Where in the Galaxy is Big, Bad, Purple Thanos?
By Thomas L. Kelly (@Rushman07)
It’s been three years since Thanos graced us with his presence. Four if you don’t count stingers that do little to enhance the movie. Three years since he griped, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” That doesn’t seem like an obnoxious amount of time to wait, but in those three—agonizing, cumbersome, reflective—years, I sort of stopped caring.
It’s not that the MCU movies have dipped significantly in quality. Most are passable, a few have been quite good, and there’s the odd one I simply don’t care for. It’s what wasn’t done—and in certain frustrating instances, what was—between Age of Ultron and where we find ourselves now. At some point, they stopped selling us on Thanos’ impending arrival. Maybe because they thought they didn’t have to.
In the lead up to The Avengers, the anticipation to see all the heroes don the screen together was indescribable. Each successive film gave us just a taste of their destined partnership, and we knew it was going to be something special. Infinity War has an air to it, as well. The notion that we’re going to see something groundbreaking is palpable.
But that’s for all the heroes we’re going to see come together.
It’s a more grandiose version of that first titular adventure. So what about Thanos? Nah, not really. We haven’t seen hide, nor hair of him in too long. And when he made that aforementioned gripe, one had to wonder why he didn’t just do it. He clearly still doesn’t have all the stones yet, so what was he waiting for then? Does he just enjoy wearing a giant gauntlet around the house? Perhaps he vacuums in it or just floats around in his giant chair pointing at things.
Quite frankly, in retrospect, Ultron feels like a narrative punt. They weren’t done populating their burgeoning universe with characters, so they must’ve figured, “What’s the harm?”
For me, there’s plenty. Thanos was dangled it front of us as the first Avengers wrapped. We knew he was out there, yet with the announcement of Age of Ultron, the goal posts were moved. I will admit that at the time, I wasn’t overly concerned. Marvel was coming off their gold standard entry—The Winter Soldier.
ALSO READ: “Why The Winter Soldier is Captain America’s Darkest Fear – Road To Infinity War – Part 10“
That film had built so much good will up with me that I didn’t think it could possibly be squandered, but then it was. Like the entire network of Hydra, it was simply gone. Poof! Age of Ultron was the film where sensible continuity became optional. Yes, the strands all still do tie, but they’re frayed. Delaying Thanos—and more than likely it was always the plan—ensured that things would get a little messy.
Tony’s grand sacrifice to end Iron Man 3? Who needs it? The specter of Hydra taking over the the entire civilized world? Solved before Cap could even regret scolding his teammates’ language. What was neat and tidy was now sloppy and unfolded.
This trend, sadly, would only continue. Civil War, a movie high on spectacle, but low on logic, was rife with idiotic plot points. Why on earth would Tony side with a government that was nearly taken over by Nazis and whose Vice President willingly played a role in the assassination plot of the President? I mean, come on, the last time we saw Thunderbolt Ross he was attempting to murder the Incredible Hulk by creating an even crazier Hulk and then unleashing said psychopath on an American city, a failure which led him to the brink of appearing on Intervention. This is the same government that told Nick Fury to go kick rocks and shot a nuke at the heart of New York City.
They don’t seem to be a likely refuge for a guilt-ridden Tony Stark. If anything, their inadequacies should’ve made Tony feel pretty good about how many civilians they were able to save as Evil Small Wonder recycled Cobra Commander’s terrorist plot from GI Joe: Retaliation.
I could go on, but that’s not really the point. Things were being put into play that built less upon what came before in service of what was in the future (*cough* not Thanos).
Don’t get me wrong, the films are still fun for the most part; unfortunately, the cost of that fun is a proper build to the Mad Titan. I understand if certain films—like Ant-Man, for example—are better off standing alone, but to not even provide a glimpse of the big bad in, or an even a stinger over the last several films is unconscionable. Technically, I guess we did indirectly get one with Thor: Ragnarok, but that movie did itself zero favors with its tone to make any moment feel like it had weight.
We got five post-credits scenes with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Not a one of them was of any consequence. Thus, this is my plight. I’m pretty confident Infinity War will be all kinds of awesome, yet none of those all kinds of awesome elements will be Thanos. Black Panther was a great film. More importantly, it showed what a compelling villain can do for your story. Kilmonger was not disposable—the modus operandi for most foils in the MCU—and because of that, the audience, myself included, had an emotional reaction to his death. Yes, he was bad, but there was a reason he was bad. We may not have been able to empathize with his aims, but we could sympathize with his circumstance.
Which brings me back to the California Raisin on HGH. He’s been an afterthought, aside from casual mentions, and that, I fear, is a bad sign for what we’re going to get with him. If he’s just another wash, rinse, and repeat MCU stock baddie, it won’t necessarily ruin Infinity War; but it will definitely make that protracted three years seem anticlimactic. Just killing a handful of Avengers does not a good villain make. He has to transcend his clear physical advantages, and having a goal of death is simply not compelling. The trouble with almighty and all powerful villains is that we naturally assume that their certain defeat hinges on an obvious McGuffin.
It almost feels as if they’ve been purposefully hiding him. That way when he kicks the bucket, we’ll be left with the same feeling as when we witnessed the demise of most of his compatriots—a resounding yawn.
Then again, maybe it’s just the DC fan in me; we’ve got a bad history with brooding-CGI freaks dressed like clowns