Kevin Feige told us in early 2016, while in production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, that Thanos wouldn't be in that cosmic sequel but when he returned for Avengers: Infinity War, he'd be the main character. Avengers 3 was basically the Thanos movie, he said at the time. And that was a good, if obvious, call to make given that Thanos is the most anticipated movie villain of 2018.
Two years later and Avengers: Infinity War is weeks away from its global theatrical launch and Thanos - played by Josh Brolin in both this movie and the untitled Avengers 4 - is the central figure of the marketing. Him and his Infinity Gauntlet, that is. And now we can finally share some of the learnings from our Avengers: Infinity War set visit in June 2017.
We've already explored how Thanos' origins and motivations differ from the comics. There's no personification of death whom Thanos is trying to please, nor is he born from a moon in our very own solar system. This origin, as screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely tell us, will be fleshed out in Avengers: Infinity War - something that was hinted at with flashbacks in the latest record-breaking Infinity War trailer. Here's a snippet from our conversation with Markus and McFeely:
How long does it take for Thanos to take the screen?
Stephen McFeely: It’ll take 18 movies [laughs].
Christopher Markus: We won’t tell you exactly but 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.
Stephen McFeely: In many ways it’s Thanos’ movie.
And from later in the interview, when we asked about Marvel's rough track record with flesh out, motivated villains:
Stephen McFeely: Yes, one of the big challenges is how to make sure he’s not just a relentless machine collecting stones like he’s going shopping. 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.
Christopher Markus: I mean the big thing about all of these movies, but these two. You know, all the way along the line we wanted to give people choices and make them continue to have to sacrifice this decision for this decision and not just have it be like, “I have no choice in this matter.” Aliens attack New York City, what are you gonna do, not fight them? No you have to. So not criticizing that, but in order to sustain this long of an epic, to keep the waters a little muddy, to keep them going like, “Interesting, he did that. I might not have done that.” And to do that for everybody, heroes and villains alike, until you get to the end and you go, “Huh shouldn’t have done that.”
Thanos, along with Thor, have the most screen time in Avengers: Infinity War - the latter due to Thor's knowledge of the cosmos and how the events of Thor: Ragnarok's conclusion tie into Infinity War. As for how the writers will make Thanos the most interesting character of the movie, he's a family man in his own weird way. The type of family man who has the power and willingness to murder everybody and everything since he's what the Markus and McFeely describe as an "amoral philosopher" - something they were inspired by from Thanos creator Jim Starlin's work in Marvel Comics.
Christopher Markus: Well part of it is motivation, where if you have a villain who just wants to kill somebody or just wants to take over the world because it seems like a fun thing to do, or has been paid by the Russians to take over the world… run for President to take over the world. That guy isn’t very interesting. He’s pathetic, but we take this from [Jim Starlin]. Thanos is an amoral philosopher. He’s not the Devil – although he does sometimes have the Devil standing next to him. We wanted that all the way through. To have a villain with understandable motivations and emotions. Thanos has family. Thanos has two daughters that we know of. Thanos has 8 million back stories in the comics but they’re all kind of sad.
Are you ready to see Marvel's biggest villain yet and can he reach the status of being Marvel's best villain? He does have at least two movies to earn this label. Share your thoughts and theories on Avengers: Infinity War in the comments! Check out Jason Aaron's "Thanos Rising" miniseries for more on Thanos' upbringing.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019