How do you make a perfect supervillain? Take a tall, built, bald, weirdly skin toned guy. Throw in some strength, muscles and scary looking sidekicks. Don’t forget human emotions. He should be able to shed two drops of tears at a given point. Get an excellent CGI artist to slowly blend all of this together. Garnish it with a selfless motive for destruction and a pinch of absolute silence during his screen time in the theatres. And Voila! If you have followed the Russo brothers’ recipe to perfection, then it’s possible that you have created one of the best supervillains that The Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen.
Post the Infinity War, anyone that I had approached for feedback on the film, always spoke about one thing in common that contributed immensely to the brilliance of the film – Thanos. Despite the antagonist having defeated the heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel fans only had respect for this character. What is it about Thanos that has earned him so much of admiration amongst the audience?
“I know what it's like to lose. To feel so desperately that you're right, yet to fail nonetheless. It's frightening, turns the legs to jelly. I ask you to what end? Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same. And now it's here. Or should I say, I am.”
Marvel’s Third Avengers film – The Infinity War is worth the hype that it has created over the past few months. Although it might not be the most iconic film of the century, it sure is one of the best films that The Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever created. With an unpredictable yet realistic ending, the Russo brothers did a wonderful job with the scripting. The show stealer however, remains to be the antagonist of the film. Out of the hundreds of iconic characters that has been incorporated into the film, Thanos played the most important role in Infinity War.
Although, late fantasy has started exploring the humanised behaviour of its characters, it is still not common to see villains display love and emotion. That could be one of the main reasons why Thanos created such a huge impact on the audience. He was shown as someone capable of emotions and he proved this through his sacrifice for the Soul stone. When he had to let go of his favourite daughter for the fourth infinity stone, Thanos did so with tears in his eyes - a moment that we can’t resist sympathising with him for.
“They are not for him.”
“No. This isn't love.”
“I ignored my destiny once. I cannot do that again. Even for you. I'm sorry, Gamora.”
Marvel often fails to explore the kind of neutrality that it had done in Infinity wars with the protagonist and antagonist. Thanos is emotionally driven to achieve a selfless goal that benefits the universe, which he successfully accomplishes towards the end of the film – a trait that is usually associated with the heroes. Although in the comics, Thanos collects the six infinity stones to impress the love of his life who is the personification of death, the movies show it in a different way. All that Thanos aims for in the movie, is to create a universe where children will not know what hunger is and poverty will be a thing of the history. Given that all his life he has grown up seeing his fellow Titians live a miserable life, the genocide is justified from his perception.
“When we faced extinction, I offered a solution”
“But random, dispassion is fair for rich and poor alike. They called me a mad man. What I predict came unannounced.”
“Congratulations, you're a prophet”
“I'm a survivor”
The Ultimate villain throughout the period of the film, tactfully collects all the 6 infinity stones to become the most powerful being in the universe. Even during this process, Thanos is never portrayed as a week character. From dominating Hulk and killing Loki in the introduction scene to keeping his calm and peacefully dealing with the heroes later, his character is portrayed as someone whose power matures through the course of the film. This comes in contradiction to characters like Ultron and most of the other Marvel villains whose defeat can be predicted even before the title scene. His powerful snap towards the end of the film and the consequences of it, remains one of the most iconic scenes of Marvel’s filmography.
“With all the six stones I can simply snap my fingers, they will all cease to exist. I call that... mercy…… then finally rest, watch the sunrise on an ungrateful universe. The hardest choices require the strongest will.”
Unlike general villains who depend on sidekicks to fight their wars (a plotline that the Tamil film industry has been surviving upon for several years now), Thanos fought this war by himself. Well, mostly by himself. Although he had his army to assist him with the battle, it was purely his determination and planning that helped him win the war. He was also a man of few words - his most charismatic character trait.
The success of a film can be determined by the impact that it creates on the audience as to how certain shots from the film can continue to haunt us days after watching the movie. Infinity War is a film that has more than one such iconic moment, Thanos being a part of many of them. Who can forget the shot when a drop of blood trickles down Thanos’s head after being punched by Iron Man. I can still feel the eerie silence that filled the theatre when Thanos returned the blow.
“All this, just for a drop of blood.”
This film was beautiful, but not more than the villain who lived up to every Marvel fan’s expectations. Thanos has been characterised in such a manner, that it becomes difficult for even the most hardcore Marvel fans to dislike him for killing their heroes. As I watched Thanos return to witness the sunset after snapping his fingers with his heavy gloves embedded with the six stones and as my favourite heroes disappeared into thin air, I couldn’t help but shed some tears. Partly because my heroes were dead but mostly in gratitude for having witnessed the Ultimate Villain.
Written by - Swetha Pillai