implies bigger stakes and correspondingly more deaths. Marvel and DC have dealt with this issue by killing off major villains (Zod, Red Skull, Malekith, Ra’s al Ghul, Ronan, Ares, etc.) — the knock-on dilemma here is the lack of compelling and ongoing villains from film-to-film.
As Marvel reaches the end of its MCU Phase 3 — a decade in the making — many anticipate a major changing of the guard. For example, the storylines for Cap, Iron Man, and others may be coming to an end, and fans expect their mantles to be handed-off to other characters, or possibly new actors cast in these roles.
Guardians of the Galaxy franchise writer and director, James Gunn, is no fan of cheap death. When you die in one of Gunn’s films, you stay plenty dead. Digital Spy posted excepts from Gunn’s recent Facebook post:
What bothers me is when a character is given a beautiful or powerful death in popular culture, that fulfills a character arc… and then is brought back in a sequel or comic or later episode through some usually ridiculous means because, you know, he or she is popular. This has become so commonplace in TV, movies, and (especially) comics that any significant death, at least in franchises, loses its emotional impact. And, by extension, all death and danger lose their power in these stories.”
One of the most popular characters in Gunn’s franchise, Yondu (Michael Rooker), earned just such an epic and emotional send-off in the most-recent Guardians film. From Gunn’s comments it’s pretty clear this is the end of that character’s journey.
That said, in Avengers: Infinity War we expect uber-villain Thanos to obtain some or all of the Infinity Stones, which include power over time, reality, and mind — all of which could be manipulated to return dead characters to life, in one form or another.
Gunn doubles-down on his position when talking about Yondu:
Although it is always possible to see Yondu in a flashback or prequel, I personally will never bring him back to life in present time because it would nullify his sacrifice and the love from father to son that affects me so much personally as well as others all around the world. One of the reasons that Yondu is the most popular character from the second film is BECAUSE of this sacrifice, and the idea of bringing him back in Vol. 3 or 4 or on the Yondu Netflix series because he sells a lot of Funko Pops horrifies and sickens me. Like I said, I hate it. And I’ll never do it.”
So, depending on how you feel about Yondu, this could be either great or terrible news. However, for the ongoing viability of Marvel and DC’s superhero films, movie fans need to respect the logic of their respective universes. When a studio makes the call to kill off a character, stick with it… unless it’s Superman, Captain America, Batman, or Wolverine — the rules clearly don’t apply to these guys!
SOURCE: Digital Spy