*Massive spoilers ahead.*
The post-credits scene of 2012’s Avengers marked the first appearance of the Mad Titan, Thanos. And 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War turned out to be the most glorious payoff for a villain set up in just a collective few minutes over the course of six years.
Thanos is not your average moustache-twirling bad guy with unfathomable shallow motivations.
At no point does he spew ludicrous evil monologues like a quintessential cartoonish villain. His motivations are insidious. But there is a part of you which acknowledges his somewhat ‘human’ side.
Very few have been able to do what Thanos has done — achieve iconic status in a single film.
We’ve witnessed the sheer amount of fear the likes of Voldemort and Darth Vader evoked in their respective film franchises. But none come close to Thanos, who managed to make himself an icon in a single cinematic appearance.
Even though the film contains an ensemble cast of characters we all know and love, Thanos is the star of this film.
Unlike generic Marvel villains in the past (hello, Malekith, Whiplash, and Ultron), each of Thanos’ appearances seems threatening. From the very beginning, we’re introduced to his menacing presence.
The film wastes no time introducing him on-screen and gives us no tiring exposition to familiarise you with his character.
The studio has done its homework on him. His well-crafted gradual buildup established him as a recognisable character even for the uninitiated.
The MCU finally has a genuinely frightening villain whose every presence seems like a threat.
Thanos’ unwavering focus and ‘whatever it takes’ attitude is what makes him terrifying. He has an elaborately chalked-out plan, a clear goal, and a drive to execute his ‘merciful’ genocide. The details are gradually unravelled over the course of the film, but the magnitude is felt throughout.
While the galactic scale of his scheme is continually perceived, it is the subtle nuances which truly make one realise what he’s capable of.
For instance, the otherwise unstoppable Hulk was beaten into submission to the extent that he never appears again.
This in itself was impactful enough to establish the impending terror that will befall upon the Avengers.
While the film has multiple ‘heroes’ per se, Thanos is the hero of this story. In his own twisted way, his plan of annihilation makes perfect sense to him.
No other cinematic villain has convinced us about his motivations as much as him. Thanos genuinely believes his actions will make the universe a better place and at no point does this singular focus waver.
In nearly every scene where he’s on a quest to collect the infinity stones, he ceases to cause major havoc (saving it for later) the moment his work is done.
When he acquires the time stone, for instance, he immediately retreats and goes on to his next mission — acquiring the mind stone. Ethical in his own contorted way, Thanos leaves, keeping all the stranded Avengers alive (until the final moments, at least).
Thanos may be intimidating as hell, but there are moments where he ends up striking a chord.
The two Guardians of the Galaxy films strategically established Thanos’ toxic relationship with his daughters — Gamora and Nebula.
In the scene where Thanos is about to possess the soul stone, we unwittingly discover a ‘human’ side to him. Despite his obvious faults, he truly loved his daughter and we are able to see his sympathetic side, despite all the peril he plans to cause.
Unlike other villains, Thanos emerges victorious throughout. This alone sets him apart from the usual bad guy catalogue.
The film may have ‘Avengers’ in the title, but it is clearly written from Thanos’ POV. Even the final frame says “Thanos will return” and not the Avengers, further establishing his massive influence in the MCU.
He truly is and probably will be the greatest villain of our time by miles.
While the character development was spot on, kudos to Josh Brolin for doing an impeccable job of bringing this CGI being to life. And millennials, we finally have a pop-culture reference from our time which is as enormous as Darth Vader.