Deliciously Complex Characters: Thanos

You should know by now that Thanos is one of my favourite villains of all time. So it’s time for an in-depth character analysis of the Deliciously Complex Mad Titan. I’m a sucker for an

You should know by now that Thanos is one of my favourite villains of all time.
So it’s time for an in-depth character analysis of the Deliciously Complex Mad Titan.

I’m a sucker for an interesting villain, with motivations I can understand and character traits that make me enjoy when they are on the screen.
Now since Infinity War is where Thanos shines, I will mainly be talking about that movie for my analysis. Not every villain needs to be this way, the Joker from the Dark Knight comes to mind.

Who Is Thanos?

Now lets start from the beginning, when I first saw Thanos in the end credits scene of The Avengers I said what everyone else said;
“Wait who is that?”, then when I realized it was Thanos I rolled my eyes.

Hey, it was hard to tell who this was

Why did I roll my eyes? Because the Thanos we were used to from the comics was not an incredibly complex character.
The comic book version of this character has a singular motivation; to impress the embodiment of Death, who he is madly in love with. This isn’t to say that I’m not a fan of the character in the comics, like the MCU version Thanos is an absolute force of nature that completely steam-rolls over most of the heroes he comes across.

Up until Infinity War, I was convinced that the character would follow the same arc as the comics, Thanos would get the infinity stones and wipe out half of all life to impress Mistress Death.
But as soon as the trailer for infinity war came out, I knew this was going to be a different Thanos, all over the trailer he kept talking about balancing the universe.

This movie wasn’t really about the Avengers, it was about Thanos trying to do the right thing in his mind, which brings me to the first thing that makes Thanos an interesting character.

Thanos Is Convinced He’s The Good Guy

The throne room with Thanos was amazing

This is a key trait for a good villain, if a villain knows that they are being evil for evil’s sake then they aren’t relatable or enjoyable. In fact, a good villain will make you question whether they are the hero of the story or not.

The throne room scene is key to understanding Thanos He labors the point that when life is left unchecked, it becomes unbalanced, and everyone suffers as a result.

At this point in the movie, when Gamora shouts that he doesn’t know that the universe needs correction, I found myself siding with Thanos. He sighs and rolls his head in frustration, it’s almost like he is describing 2+2=4. It’s obvious to him, and the fact that Gamora (and by extension the heroes) don’t understand this is frustrating to him. I found myself empathizing with him, he knows what is needed, but only he has the will to act on it.

He is convinced that what he is doing is the right thing. As he said, Gamora was going to bed hungry, and living off scraps, but since he wiped out half of the population the children born on that planet have known nothing but full bellies and clear skies. He made the planet a paradise. He knows that the universe is finite, it’s resources finite, if life is left unchecked, then life will cease to exsist. He believes that he is the only one who can do this.

When Thanos confronts Doctor Strange and the Avengers on the now desolate planet of Titan, I did not feel how I usually felt in a climax. In their brief discussion before the fight, Thanos explained his home planet, “Too many mouths, not enough to go around”.
He proposed a solution, which in his mind was the only way to fix the dying planet. It would have been discompassionate to the rich and poor alike, but they didn’t listen to him. As a result, the planet and its inhabitants died.

Thanos is extremely relatable, especially when reliving his time on Titan
What once was

At this point it is clear that Thanos is convinced he is right, he has now had proof of the ramifications of a lack of balance, and more importantly, he feels guilt for not stopping this horrific event from happening.
He is convinced that the snap will save the entire universe from destruction.

He Has The Same Characteristics As the Hero

Now most people have drawn the parallels between Iron Man and Thanos in the MCU, they are almost two sides of the same coin.

Iron Man & Thanos are essentially two peas in a pod
Two peas in a pod

Something that I find interesting, as a fan of Iron Man, is how similar they are. The logical conclusion that Thanos has arrived at, where the number of people needs to be halved for the resources to be sustained, is something that I could see Tony Stark also concluding.

Both of these characters have shown that they have the will to do what needs to be done. Tony sacrificying himself in Endgame is proof of that, he knew that he was the one that had the will to do this.

Thanos is exactly the same, he sacrificed the one person he ever loved for his goal. It is that kind of determination and cold calculations that we see in Iron Man from time to time.

I believe that if Iron Man had been on a dying planet similar to Thanos, he may have reached the same conclusion and followed down the same path.

Thanos is intelligent, and strong in his convictions, but he rarely shows happiness while he is doing this in fact he seems exhausted.
Which is exactly how I see Stark, during the Age of Ultron he tried to create a suit of armour around the world. He knew that other heroes didn’t agree but he didn’t care, he was doing the one thing he could to prevent a potential invasion. Similar to Thanos in the throne room, he was incredibly frustrated when no one else would see sense. But he was never cruel when trying to do what was needed, he knew it was a means to an end. And that end justifies the means.

Thanos said it himself, they are both cursed with knowledge.

He’ll Stop At Nothing To Get What He Wants

Now we can all agree that this is true, when I’m watching Infinity War I feel as if I am on a heroes journey with Thanos. He’s efficient, he’s powerful, he’s determined and he will let nothing stand in his way.

Thanos throwing a moon is definitely one way to win a fight
Who throws a moon?

A key part of the movie is on Vormir, where Thanos is going to get the soul stone. Unfortunately, the soul stone is a bit greedy and asks for a price; to sacrifice that which you love.
I’ll be 100% honest, at this point I thought the movie was going to disappoint me and just have Thanos lose here so Gamora doesn’t die. Never have I been more wrong.

The entire movie has made it clear that Thanos loves Gamora more than anything in the universe. He loves her as if it was his own daughter, which in a sense she is. So when Gamora turns to see him crying my heart skipped several beats. “They aren’t really going to do this are they?” I thought naively, but Thanos isn’t like anyone we have come across. He ignored his destiny once, and it cost him his planet and species, he can’t make that mistake again. Not even for the daughter, he loves so much.

If this isn’t stopping at anything to achieve your goals then I don’t know what is. We can see how much this haunted him, after the snap, he saw the child version of Gamora, the last time he remembers her loving him as a father.

The scene where he enters the soul stone is heartbreaking
He knew what must be done

What makes this even worse is that he knew the guilt would eat him alive, he knew that he would never forgive himself, yet he did it because of his mission. He knew that he was sacrificing the only thing he had ever loved, and he knew that she did not understand why.

He knew that balance to the universe was more important than any one person.

Are we sure that Thanos is meant to be the villain of the story?

He’s A Worthy Opponent

Now clearly, if this is going to be the big bad that we have been building to for 10 years, he needs to be powerful. He needs to be able to go toe to toe with our heroes and make us wonder how they will beat him.

Thanos took on the Trinity; Thor, Captain America & Iron Man, he's extremely competent
Need I say more?

What we got was an unstoppable force of nature that was not to be messed with, he beats a powered up Thor off-screen. When the hulk attacks him he dismantles the hulk without the use of the power stone. This is within the first 15 minutes of the movie, he just singlehandedly beat the two strongest Avengers and made it look like he wasn’t even trying.

At this point I found myself asking; how on earth are they going to beat him? And the answer I got was perfect: they can’t. Having a villain that the heroes struggle against is one thing, but having one that they have no chance against is scary.

Mantis put Ego, an entire living planet, to sleep, and yes she struggled to hold him she still held him. Think about when she tried to do that on Thanos on Titan, she had just as much difficulty with that as she did with Ego. That is a terrifying amount of power for someone to have.

Still barely enough

When you can make the Hulk have such bad PTSD that he refuses to come out for the entire movie; now that’s terrifying.
Handling all of the Infinity Stones without them immediately destroying his body is another point to how powerful the Mad Titan is. He was once called the strongest being in the galaxy, and I think this may be true because he walks through literal gods like they were children.

He Isn’t Unnecessarily Cruel

Now, this is probably what makes this villain so complex. Throughout the entire of Infinity War and Endgame, Thanos has a specific trait, he doesn’t visit unnecessary cruelty on anyone. His crusade to balance the universe does cause him to wipe out half of life on every planet he visits, yes, but remember this isn’t murder for murders’ sake. He doesn’t kill because he likes it, he kills because he has to. On Gamora’s planet, it seems like he actually feels sorrow for what he is doing, but knowing it is the right thing is keeping him on track. That scene between them is very important, this is the most powerful being in the galaxy taking a tiny child under his wing.

Again, Thanos is so relatable and shows his love for his daughter
God I loved this scene

Think about it like this, we’ve already covered how powerful Thanos is, he is able to walk through any hero that comes across him. If Thanos was your usual villain, he would kill anyone discriminantly, but he goes out of his way to incapacitate the heroes. When he’s on Titan, he already has some Infinity Stones, which makes him infinitely more powerful than our heroes. Save Iron Man’s ingenuity and the creativity of Doctor Strange who are able to at least put up a fight. But he doesn’t kill them, even when he has an easy chance to. Think about when he breaks free on Titan, he could have used the power stone to kill them instead he just knocks them out.
On Earth, he had 5 out of 6 stones and has the chance to kill every single Avenger, instead he just simply knocks them away.
Thanos does not enjoy killing, he isn’t some merciless tyrant who likes seeing people suffer. He is simply a man on a mission and does not let anyone get in his way.

He Thinks The Snap Is His Responsibility

In a way this is probably what makes me love this character so much. This is usually a trait that we see in the heroes of the story. In the MCU its a heroic trait typically reserved for our favourity heroes; Captain America, Iron Man, Thor or Spiderman to name a few. When we watch these characters they jump into the action, not because they want to but because they know that no one else will. Iron Man knew this in Age of Ultron, he attempted to create the suit of armour around the world because, frustratingly, no one else would consider the possibility that they needed protection from the outside. In fact that whole situation ended with everyone getting angry at Iron Man, but how was he wrong? Yes, he got unfortunate because Ultron turned out to be a genocidal maniac, but his idea was right.

This is how I view Thanos, similar to our hero he is faced with a task that no one else is capable of completing. No one else can handle all of the infinity stones, no one else has his intelligence and no one else comes close to his strength level. So who else is going to be able to do this? He can’t simply sit by and allow for the Universe to become unsustainable, so he begrudgingly decides to take on the mantle to save the universe.

In doing this, is he not the hero? He knew the risks, he knew people would not understand and that most people would rebel and call him a monster. Yet he is so sure in his mission to save the Universe that he shoulders this responsibility.

This is a huge part of what makes him so complex; he is technically presented as the villain, but it isn’t as black as white as that. He isn’t some evil Titan hell bent on destroying the Universe because he has a crush on death, he’s undergoing a heroes journey to balance the entire universe.

For all the evil he has done to reach his goal, I would say his heroic traits make him worthy. The same kind of worthy that Thor believes he isn’t.


I could probably keep going, but I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to for this. As a character, Thanos is extremely complex with multiple layers behind his character, he is an egotistical madman sure. But there is a method behind the madness, he has a goal that he feels is righteous. He’s a powerful, unstoppable machine, but doesn’t enjoy killing. He doesn’t enjoy the slaughter.

But he has sacrificed more than the majority of our heroes within the MCU to achieve his goal.

Thanks for reading this post, Thanos has long since been my favourite character. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Do you agree with my analysis? Do you think Thanos is not as complex as I make him out to be?
Please leave a comment below or email me on;

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