Thanos Is a Cliche, Here's Why He Works Anyway
If you're reading my blog, then I'm going to take a gamble and assume that you've already seen both of the Avengers films with Thanos. Infinity War and Endgame.
And there is no denying that Thanos is a fantastic villain. Considering some of the previous villains in the MCU, it's fair to say that they've really pulled it out of the bag on this one!
Thanos has become of those villains that sometimes seems to have a larger fanbase than the heroes they're fighting against.
Thanos is a cliché
Despite the amount of popularity Thanos is getting, his reasoning is actually nothing that hasn't been done before. In fact, the whole "genocide in order to save resources thing" is one of the most common villain tropes in fiction.
But despite this, people still love Thanos and find him to be a compelling villain!
This article will be comparing Thanos to Richmond Valentine (the bad guy from Kingsman: The Secret Service). But that's only because I've watched that film recently. The comparisons I'm making between the two could apply to more or less any villain with the "genocide in order to save the planet" mindset.
He has a good reason for having the motivation.
Let's look at Valentine. What made him want to cause the genocide? Because of some book by some scientist that he read. He has no reason to feel personally motivated to that extent. If he hadn't picked up that book, then he would not have existed.
As a viewer, you never really feel for him like you do with Thanos. He seems very much like a character in a film (even if it's one being played by an amazing actor).
Thanos on the other hand, it's a different story. He became obsessed with restoring balance because of what happens to his own planet. Due to over population, the people of his planet consumed themselves out of existence, and this was after they ignored his suggestion of genocide.
Thanos has seen first hand the effects of overpopulation, he has lost his friends and his family because of it. For Thanos, this is a very real issue.
He had to sacrifice
Valentine was a multi-millionaire. And had his plan succeeded, he would still have been a multi-millionaire. He had to put nothing on the line. He had nothing to loose from this.
I think what the scriptwriters could have done was given him a loved one who knew about the plan, but decided not to get the chip that he gave to everyone else. By killing everyone, he would have killed someone he loves.
By not doing this, it makes it very difficult for the viewer to understand just how much he cares about his end goal.
But now let's look at Thanos. Thanos has a daughter who he loves "Gamora". In the scene during Infinity War, when he had to choose between his daughter and his plan, he made his choice. The tears flowing down his cheeks made it clear that this wasn't an easy choice.
But it was a sacrifice he was willing to make.
No sign of enjoyment
One of key differences between Valentine and Thanos is their emotions towards their goal. In the final scenes, Valentine is partying and being happy about everyone dyeing. For him, this is not a sad event. Doing so makes suspension of disbelief harder as most people will know that nobody would actually behave like like.
Thanos meanwhile does so out of a sense of duty. Very rarely do we see him smile. And we certainly never see him "partying". He is fully aware that this is not something to be taken lightly, and he's aware of the gravity of what he's done.
Thanos is an extremely rare villain compared to 99.9% of other villains in fiction. Because he wins! And by doing this, Marvel has been able to explore something that very few writers would have been able to in the past.
Tom Hiddleston once said, "to understand an antagonist, you need to understand why he seems himself as the protagonist". And at a few points during the two films, the positive effects of Thanos' actions are explored.
For example, in one scene he talks to Gamora about however since he killed half the people on her planet, the children born after have known nothing but "full bellies".
In another scene, Black Widow makes a remark about there are now dolphins in the Hudson River.
After he wins
After Thanos wins, he doesn't go onto killing any more people. He never tries to get any statues or temples. He never goes after his enemies. He goes off to a quiet planet and goes into retirement.
This is all he wants.
By giving him such a peaceful ending, it's made clear that Thanos isn't just evil for the sake of being evil. He has an aim, and once he's achieved that aim, it's time to rest.
Comicbook Thanos vs Film Thanos
Just before we finish off here, I want to talk a bit about Comicbook Thanos. Comicbook Thanos has a slightly different motivation, he is deeply in love with a feminine personification of death. He's obsessed with her.
This might not seem like such a good motivation, but I think it actually makes sense when you consider the story behind Thanos in the comics. Growing up, he never felt love, even his own parents wanted to kill him. When he finally meets someone who gives him the opportunity to find love, of course he's going to pounce on that opportunity.
However, I believe the writers of the MCU made the right decision by changing his motivation. Comicbook Thanos has been around since 1973.