Infinity War is the culmination of ten years of movies and planning on the part of Marvel. All of the heroes we love have been set up to face off against the big bad of the universe, Thanos.
Our first glimpse of Thanos was briefly at the end of the first Avengers movie, where we find that he had been pulling strings to retrieve all of the Infinity Stones. We briefly get bits of information regarding Thanos throughout other films like Guardians of the Galaxy but the average movie-goer didn’t have much information about him.
Avengers: Infinity War is all about Thanos. He’s not just another throw away villain. He’s complex, has motivation, purpose and drive. It’s not an origin story, but enough of that is weaved throughout to flesh out Thanos and get you on board with what his goal is.
This post does contain spoilers. Turn back now and go see the film before reading on!
The real challenge with any villain is giving them a motivation that we don’t necessarily have to agree with, but understand. The most unoriginal villains are those that are pseudo-Hulks; smash, kill, evil, death, power, and so on. People hail Heath Ledger’s Joker as a great villain because he’s not the typical super villain archetype. We see him burn mounds of money, play games with human lives as well as Batman’s and cause chaos without it ever seeming to be for personal gain. Thanos is similar, albeit less chaotic.
Thanos’ motivations are made very clear in this film. Thanos believes in balance. We have finite resources that can only sustain a certain amount of life. By retrieving the Infinity Stones, Thanos can wipe out half of the population of the universe with the snap of his finger, thus, saving the half of us that remain.
More importantly, we are shown the direct effects of this line of thinking. When on Titan, he uses the reality stone to show what Titan looked like before its destruction. He noticed a problem and proposed equal purging of half the population; poor, rich, doesn’t matter. The Titan hierarchy refused, labeled Thanos the mad Titan and pushed forward to their eventual destruction.
Thanos sees the direct result of overpopulation and builds his ideology around it. He truly believes that he is burdened with purpose and that he’s the only one in the universe that can act out this plan to save it. You don’t have to agree with him, but you definitely believe him by the end of the film.
Love For His Children
The stand out scene in the movie for me is when Thanos and Gamora retrieve the soul stone. After Red Skull greets them, Thanos finds that in order to retrieve the stone, he needs to sacrifice someone he loves; a soul for a soul.
Gamora starts laughing at this because her understanding of Thanos throughout the two decades of being raised by him is that he doesn’t love anyone or anything. He had spent a lifetime judging other worlds and populations, yet here he stands, judged by a stone that he won’t be able to retrieve.
When Thanos turns around to face Gamora, he has tears in his eyes. Red Skull points out that the tears aren’t for him, but for Gamora. Throughout his parenting of Gamora, he had built a complicated love for her, something that she didn’t understand until now. She wasn’t just a weapon that he was training, she was his daughter, and loved her as one. This is a shock to Gamora who always viewed him as a tyrant.
The whole scene was heartbreaking for Gamora, but also Thanos.
One last minor detail that I took out of Thanos’ relationships with his children involves Ebony Maw. I’m going to butcher this dialogue because I’ve only seen the film once, but there’s a moment when Thanos arrives on Titan, where he is supposed to meet Ebony Maw for the time stone. Instead, he is greeted by Doctor Strange.
They have a back and forth leading to Thanos asking Strange if the Maw is dead. Strange confirms this, and Thanos says something along the lines of “It truly is a day for mourning.” It’s a small moment, but I appreciated his reflection of Ebony Maw in that light. He had just killed Gamora, his favorite daughter, and he finds out another of his children is dead.
As odd as it may seem, I could feel that he actually cares about his children. He’s not just a brute that sends out his lackeys to do his bidding.
Ultimately, Thanos’ motivation remains his chief purpose. He’s heartbroken that he has to kill Gamora for the soul stone, yet does it anyway and pushes forward, just as any good protagonist would do to save people.
I’ve avoided reading the Infinity Gauntlet storyline for years because I knew the Marvel Cinematic Universe was leading into it, but I did know about the snap that wipes out half of the universe. Infinity War doesn’t disappoint.
Not only does Marvel build up to Thanos over this past decade, they deliver on how powerful he is by letting him follow through with his plan to wipe out half of the universe. The whole scene with Thanos arriving in Wakanda and passively waving off the Avengers as he powers forward towards Vision was incredible. Scarlet Witch making the decision to kill who she loves for the greater good, just to have Thanos reverse time and cave in Vision’s head seconds later for the mind stone compounds the brutality of his march.
After the snap, Thanos isn’t elated, isn’t happy or excited, isn’t shown bragging or taunting. He’s reserved and haunted by what he had just done. He retreats to an empty space to be greeted by a child version of the daughter he just murdered earlier in the day, asking him if it was worth it.
If you take a step back as a Marvel film-goer, what they are doing is bonkers. Marvel has created twenty films over ten years to lead up to this moment. While I do not think characters like Spiderman and Black Panther are gone forever, it does still shock me that after all of the build up, they didn’t shy away from making Thanos the most powerful being in the universe.
Alright guys, that’s it for now. I may have a longer review for Avengers: Infinity War in the future, but for right now, I wanted to get out my thoughts on Thanos.
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