A Crash Course in Thanos

first_img It’s no secret at this point that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has something of a villain problem. It may seem to be in the rearview thanks to a 2017 that featured Michael Keaton’s gripping turn as Vulture and 2018 opening with Michael B. Jordan’s already iconic Killmonger. But they’re still the exception to the rule at this point. Save for maybe Loki, the MCU’s villains have been largely forgettable. Did anyone walk out of Guardians of the Galaxy eager to learn more about Ronan the Accuser? How many of you were so taken with Malekith the Accursed in Thor: The Dark World that you wished he came back for Ragnarok? Villains in the MCU are almost always forgettable fodder. As such, the franchise is about to face its greatest challenge yet: Thanos.After several years of buildup, the Mad Titan finally strikes in Avengers: Infinity War. His presence has been looming since the first Avengers post-credit scene. We’ve known he’s coming. We’ve known he wants the Infinity Stones and the matching velour gauntlet. What hasn’t been put into context for us is why. There’s very little we actually know about the MCU’s interpretation of Thanos outside of “is bad” and “not the best dad” with a hefty dash of “wants the world to go boom.” We’re as stoked for Infinity War as anyone, but this is one of our bigger concerns leading into the film. Thanos is one of the great comic book characters of all time specifically due to his complex villainy.The Mad Titan is born of the Eternals, a celestial godlike race residing on one of Saturn’s moons. Thanos is an abomination in the eyes of the humanoid Eternals. He’s what’s called a Deviant, the Eternal equivalent of a mutant. His mother tried to kill him as a child and he returned the favor by successfully killing her years later. His brother Starfox (not the Starfox you’re thinking of) is a pretty-boy who literally has the power to make people attracted to him. And as a whole, his people reject him. There’s only one being in the universe with which Thanos feels a connection, and that’s Death. Capital-D, proper noun Death, personified in the form of a woman in the Marvel universe.Thanos’s relationship with Death is where his real complexity begins. On the surface his goals likely seem no different from that of any mad scientist or crazed weirdo with superpowers: he wants to destroy the world. But Thanos is different in that his motivation isn’t wanton destruction. It’s a personal philosophy deeply rooted in nihilism and a turbulent, unhealthy relationship with Death. It’s ironic that he’s been dubbed the Mad Titan in that respect. His deeds are horrific and his goals abhorrent, but he’s far from insane or unstable. He’s perfectly sane, which makes his quest all the more compelling.via Thanos #14In The Infinity Gauntlet, perhaps the character’s finest hour, Thanos’s first act of destruction with the gauntlet (which grants the user power over reality when assembled) is to eliminate half of all life in the universe. It begs the question: why not all of it? This is where Thanos differs. He can’t destroy all life, no matter how undeserving of existence he finds it all. Without life, Death becomes meaningless. He can’t do that to his only love. He simultaneously believes that life as a whole is a mistake, something that does not deserve the blessing of existence, while also finding that without life, without existence, there is nothing to serve Death. It’s an eternal conundrum, one with which he has struggled over decades.That nihilistic worldview doesn’t exclude him, either. Thanos ultimately doesn’t even find himself worthy of power or his place in the world. As such, he frequently subconsciously creates holes in his schemes that allow the heroes of the Marvel universe a fair shot at defeating him. It’s true that to him nobody deserves absolute power. But neither does he. It’s too great a burden (or honor) for any mortal being.The unfortunate reality is that the MCU is mostly full of villains whose motivations for world destruction are thin at best and nonexistent at times. From the Red Skull to Kaecilius, villains simply aren’t the franchise’s strong suit. It’s created a conundrum in that the build to Infinity War has, from the very start, centered on a villain, perhaps the greatest one the MCU has access to since Doctor Doom and Magneto are (at least at the moment) off the table. The Thanos we’ve seen in post-credit stingers, teasers, and trailers seems to talk a big game, and admittedly there’s a reference to his desire to “balancing the universe,” a very Thanos goal. Still, that’s no real indicator that he’ll be the character he could be.The greatest challenge Avengers: Infinity War faces somehow isn’t balancing 64 characters or delivering on nearly 20 movies’ worth of storylines and character arcs. It’s making sure that the remarkably complex and compelling villain the filmmakers have spent years building up as the greatest threat these characters have ever faced doesn’t end up as forgettable as the rest. Stay on target James Gunn Once Again Directing ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’Dark Phoenix Trailer Released & More Marvel Movie News center_img Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img read more