When AVENGERS came out in 2012, the world went bonkers, and for good reason – audiences hadn’t seen anything like it before. Some of the most famous super heroes all on the screen at once, fighting evil and saving lives. Then, as the credits rolled, this weird guy showed up:
Thanos the Mad Titan, scourge of the universe! Comic geeks freaked, and general audiences tilted their heads confused. We, the geeks, swore to the muggles that they had no idea how amazing a moment that was, that Marvel was telling everyone “shit just got real”. Now, four years later, we’re not so sure anymore.
It isn’t that any of the Marvel movies since AVENGERS have been bad, though not every one of them is for everyone. It’s more that for four years, and in three movies, Thanos has shown up and done nothing. In both AVENGERS and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON,the Avatar of Death is little more than a cameo, and we’ll get to the weirdness of the AGE OF ULTRON cameo in a moment, but for now I want to focus on Thanos’ role in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
In GUARDIANS, Thanos is counting on Ronan the Accuser to get him an Infinity Gem, one of the six to exist. As things tend to go in these things, Ronan screws over Thanos and decides to keep the gem for himself. In response to this, Thanos… sits around. He does nothing. Not a single thing. He just kind of gives up. Thanos, it seems, is real easy to push around.
When we next see Thanos, it is at the end of AGE OF ULTRON as the mid-credits teaser. He opens a safe and takes out a glove saying, “I’ll do it myself.” Personally, I laughed at this. We, the geeks, know what the glove signifies – the Infinity Gauntlet – but to the layman, it looks like Thanos likes that glove so much, he keeps it locked up so other people can’t wear it. It is, after all, just an orange glove.
And this is where the problems lie – Marvel seems to have forgotten to set up Thanos as a threat. For four years, and across three movies, we’ve watched this guy’s plans all fail. In AVENGERS, he had an Infinity Gem that he gave to Loki. Loki then loses it to Hydra, who use it to give Peter and Wanda Maximoff powers. The Avengers get their hands on the gem and Tony Stark accidentally creates Ultron with it. After that, he purposely creates Vision with it. For some reason, by the way, that gem goes from blue in AVENGERS, to red, then to yellow in AGE OF ULTRON. In the comics, the colors of the gems signify what each gem does, in the movies it seems to be whatever color fits the moment. Not a huge thing, mind you, just a minor nitpick.
Back to the point – Thanos has nothing, and all we’ve seen him do is lose. He is, at this moment, as scary a villain as Skeletor in the HE-MAN cartoons, which is to say not scary at all. Marvel has managed to make Thanos look ineffectual and weak by having him do nothing. More to it, they’ve managed to put themselves in a spot where, if they are actually headed to an INFINITY GAUNTLET type story, they’ll need to do something akin to the classic series THANOS QUEST. In that series, Thanos learns the true power of the Infinity Gems and sets out to be the Ask Ketchum of the Marvel universe – he’s going to collect them all. Thanos sets out across the cosmos to find the cosmic entities that possess each gem and take the gems from them. As it stands right now, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we know where four of the gems are. Well, I think we know where four of the gems are:
The Space Gem, which first showed up in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGERS is in Asgard for safekeeping, sent there with Thor at the end of AVENGERS.
The Mind Gem first appeared in AVENGERS attached to Loki’s scepter. After the Battle of New York in AVENGERS, Hydra got their grubby hands on it. Then, in AGE OF ULTRON, the Avengers snagged it back and created both Ultron and Vision. The gem currently chills out in Vision’s forehead.
The Reality Gem shows up in THOR: THE DARK WORLD. The Dark Elf Malekith tries to use it to destroy the Nine Realms, but is stopped by the Thunder God. For some unexplained reason, the Asgardians decide to give the gem to the Collector.
The Power Gem is in the hands of the Collector in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Then Ronan gets his paws on it, but loses it to the Guardians, who give it to the Nova Corps for safekeeping.
So, as it stands, in the next AVENGERS movie Thanos is going to have to get these four gems, as well as two we haven’t seen yet, before the real story can begin. Now, it is possible that Marvel has decided that six gems is too many, and they’ll stick to just these four, but I get the feeling that the missing two, Time and Soul, will pop up in the next THOR and GUARDIANS movies.
Still, we are left with a big problem – general audiences have no reason to think Thanos is a real threat at this point. The Marvel movies have, from day one, had trouble with creating villains that stand out. Most of the villainous plans we’ve seen haven’t made much sense, and the baddies behind them have been less than enthralling. The real power behind the Marvel films, and rightfully so, has been the heroes and how much we like them. But Thanos… this guy needs to stand out. For one thing, it seems like he will be the big bad for the next two AVENGERS movies, and enough of a big bad that every hero Marvel has introduced in the movies, and a few new ones, will be showing up to fight him. For another, they’ve been telling audiences to fear this guy for half a decade, and now they need to pay that off big time.
Based solely on the movies, Thanos is a blank slate. Audiences know nothing about him, or why they should give a crap about the guy. He has literally failed at everything he has tried to do in the movies, and his response to these failures is to go get his security glove and make the same comment your asshole boss makes when you say you won’t work over the weekend “Fine, I’ll do it myself”. This guy is about as threatening as Bill Lumbergh, only he’s purple and appears to live on a small asteroid.
I have faith in the Marvel movie gang, to a point. Aside from the THOR movies, I think Marvel has knocked it out of the park every time (ULTRON has problems, but it is still fun). Their two biggest problems, as I see it, is that Thanos doesn’t seems like much of a threat, and they whiffed the friendship of Steve and Bucky in the first CAPTAIN AMERICA, making WINTER SOLDIER and CIVIL WAR have to work extra hard to make us believe that Cap would go to such lengths for his pal. Overall, they’ve handled the Bucky problem, but Thanos is a much bigger issue. This is the guy that everything has been leading to, and if audiences don’t buy into him with AVENGERS 3, I think Marvel will have a hard time selling the fourth AVENGERS movie.
We’ve all given you a lot of slack on this, Marvel. Please don’t let us down.
*Images: Marvel Comics