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How INFINITY WAR Makes Thanos a Compelling Villain

Avengers: Infinity War is being touted as the most ambitious crossover event in history, weaving together characters from 18 MCU movies. That has put a lot of pressure on its screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. But beyond the massive task of tying together threads from Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, the third Avengers movie focuses on a great big bad, whose finally stepping out of the post-credit scenes and into the spotlight.

“This is about the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Markus told Nerdist on the set of Avengers: Infinity War, “This is about everyone getting together–or trying their hardest to get together–to fight a guy named Thanos.”

“We’ve been teasing Thanos for many movies in 30-second clips,” McFeely said in the paired interview, “So hopefully all the lead up will allow us to really go to town with him and make him a villain that requires this epic level of storytelling.” He added, “In many ways, it’s Thanos’s movie.”

But don’t call Thanos a villain.

“Villain is a derogatory term that Thanos wouldn’t agree with,” Markus said. From the film’s trailer, we know that Thanos wants to gather all the Infinity Stones for his gauntlet. And with it, he could wipe out half of existence with the snap of his fingers. But Markus argues Thanos has his reasons. “Hopefully you’ll come away from this the same way you do in the comics.” He added, “(Thanos) started off as a rogue villain but he’s his own thing now. Where you go, ‘I can’t say he was wrong.'”

While he’s the center of Avengers: Infinity Wars, Thanos has a tough road ahead to win over fans. Despite its widespread popularity, the MCU has been doggedly criticized for creating villains nowhere near as compelling as their heroes. The few exceptions include Black Panther‘s Killmonger, Jessica Jones’ Killgrave, and the one and only Loki.

Markus touched on this criticism when telling us he and McFeeling wanted to make Thanos something special. “If Thanos is just a bad guy, then you’re dead in the water,” he said. “You get bored pretty quickly after he’s torn off the first few heads.”

“Thanos is an amoral philosopher,” Markus said, “He’s not the devil–although he does sometimes have the devil standing next to him.” Some might suspect that devil Markus is eluding to is Mephisto a demon from the Marvel comics. But Markus said only, “I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of Mephisto.”

However, last summer at D23 it was revealed the Black Order appear in Avengers: Infinity War. This means Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, and Black Dwarf would appear alongside Thanos.

“We needed to make sure that (Thanos) wasn’t just all by himself,” McFeely teased about the Black Order, noting that means Thanos can delegate Infinity Stone snatching to his team. “That’s how you get this sort of tapestry film,” he said,  “Where he has emissaries who are doing some of his work while he is doing a lot of his own heavy lifting.”

But there is more to Thanos than leading world crushing missions across the univrse. “We wanted all the way through to have a villain with understandable motivations and emotions, “Markus added, “Thanos has family. Thanos has two daughters that we know of (Gamora and Nebula).”

“He’s got daughters that he clearly has to deal with,” Mcfeely added, “And James (Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy 1 &2) did a nice job of setting the table for us, but we’re certainly going to run with that.”

“This is not an origin story,” Mcfeely continued. “Very often, in the screenwriting weeds, we’re trying to get a character up and off the ground. And so the bad guy tends to be a foil for the development of the hero and that’s not the case here. If anything, it’s the opposite. Our heroes are foils for the villain, whose story we need to tell at large.”

With complicated family ties, a mighty squad, mysterious motivations, and all the power of the universe at his fingertips, Thanos is shaping up to be the biggest, baddest foe the MCU heroes have ever faced. And we can’t wait to see the showdown between his Black Order and the Earth’s mightiest heroes.

Avengers: Infinity War opens April 27th. Look for more from our set visit in the coming days.

What do you make of Thanos and his Black Order?

Images: Walt Disney Pictures

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