If you’re sick and tired of one-and-done Marvel movie villains, fret not. Marvel’s finally does away with its formulaic villain of the week (well, of the movie, in this case).
Thanos, the big, bad, bald villain of Infinity War, is clearly the star despite being entirely CGI. Unlike the unbelievably bland Ultron in the earlier, Thanos is from anger to joy to even sadness. From his first appearance in the movie to the end, the evil boss feels like a solid presence, unlike some of the more forgettable one-shot villains in other Marvel flicks.
It’s not just the CGI and Josh Brolin’s expressive acting via motion capture that make Thanos memorable. There are a whole bunch of reasons Thanos is now my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe character. Ready? Warning: massive Avengers: Infinity War spoilers ahead.
In the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, we met Nebula and Gamora, adopted daughters of Thanos, whose relationship was mentioned. While the second Guardians outing explored the relationship between the siblings, it’s in Infinity War that we get to see just what kind of a parent Thanos really is.
Far from the cold-blooded figure everyone believes him to be, Thanos is actually a loving daddy to his favorite girl Gamora, though the same can’t be said for poor Nebula. And when forced to choose between the soul stone or Gamora, Thanos’ indecision and anguish is laid bare for all to see — even Gamora herself is shocked Thanos actually really cares for her.
And as the movie ends, we get a glimpse of Thanos looking all pensive and pondering staring at the sunset, likely thinking about Gamora. Even though he appears to be at peace now that his plan has worked, it’s a hollow triumph as he’s all alone without the daughter he loved.
Take over the world? Pfft. Build super weapon that can blow up planets? Pfft. How about killing half the galaxy to let the other half have a chance of survival? Hell yeah, and while he’s at it, Thanos doesn’t half-heartedly do it without a plan, either. He’s all in, regardless of the personal cost. One of the golden rules of screenwriting is that your characters must really want something and pursue it despite overwhelming obstacles, including a significant personal sacrifice. Thanos plays this out perfectly. We can’t help but feel for him, despite his horrifically evil plan of galaxy-wide genocide.
He also doesn’t waste time monologuing to the heroes. Heck, it’s the heroes who are doing most of that for him.
He doesn’t waste time with bumbling inept henchmen either, because we all know, success or failure as an evil overlord is dependent on your henchmen not screwing up, and they generally do, for other villains. Not for Thanos though, he has the formidable Black Order with him, and it’s really only through pure luck and pop culture references that the heroes manage to get a slight upper hand.
Unlike in the comics, where Thanos wants the Infinity Gauntlet to kill everyone to proclaim his love for the personification of Death, there’s no such odd romance in the movie. It worked in the comics, but for this movie, it would have felt terribly out of place.
Even when the Hulk tries to smash the crap out of Thanos, he refuses all help before finally pummeling the Hulk into submission — to the point we never see Hulk in the movie thereafter. Thanos then proceeds to take out the entirety of the MCU’s heroes without even losing once, something you can’t say for any of the other villains in the franchise.
This alone makes him the best villain — after all, how many movies end with the bad guy winning and the heroes losing big time? Best of all, as the movie ended, it didn’t do a “The Avengers will return.” Instead it points out that it’s Thanos who will return. You didn’t see that for the Vulture, or the Red Skull or other more iconic bad guys such as Ultron (who, again is boring, and had the movie named after him as well).
So there you have it. Thanos is the greatest Marvel Cinematic Universe villain, period and he is fricking awesome — nutsack chin and all.
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