The Marvel Cinematic Universe should have introduced Thanos in a very different way. Over the years, Marvel Studios has rightly developed a reputation for playing the long game. In truth, though, Marvel don't plan quite so far ahead as people think. Thanos was only introduced in the post-credits scene of The Avengers because Joss Whedon knew he needed Loki and The Other to be working for someone, and he's a fan of the Mad Titan from the comics. The director has openly admitted he had no idea at all how that would play out. It was around the same time that Marvel looked back at their Phase 1 stories and their preliminary scripts for Phase 2, and realized they had an awful lot of McGuffins that could be turned into Infinity Stones.
As things came together, Marvel focused most of their attention on the Infinity Stones, and precious little on Thanos himself. That's why there are such marked differences between the Thanos of The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy and the villain who stepped into the fore in Avengers: Infinity War. The earlier films imagined a far more comic-book-accurate Thanos, who wished to court Death by challenging the Avengers, and who had destroyed Gamora's entire species - not just killed off half the population of Zen-Whoberi.
Marvel didn't really start pinning down Thanos' character and motivations until 2015, when they hired Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to work on the script for Avengers: Infinity War and what would become Avengers: Endgame. As a result, there was very little that could be done about these issues. But let's imagine a scenario where they'd handled it differently, where they'd decided to lay the groundwork for their portrayal of Thanos just as much as for the Infinity Stones themselves. How could Thanos have been set up better, by making just the smallest possible adjustments to the MCU?
- This Page: Solving The Two Infinity Gauntlet Problem
- Page 2: Fixing Thanos (& The Soul Stone) In The Guardians of the Galaxy Movies
- Page 3: Making Doctor Strange & Thor: Ragnarok Important To Thanos
Odin's Infinity Gauntlet Should Have Been Thanos' Too
The Infinity Gauntlet is probably the MCU's biggest continuity problem. One scene in Thor showed the Frost Giants raiding Odin's Treasure Vault, aiming to take the Casket of Ancient Winters. In the background, visible for just a fraction of a second, there's a glimpse of the Infinity Gauntlet. It's worth remembering that Marvel displayed the contents of Odin's Vault at San Diego Comic-Con 2011, making objects like the Infinity Gauntlet an important part of the film's marketing. So while this seems like a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Easter egg, the truth is that Marvel shone something of a spotlight on it.
And then came the post-credits scene of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the moment when Marvel pretty much gave up on their established continuity. It shows Thanos donning the Infinity Gauntlet. "Fine," he fumed, "I'll do it myself." It was a strange scene; not only was it impossible to understand why Thanos had acquired the Infinity Gauntlet (which was now a left-handed glove), it didn't even fit with Age of Ultron's main narrative. It was unclear just why Ultron's failed attempt to wipe out humanity should inspire Thanos to get up off his chair and take action. Worse still, it was also impossible to work out quite what was supposed to be happening in the first place. McFeely and Markus said they weren't concerned with that scene when writing the script for Avengers: Infinity War, choosing to ignore it because they couldn't understand it. The Russo Brothers suggested that perhaps this was the moment when Thanos took the Gauntlet from Nidavellir. Eventually, Marvel half-addressed this by having Hela declare Odin's version a fake in Thor: Ragnarok.
Clearly any exercise to smarten up Marvel's continuity simply has to address this issue, and the easiest way is to have Thanos take the Infinity Gauntlet from Asgard. A subtle reference in Thor: The Dark World would remind viewers that Odin has possession of the Gauntlet; perhaps the scene with the Book of Yggdrasil could have been adjusted a little, so he took his son and Jane Foster into his vaults in order to open the forbidden book and explain the Infinity Stones. That would have allowed Marvel to show the Infinity Gauntlet in the background again, as the group walked through the vault to the book.
That could then be followed up with a revised post-credits scene for Avengers: Age of Ultron that showed Loki disguised as Odin handing the Infinity Gauntlet over to Thanos. This would mean there was a straightforward narrative link between the films, Loki's brief rule of Asgard after Thor: The Dark World would make its way into the ongoing story, and the greatest continuity problem in the MCU would have been avoided. This wouldn't even necessarily mean the plot of Avengers: Infinity War had to change much, either; Thanos could have wiped the Dwarves out because he learned they were the ones who'd made the Gauntlet, and he wanted to preserve his secret.
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019