Do villains need an origin story? That’s the question that this movie tries to answer. Every major superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had at least one entire big-budget film dedicated to this idea. Given that this movie feature an ensemble cast of characters, it is important to have an antagonist that challenges each superhero to their limit, but at the same time is not just some overpowered brute.
The script relies heavily on the plots as setup by previous films in the series. It picks up the tale sometime after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok”. It begins with Thanos intercepting the escaped Asgardians, kicking Thor’s butt and killing Loki to obtain the Blue Infinity Stone. He also makes his first official proclamation to obtain all the “Infinity Stones”, of which this Blue one is the second member. These coupled with his fancy golden gauntlet are supposed to confer onto him complete power over the entire universe. This is followed by a coordinated series of attacks on all persons that hold the remaining Stones, the colors of which are Red, Orange, Green and Yellow.
Most of our heroes have never heard of this Thanos and those that have are completely unprepared to take him on. The final battles take place on chiefly two locations: Thanos’ home planet of Titan and Wakanda on Earth. Thanos’ power seems to grow exponentially with every stone he acquires. This leads him to steadily gain ground on our heroes, culminating in him acquiring all the stones for his gauntlet. He then proceeds to use this power to simply vaporize half of the universe’s entire population. A bunch of our heroes are also affected as a part of this, including Spiderman, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, most of the Guardians, a few Avengers and also Nick Fury. As the movie concludes on this sombre note, viewers are also promised that “Thanos Will Return” before the credits roll.
Given the troubling demise of the superheroes and the explicit promise at the end, it is obvious that introducing Thanos’ character and establishing his motivations are the primary goals for this movie. The screenplay also has a disproportionate focus on Thanos’ adoptive daughter: Gamora. There are flashbacks that depict how she was abducted, her love/hate relationship with her step-father and also her desparate attempts to hide the location of the Soul Stone from him. We’re also let-in on the extreme fondness that Thanos bears for her and and how he considers her to be the only person he loves. This love for his daughter and his determination to pursue the goal of obliterating half of the universe are put at odds when, to unlock the Orange Stone he must sacrifice the soul of the person he loves. Gamora presumes that he’s been played and that there’s nothing in the universe that he loves. She’s caught off guard when she finds that the one thing he loves in the universe is his own daughter. Sacrificing Gamora serves two purposes: it reveals that Thanos is actually a person with a heart; i.e. he’s not the brute that everyone seems to make him out to be. The other aspect that is illustrated is his determination to go to any lengths to achieve what he believes in, including the sacrifice of loved ones. An emotional being who feels for his own, but has nothing to lose are the two most common ingredients that lead to the formation of a villain. We see both these conditions being satisfied as a part of Gamora’s arc.
Thanos’ smartness when dealing with more equally matched foes is the second-most important characteristic. From the get-go, we see him systematically exploit the existing fractures in the Avengers’ teaming. They’re always caught off-guard or have very little time to prepare for the barrage of onslaughts aimed in their direction. Even in the final scene, we see that they manage to smoke out Vision from his hiding place, simply by using age-old military tactics of spooking the enemy. This also causes the Avengers to lose the only advantage they have and results in Thanos obtaining the last Stone for his gauntlet.
Throughout the entire movie, we multiple Heroes recommend that they should simply destroy the stones, so that no one may obtain their power, let alone Thanos. This is of course, the most logical way of going about it. Restricting privileges is the most common and effective security model used in the real world as well. However, as in the real world, we see that these proposals are always rejected by those who currently hold the power in question, often because they have the most to lose. Willingly giving up power is not something that comes easy, even for the good guys.
- For example, consider Dr. Strange’s unwillingness to destroy his Green stone, even at the repeated requests of the Iron Man. Strange’s quoted reason is simply that he is its protector and cannot let it come to harm.
- Another case is Vision, who has the yellow stone attached to his forehead. While sacrificing himself seems to be the most sane model, his girlfriend Wanda Maximoff has a particularly hard time accepting this and is too late by the time she gets around to doing it.
- A third example is Gamora, where she’s unable to bear the torture her sister Nebula is being subjected to. She willingly reveals the location of the Orange stone in order to release Nebula. This ultimately leads to her own death.
- Even Loki when confrontin Thanos at his weakest, has a significant chance to safeguard the Blue stone, but hands it over to save Thor’s life.
- Even after obtaining all the stones, there is a sliver of a chance to steal Thanos’ gauntlet. But that too is lost, when Star-Lord loses his cool and wakes up Thanos before the Mantis can properly sedate him.
It’s almost as if the plot is screaming in our ears, to tell us that only those who’re willing to make real sacrifices are going to achieve something worthwhile. Nothing in this war is going to come “easy”.
However, our villain is not very objective either. Thanos’ rationale for initiating the genocide of half the universe’s population is on pretty thin ground. The idea is not explained in depth, the purported reasoning is as follows. The universe has limited resources. Most places in the universe have monotonically increasing populations. The increase in population leads to a reduction in the availability of resources, per capita. This lack of resources is the root cause of suffering in the universe. This suffering leads to various ills like famine, war and oppression. To quote Thanos verbatim: “if life is left unchecked, it will end life”, which explains his single-minded pursuit of the brain-dead idea. The amount of logical inconsistencies, holes and other issues in the above system is mind boggling. Frankly, I’m not surprised at the drivel that qualifies as motivation for Marvel villains.
Another complaint I have with the film is the depiction of a bunch of supporting characters which are of no importance to the plot whatsoever. This includes the Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Spiderman, Drax and a few more. Their existence is completely unimportant in the scheme of things. The only thing they contribute to, is the litany of named characters that fall prey to Thanos’ finger snap at the end. Often, thier addition seems to be solely because of how the corresponding IP is grouped together. Even the Hulk is entirely impotent and refuses to surface after having his ass beat, at the hands of Thanos.
Marvel films are known to sprinkle a healthy dose of jokes to lighten things up. This happens to varying degrees depending on the tone of the film, but their presence is definitely noticeable. This particular instalment however, has some of the most obscene placement of humour. There are literal character deaths peppered throughout the script, yet the movie refuses to give up on its attempts to crack some of the lamest jokes in recent times. It would have made sense if the humour was subtextual, or even made sense in the context of the plot or character. But most of it is blatantly slapstick which undermines the seriousness of the plot. What an atrocity!..
Every other superhero has had their origin story and a villain as “great” as Thanos needs one too, I suppose. Let’s see how the next one turns out.