Why Thanos needs to be a great villain in Avengers: Infinity War


It’s no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe struggles to create compelling villains. Thanos really has some big boots to fill as the next Marvel baddie.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has an incredible year in the making. Black Panther was a tremendous success, and Ant-Man and the Wasp will be out later this year. But in between them is one of the most anticipated movies of the year (okay, next to Black Panther), Avengers: Infinity War.

We’re sure the film’s story will be amazing, the characters will be dynamic and every moment will have us on the edge of our seats. But there’s one thing that we’re not so certain about: will Thanos be a great villain?

The hype

Before we tackle that question, we have to think about why this is so important in the first place. When you think about it, everything that’s happened in the MCU so far has been building up to an epic Avengers vs. Thanos battle.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor and The Avengers, we spend a lot of time learning about the first Infinity Stone cased in the Tesseract. Plus, The Avengers is where we get a glimpse of Thanos for this very first time.

Still, that was back in 2012. That means we’ve had roughly five years of buildup, learning about the Infinity Stones and the heroes of the universe, all with a growing anticipation that something mind-blowing will happen in Infinity War. 

In short, there’s a lot of hype. 18 movies in, and we’re finally ready to pull all the strings together. You can see why it’d be a huge disappointment if Thanos were to fall flat. All other Marvel villains didn’t carry this kind of weight on their shoulders.

Therefore, since we didn’t expect much out of the villains, they all got a pass to be just okay. Plus, the heroes always overshadowed them anyway.

It’s sad to set the bar so low as to hope for a “good” villain rather than a “great” one in the MCU, but that’s just how it is.

The writers’ plan

The writers of Infinity War know this. Addressing Thanos and other villains, Infinity War writer Christopher Markus hit the nail on the head in a statement to CinemaBlend.

“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… that guy isn’t very interesting. He’s pathetic.”

You can say that again. From Lee Pace’s Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 (who was so forgettable that I legitimately had to check his name) to Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius in Doctor Strange, there have been very few good eggs in the MCU.

There have been some fan favorites, though. Loki, a clear one, who’s surprisingly made it all the way to Infinity War. And Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger is undoubtedly the most compelling villain so far — mainly because he wasn’t just power hungry; he had a plausible vision.

That’s what it looks like the Infinity War writers want to do with Thanos.

“One of the big challenges is how to make sure [Thanos is] not just a relentless machine collecting stones like he’s going shopping,” writer Stephen McFeely said in the CinemaBlend story. “So we want to give him a full, weighted emotional story.”

It looks like the writers will be trying their best to take the Killmonger approach to creating Thanos. So by the end of the movie, we might actually be saying to ourselves, “I can’t say he was wrong,” according to Markus in a Marvel press release.

“Weirdly, he’s the most understandable guy in the movie sometimes,” he added about Thanos.

The final product

The writers’ ambition on that front is duly noted. The only thing left to do is watch the movie to see if they truly executed their idea.

On the surface, it does appear that Thanos is just another one of those power-hungry villains. He’s collecting the most powerful stones in the universe! That seems pretty power hungry to me.

But after five years, we’ve yet to know his intentions. So at the end of the day, there legitimately could be a good reason for him to collect all of the stones. We just hope the writers fully flesh this out in the film.

It’d be a shame to have a highly anticipated movie miss the mark just because the villain was not compelling enough.

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Aside from that one qualm, Avengers: Infinity War looks like it will be a highly watchable film, regardless of how Thanos turns out. Where else would we get to see so many of our beloved Marvel characters fighting together?