He's been the shadow in the background of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since he first reared his purple head during the post-credits scene of The Avengers back at the tail end of Phase 1, and there's not much longer to go now until he steps out of those shadows and into the MCU proper.
Thanos has long been a formidable super-villain in the Marvel comics, his titanic presence and lust for power providing many a conflict laced narrative arc for a huge range of superheroes in the comic universe. But what's he up to in the MCU?
Ever since we saw Thanos' purple tinted face we've known it's all been building up to the centerpiece cosmic conflict — Avengers: Infinity War — which lands in two parts almost exactly a year apart, with Part 1 coming May 2018 and Part 2 following up on May 2019.
But all we've learned thus far about the particulars of his character is that he's on a quest to gather those elusive MacGuffins, the Infinity Stones (or Gems, if you're a comic book purist). For what purpose though, we're yet to discover.
This lack of information is intentional though, he's supposed to appear as the shadow looming over our heroes without their notice, adding a touch of dramatic irony to the proceedings.
The directors of Captain America: Civil War and The Winter Soldier, Anthony and Joe Russo — who are on board to helm both parts of The Infinity War movies — spoke a little to USA Today recently regarding the Big Bad of the MCU.
Describing him as a "blank slate", the brothers reassure us that we're going to see a properly developed Thanos by the time Infinity War rolls around. You'd hope as much.
Joe Russo: "[Thanos] is a blank slate but he is a mythic figure. His stature is both literally and figuratively enormous. What’s important to us is digging in and dimensionalizing him and make you understand why he does what he does."
The crux of the matter is, of course, why he does what he does. Despite the fact that he's presented as an emotionless warlord the majority of the time, in the comics his motivator has typically been one of a very human nature.
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In the books the six Infinity Gems (or Soul Gems) come together through the means of the Infinity Gauntlet to grant the wielder god-like abilities of omnipotence and infinite power to shape the universe as they see fit, and Thanos has been the main villain concerned with gathering them.
He succeeds at this quest more than once, most famously during The Infinity Gauntlet limited series which saw the Mad Titan using the Gems to wipe out half the population of every planet in the universe in a misguided attempt to please the long running object of his desire — Mistress Death.
There's been a nod towards this already in his first appearance in the MCU post-credits scene, where the messenger informs him of Loki's failed invasion of Earth. Speaking of the human race — and the Avengers in particular — he says: "To challenge them is to court Death", which is when we get that creepy smile, cause ya'know Thanos is all about courting Death. Usually failing, but at least he tries.
Thanos is often a self defeating character, he loses control of the Gauntlet to his tortured daughter Nebula in The Infinity Gauntlet because — according to Adam Warlock — he subconsciously felt as though he was unworthy of the power afforded to him by the Gems. Despite his incredible strength, he's shown often to be a very insecure warlord, a very human failing for a Titanian Eternal.
Trying to impress Mistress Death has been an insecurity present in his character since a young age, as he murders his family and decimates his own home planet of Titan in an attempt to please her.
It is worth noting though that despite his ruthless nature he's not always been an antagonist, and has often worked alongside cosmic superheroes such as Adam Warlock for a greater good, though his underlying villainy usually leaks through at some point, as we're sure it shall in the MCU.
And it's interesting to point out that, though he's been at it since Phase 1, Thanos doesn't currently hold any of the Infinity Stones. He's got one of the Gauntlets (the other seen previously in Odin's Vault in Thor), but has failed thus far to collect a single Stone. As Joe Russo jokes, "He's really bad at picking henchmen".
This is, of course, what led us to the Avengers: Age of Ultron post-credits scene, in which he uttered the words that echo still through the MCU: "Fine, I'll do it myself."
Having Mistress Death act as the motivator for Thanos would be an interesting way to go for Infinity War, though given the overall tone of the MCU thus far it might be a cosmic twist too far for our Earthbound heroes, so we shall have to wait and see.
There are a great many possibilities to use as motivation for Thanos in the MCU, even the old chestnut that is general domination of the universe, though it seems unlikely that they would take such a generic path after the well written Baron Zemo of Civil War.
Given the previous successes of the Russo Brothers and their screenwriting team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, we're pretty confident that they'll be able to create a terrifying and rounded out villain in Thanos when he finally comes to challenge the Avengers.
Thankfully, because of the "blank slate" approach, they've got the perfect freedom now with which to craft our MCU Thanos. We can't wait to see him in action.
Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 is set for release May 4, 2018 with Part 2 coming May 3, 2019.
What do you think Thanos will be getting up to in Infinity War? Tell us in the comments below.
(Source: USA Today)