Infinity War’s Thanos Isn't Really Marvel’s Thanos

Thanos' Character Has Been Transformed Too

This revised backstory has allowed the Russo brothers to present Thanos in a completely different way. The Thanos of the comics loves only one thing; Lady Death. He has sacrificed anything and everything in order to earn Lady Death's affection. The Thanos of the comics strikes indiscriminately, slaughtering entire races, committing untold acts of genocide. He has destroyed his own homeworld, he murdered his own mother, and he has traveled the cosmos seeking out his children - and killing them. This Thanos is utterly irredeemably evil.

Related: Avengers: Infinity War’s Ending Was Very Different In The Comics

But the Thanos of the MCU is very, very different. He's every bit as insane as the Thanos of the comics, but genuinely believes he is serving the best interests of the universe. As a result, this version of Thanos is a surprisingly complex character. Whatever Gamora may believe, he's actually capable of love; in fact, she is the one person he truly loves. Clearly wounded by his adopted daughter's betrayal, he uses the Reality Stone to find out whether she truly cares for him or not. He then takes her with him to Vormir in order to acquire the Soul Stone, where he learns that he must sacrifice someone he loves in order to take possession of it.

Thanos must sacrifice everything in order to achieve his goal. Avengers: Infinity War screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus promised that there would be a price to be paid every time the Mad Titan acquired an Infinity Stone. It is, in truth, Thanos himself who pays the price; over the course of the film, he loses his armies, his allies, his children, and even sacrifices his most beloved daughter. On Earth, he comes terrifyingly close to death, as Thor's enchanted hammer Stormbreaker slams into his chest. But somehow he perseveres and achieves his goal. In a haunting vision sequence, Thanos stands in the Soul World facing Gamora's soul, and admits that this has cost him "Everything."

Thanos Is Actually Strangely Empathetic

Thanos and Titan in Avengers Infinity War

All this, fundamentally, means that the Thanos of Avengers: Infinity War is actually strangely sympathetic. In print, what makes him stand out alongside Marvel's multitude of grounded and empathetic heroes and villains is that he's presented as an insane and inscrutable god. His obsessive love of Lady Death is almost impossible to truly understand, a twisted and pathetic love that's amplified to a cosmic level. And there is nothing Thanos will not do; he has no morals, no limits, no restraints. If he believes an action will earn Lady Death's approval, he does it, no matter how horrific. Genocide is a good day's work to the Mad Titan. It's true that the best comic book writers have actually crafted moments when it's possible to feel for Thanos, but even then those moments are tainted by a sense of revulsion, an awareness of his unlimited potential for evil.

The movies rewrite almost everything. This Thanos is a philosopher, a thinker who has endured tragedy, and become twisted by it. He fancies himself, not a killer, but as a savior. And Infinity War, to Thanos, is the story of how he saves the universe. That's amplified by the plot structure of the movie, which gives Thanos an inverted "Hero's Journey," right down to the classic "Ordeal" in which he must make a terrible sacrifice in order to achieve his goal. Where the comics treat Thanos as evil beyond comprehension, the MCU gives us a Thanos who can actually be understood, albeit in a twisted way.

Related: Avengers: Infinity War Solves The MCU’s Biggest Problems

Fundamentally, the Russo brothers have chosen to reinvent Thanos. They've done this because they want - nay, need - to present the Mad Titan as a villain who believes himself to be the hero of his own story. Avengers: Infinity War isn't any standard MCU entry, it's the start of the epic culmination, and the stakes need to be real. We already care for the heroes, the focus must be on what threatens them.

While Thanos may look the same on the outside, every aspect of his identity - his backstory, his motives, even his character - has been dramatically adapted for the MCU. The Thanos of the comics serves Death; the Thanos of the MCU genuinely believes he serves life. It just so happens they both want to erase half the life in the universe to do that.

MORE: Avengers: Infinity War Skips A Lot of Important Stuff

Key Release Dates
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
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