Thanos is the real protagonist in Avengers: Infinity War — why he's unlike any Marvel villain yet
Josh Brolin’s motion capture turn as Thanos, the villain to beat ‘em all, goes so much beyond antagonists in garden variety action entertainers.
One minute and 21 seconds into the second official trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, there’s a shot of a tiny green hand latching onto a massive purple one. The shot immediately after is of a little girl walking hand-in-hand with a gigantic figure. The little girl, of course, is young Gamora, while the giant is her adoptive father, Thanos - the antagonist in Infinity War and the next Avengers film.
That, right there, is your first hint of what sets Thanos apart from any other Marvel super-villain; for when was the last time the bad guy in a Marvel trailer got even a semblance of that kind of backstory? And of course, when you know that every MCU superhero thus far is up against one primary enemy, it's evident then that Thanos is bound to be special.
Yes, the pantheon of MCU villains has some iconic names already. Erik Killmonger of Black Panther is fresh in memory and an effortless fan favourite because he finally gave us a Marvel villain who blurred moral lines — you could be a perfectly functioning human being and still find nothing wrong in Killmonger’s motivations.
If you dig farther back, you had Hela from Thor: Ragnarok, who gave the slogan ‘yass queen’ an inferiority complex; the inordinately articulate Ultron, who basically showed humankind a mirror while also casually messing with Tony Stark’s ego; Loki, who inadvertently led to the formation of the Avengers in the first place; and even the terrifying Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, who showed us what we’d get if a Nazi procreated through intercourse with Hell itself.
Yet, Thanos stands apart from every single one of them - not because he’s more powerful, more evil or more terrifying, but because he is, in reality, the protagonist of Avengers: Infinity War.
There are plenty of moments in the film that’ll give you the impression that the 18 films prior to this didn’t exist to introduce us to the heroes, but to show us the sheer number of all those who would, in time, attempt to defeat Thanos, whose only aim is to bring balance to the universe.
Thanos bleeds. He feels. He fears. He also sheds tears. Yet, he’s cold. Precise. Rational. Ruthless. He isn’t merely attempting to achieve (his idea of) balance; he is balance itself.
In a film that’s constantly juggling so many beloved characters, sometimes even tripping over its own ambition and scale, the one thing that keeps it stable and propels it forward at all times is the prospect of what exactly will happen when your favourite character faces off with Thanos. The question, at least in this film, isn’t ‘will he/she be able to defeat Thanos’, but ‘will he/she be able to survive Thanos’.
The puny superheroes we’ve come to know, love and invest ourselves in have nary a clue about what an Infinity Stone is, how many are there, and what the purpose of their existence is. They’re all but playing catch up with the one who has the ambition and the will to seek them out and wield them to their fullest. Make no mistake, if you thought Marvel makes frivolous, superficial, cash-grab blockbusters, you’ll know what frivolity is when you see a ragtag bunch of Average super-Joes attempt to ensnare the Mad Titan and keep him from his quest.
Josh Brolin’s motion capture turn as Thanos, the villain to beat ‘em all, goes so much beyond what we’ve come to expect from villains in garden variety action entertainers, transcending into the realm of an all-out millennial pop culture icon.
Avengers: Infinity War is bound to be a polarising film. There’s enough meat in it to at least partially satiate hardcore fans, but it also suffers from over-ambition.
Thankfully, the same cannot be said of Thanos. Infinity War raises many questions, holds most answers at bay, and sets things up nicely for the next Avengers film. And you can be sure it’ll be worth the fresh long wait ahead, because at the other end of the wait lies Thanos himself.
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