Why Thanos is the main character of Avengers: Infinity War
Marvel’s The Avengers was a groundbreaking movie that successfully assembled four different film franchises together in one colossal blockbuster. At the end of the film though, Marvel’s trademark post-credit scene planted a seed that they’re finally preparing to sow six years later: Thanos, The Mad Titan. The main big bad of the entire Marvel Comics universe was coming to the big screen, and he wanted to court death.
Since then, the character, first played by Damion Poitier and now played by Josh Brolin, went on to be a big part of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and was last seen on the big screen in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. In that brief post-credit scene he opened up a compartment with the Infinity Gauntlet and said, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
A fun scene that, in retrospect, Marvel Studios may not have known what they were doing with.
“We’ve all sat there and went, ‘What the hell is he talking about?’ and ‘Where was he when he did that?’” screenwriter Christopher Markus tells us on the set of Avengers: Infinity War to a laugh.
What Thanos certainly meant was the collection of the Infinity Stones, with several them having eluded his grasp now throughout the different Marvel movies. With Avengers: Infinity War, fans should be prepared for Thanos to make a smash-and-grab run for all of them.
“We’ve been teasing Thanos for many movies in 30-second clips,” co-writer Stephen McFeely says of the character. “So hopefully all the lead up will allow us to really go to town with him and make him a villain that requires this epic level of storytelling. That is the word I would use most often. It’s ridiculously big.”
“You’re going to get Thanos and you’re not going to feel like we’ve continued to jerk you around and kept him in check,” Markus adds.
Up until this moment, the heroes have always been the crux of each Marvel movie, but this time they’re going a different route and essentially making the villain the main character. Avengers: Infinity War is basically Thanos’ movie, which also happens to star every Marvel hero.
“One of the big challenges is how to make sure he’s not just a relentless machine collecting stones like he’s going shopping,” McFeely tells us. “So we want to give him a full weighted emotional story. You can kind of say this is Thanos’ origin story so that he will get the weight of any of the previous heroes in terms of the decisions he has to make in order to get what he wants.”
Fans already know the location of most of the Infinity Stones in the MCU, and even though at least two of them are on Earth, the action of the film will be split between Earth and outer space.
“We wanted to not have it be the feeling that it all comes down to Earth every time,” Markus says. “It’s this sort of ‘Earth-ist’ point-of-view that you have to tell. ‘In order to conquer the universe I have to take over this one little tiny planet.’ We needed a broad canvas the whole time, so that it didn’t feel like, coincidentally, every stone is in America.”
And he’s right, they’re not all in America. One of them is, the Time Stone is being held by Doctor Strange in New York City. The other, the Mind Stone, is being worn by The Vision, who is more of an international traveler. Plus there’s the Soul Stone, the location for which is still unknown, but it very well could be somewhere on our pale blue dot. Again though, Thanos doesn’t just have a shopping list for the stones, and it’s not going to feel like crossing something off a list in the film.
“Every time you collect (an Infinity Stone) it can’t just be a check mark. It has to do something characterful,” McFeely says. “It’s got to move the plot forward but it also has to stakes and cost for literal characters at the time, so that it’s not just a shopping spree. And I think we’ve done that and boy, we’re going to wrench some emotion out of each and every one of those moments that we can.”
Even though this is a character and a story that Marvel has been building to since the very beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and you’re already well aware that Thanos is supposed to be the biggest bad of all big bads that ever big badded, don’t just call him a simple villain. He might snap you out of existence.
“Villain is a derogatory term that Thanos wouldn’t agree with,” Markus says. “Another one of the things we set out to do in this was, if Thanos is just a bad guy, then you’re dead in the water. It’s just a bad guy, you know? You get bored pretty quickly after he’s torn off the first few heads… and we have two movies.”
“That’s sort of metaphorical,” McFeely says about the ‘torn off heads’ comment. “But uh… I’m not really sure.”
Avengers: Infinity War arrives in theaters on April 27.
Check back here on Friday for our interview with Don Cheadle (War Machine) from the set of Avengers: Infinity War!