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‘Avengers: Endgame’ Fails Thanos

WARNING: EXTENSIVE SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME BELOW

Thanos. Remember him? The purple, finger-snapping villain whom Disney spent twenty-two movies setting up? The ultimate evil? The entity single-handedly responsible for dusting half of the universe before peacing-out to the Garden to raise alien dragonfruit? The being so powerful that he can do literally anything?

Well, he went missing in Avengers: Endgame.

Gone is the multi-faceted, interesting villain that Infinity War spent two-and-a-half hours setting up, dispatched in the first fifteen minutes of the movie by a jaded Thor. And with him goes any semblance of satisfaction at the end of Endgame.

Don’t get me wrong — Endgame is an amazing piece of fan service. As someone who’s spent a lot of time invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the past decade-and-some-change, Endgame surpassed even my wildest hopes and dreams; I loved nearly every second of its over three-hour runtime. It’s packed with so much content, so many references to previous films, that even now I still find myself noticing new things. But, what I didn’t love was how Thanos was treated, both as a character and as a plot device after his starring role in Infinity War.

Thanos

Part of what makes movies like Infinity War, Endgame, or shows like Dragon Ball Z fun to watch is seeing heroes overcome trials and tap into a sense of strength never before seen. Understandably, it’s rather cliché by this point — but it’s also extremely satisfying for the audience to see the heroes’ sacrifice pay off, to see them overcome their challenges. 

Attempting to take a different approach, Endgame dumps Thanos, replacing him with one of the oldest tricks in the comic book bag: another copy of him from an alternate dimension. Unfortunately for the viewer, the “Althanos” from 2014 isn’t nearly as interesting of a character. Devoid of his predecessor’s passion and lacking any of the character development forged in Infinity War, “Althanos” is a disappointment. In a genre that’s known for low-stakes and CG-inflated super-battles, the final battle in Endgame feels notably “been there, done that,” a fault that lies primarily with “Althanos” and his complete lack of motivation.

In Infinity War, Thanos is driven by a cosmic vision of peace through brutality. He seeks to preserve order by eliminating half of life to allow the other half to flourish with the now-overflowing resources of their respective worlds. His motives are neither logical nor pragmatic, but Josh Brolin’s masterful acting sells Thanos’ vision — as sick and twisted as it is — as a fundamentally understandable one. When he retires to the Garden after completing his mission in Infinity War, he doesn’t seem like a universe-trampling conqueror, but instead a martyr who has given everything for his cause.

“Althanos” has no such convictions. Devolving from Infinity War, he flattens markedly as a character in Endgame. Despite another stunning performance by Brolin, he’s just another villain ready to destroy Earth and recreate the universe in his image. Despite having had decades to form a personal philosophy centered around balance and the need to exterminate half — and only half! — of life, he throws it all away in about two minutes because the plot demands it.

Thanos.

The film makes a bold decision to off the original version of Thanos in its opening act, which is understandable. It’s obvious that the writers wanted to simultaneously subvert expectations and find a way out of the corner they had backed themselves into; Thanos was too powerful to be defeated by anyone but himself. 

But therein lies the fundamental problem with how Endgame handles Thanos’ entire arc. By not finding a means to defeat a Infinity Gauntlet-enabled Thanos, Endgame denies the audience the payoff that they’ve expected since the end of Infinity War. Sure, the audience eventually gets to see a Thanos fade to dust in satisfying fashion, but it comes after seeing the real, defenseless, and rather pitiful Thanos dispatched by Thor. 

In the end, Avenger’s Endgame is still a masterful movie. Full of homage, fan service, and pure glee, it’s a masterpiece of the superhero genre, an incredible payoff to nearly two dozen films, and a good time. However, for all its success, it fails its main villain, transforming him from cosmic philosopher to yet another CG villain bent on universal domination. 

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2 comments

j May 14, 2019 at 11:44 pm

are you sure you saw endgame and not a different movie? did you maybe forget to take off your sunglasses? or was it all the pee breaks you took? the pee breaks, that’s what it was.

Reply
Izsak Barnette May 15, 2019 at 7:22 am

Haha, I did have to take one bathroom break, but Thanos wasn’t on screen then, so I think I’m good. Thanks for commenting.

Reply

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