The Marvel Cinematic Universe has big plans for the future, whether it’s introducing new superheroes like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange or expanding the adventures of heroes already introduced. Yesterday, it was revealed that Robert Downey Jr. is in final negotiations to play Tony Stark in Captain America 3, which will be an adaptation of the 2006 crossover event Civil War. This story will evidently set up future Marvel movies, with Stark’s actions allegedly factoring into an Avengers 4. While the ramifications of this Civil War adaptation are huge and could be discussed for hours, there’s still one nagging question regarding the MCU: what about Thanos?
Ever since we saw the purple alien smirk to the camera in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers, fans have been wondering when the showdown between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Mad Titan will occur. After The Avengers, many assumed Thanos would be the main antagonist for Avengers 2, but the megalomaniacal robot Ultron took that spot. Since then, Josh Brolin was cast as the voice of Thanos, and he appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, although this was more of a cameo akin to Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes Back. Lately the common thought has been that Thanos is being saved as the final antagonist of Phase 3, whether that’s in Avengers 3 (which is aiming for a 2018 release date), an Infinity Gauntlet movie (based on the early 90s miniseries) or some other grand finale. However, with the MCU’s Civil War setting up future stories, it seems like the inevitable brawl with Thanos is being pushed back further.
It could be that it still is the plan to feature Thanos in the final film of Phase 3. This could be Avengers 3 or a direct adaptation of The Infinity Gauntlet. A rumor last month suggested that Avengers 3 would be split into two movies, so it’s possible Thanos would get a double feature. Considering he’s one of the most dangerous beings in the universe, this would be more than acceptable. With the Civil War reveal, though, the Thanos conflict looks like it’s being set up for much later. While Captain America 3 won’t be able to adapt every element of Civil War (although a Spider-Man appearance isn’t impossible), it’s likely by the end of the movie, the Avengers will be fractured. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and others likely will go into hiding, while Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) takes up a position of power enforcing the Superhuman Registration Act. The ramifications of Civil War will set up numerous stories, so Earth-wise, the MCU is probably covered for the next few years.
Regardless of what happens between the Earth heroes, they’ll surely set aside their differences once Thanos shows up, be it in Avengers 3, Avengers 4, The Infinity Gauntlet or in 15 years. When a purple alien with a bejeweled gauntlet and an obsession with Death (yes, that’s meant to be capitalized) shows up looking to stir up trouble, no Congressional bill is going to stop the superheroes from doing whatever it takes to save the planet. It could be that by the time Thanos appears, the heroes will have already resolved their differences. Or maybe it’s Thanos that forces them to cease their in-fighting and work together to defeat him. One plus of delaying their fight with the Mad Titan is that more heroes can be involved. With each passing year, Marvel introduces new characters, whether it’s Falcon, Vision, Doctor Strange or any of the other numerous superheroes in the Marvel library. A fight between the main Avengers and Thanos already sounded great. Throw in the Guardians of the Galaxy, even better, but every MCU superhero that’s bee introduced? That would be the ultimate showdown!
Although it hasn’t been made directly clear in the movies yet, Thanos’ goal in the MCU is the same as in the comics: to collect all the Infinity Stones (Gems in the comics) and put them in the Infinity Gauntlet. So far we’ve seen three stones in the MCU. There was the Tesseract, which was featured prominently in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers, the Aether in Thor: The Dark World and the Power Stone in Guardians of the Galaxy. As witnessed, the Stones are powerful enough by themselves, but when all six are inserted into the Infinity Gauntlet, the user gains unlimited power...or at least near-unlimited.
Currently the Tesseract is resting on Asgard, the Power Stone is held by the Nova Corps, and The Collector has the Aether, although since his home was destroyed, he may have lost it. Regardless, eventually Thanos will collect the stones, and when he slips the Gauntlet on, it’s going to take everything the Marvel heroes have to stop him. We just wonder when that's going to happen.