Did Marvel Get The Most Out Of Thanos?

Thanos armor scarecrow Avengers Endgame

With the creation of the Infinity Saga, Marvel Studios successfully accomplished something that no other big screen franchise in history has done. More than just establishing an interconnected universe, the brand also successfully managed to build a behind-the-scenes narrative that developed alongside individual stories and eventually blossomed into the incredible twin epics known as Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The fictional character at the center of all this was the destruction hungry Thanos, and after first officially teasing him in 2012’s The Avengers, the movies eventually capitalized on his presence fully by giving him plenty of room to unfold his master plan.

But did the Marvel Cinematic Universe actually fully capitalize on Thanos, and get the most out of him as a character? It’s not an illegitimate question. Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame may be two of the biggest blockbusters of all time, but they also carried the burden of not only paying off nearly a decade of story building, but also make the most out of the Mad Titan – who has been a key antagonist in the pages of Marvel Comics for decades. It’s an argument that can be had for these reasons – but still at the end of the day the answer is yes.

Thanos Is A Sincerely Special Comics Book Movie Villain

Naysayers will have their own arguments against, but to understand the accomplishment that Thanos is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it helps to juxtapose his journey as compared to the general arc that is played out with villains not only in Marvel movies, but the vast majority of superhero blockbusters. With the franchise on the whole primarily centered on heroes, there is a natural inclination for the films to treat the various antagonists we’ve seen as one-offs – serving the purpose of not only being an interesting and compelling foe, but also to highlight certain emotional and/or physical flaws that exist within the protagonist at the time of their showdown. The arc can be gracefully executed, but the truth is that the vast majority of villains wind up being disposable.

Thanos, however, is a spectacular exception. Not only was the extended build-up of his presence unique, but his arrival on the main stage is unprecedented. Case in point: he is the only Marvel Cinematic Universe villain to have his own film. His name may not be in the title, as is typically the case, but there is no denying that Avengers: Infinity War is his movie, as it is his arc and his actions to achieve his goals that motivate the whole plot. Sure, there are moments when it looks like Thor is going to come in and steal his thunder (pun 10000% intended), but the icing on the cake is that he gets what he wants when all is said and done and successfully eliminates half of life in existence. It’s hard to ask for greater capitalization of a blockbuster heavy.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Targeted The Best Material From The Comics

More than it just being satisfying to see Thanos play out an arc far greater than the typical comic book adversary, it’s an arc that takes advantage of what’s most special about the character from his decades of history in comics. Certain details didn’t make it to the big screen (like his infatuation with Death), and given the way events play out, the door may be closed on having the opportunity to see the Mad Titan explored in different emotional capacities and forging new partnerships (like when he becomes a part of the Infinity Watch), but the movies do bring to life what is ultimately his most notable quality from the comics: his desire to possess all of the Infinity Stones and claim the power of a god.

With arcs including the classic crossover event “Infinity Gauntlet” and the more recent “Infinity,” Thanos will always be most closely associated with his journey to try and possess the base elements of Power, Space, Soul, Time, Reality, and Mind, and that was a journey brilliantly brought to life in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Through both films the audience gets to see him both succeed and fail in achieving his life’s work, and they provide the necessary stakes to make Thanos stand out as a special figure in the legacy of comic book blockbusters.

Thanos Was Brought To Life With Powerful Gravitas And Realism

Even aesthetically it’s damn near impossible to ask for anything more than what audiences got from Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Josh Brolin, who is one of the most gifted actors working today, delivers one of the most stunning performances of his career in the role, fully occupying the warlord’s massive frame and providing deep gravitas that makes your teeth grit and the hair on the back of your neck stand straight. It’s power and presence that can’t be masked by any amount of CGI.

Picking up from that point: what remarkable CGI it really is. More than just beautifully and naturally translating Josh Brolin’s performance, there’s never a second when you aren’t convinced you are staring at an alien intergalactic conqueror, and he exists as one of the greatest achievements in the history of visual effects. Before now, it would have been impossible to do the work necessary to bring Thanos to life in the way we see in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and it’s only further evidence of Marvel getting the most out of the character.

And guess what? As satisfying as Thanos’ time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been to date, his run may not be over. Yes, audiences witnessed him die twice in the events of the last capstone feature, but not only is the genre notorious for resurrecting dead characters, there is actually a much easier path the franchise could take to bring him back to the big screen within a year. As comic book fans know, Thanos is identified as a member of the alien race known as the Eternals, and given that next year’s Eternals blockbuster is said to be set across centuries, it’s easy to believe that the Mad Titan could have at least a cameo in the film, further adding to his already stellar big screen legacy.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.