Thanos Infinity War

While Avengers: Infinity War trailers have focused on beloved Marvel Studios heroes meeting and joining forces, we know a majority of the screen time belongs to two characters: Thor and Thanos. Thor is somewhat surprising, but Thanos is not – every film since The Avengers has been barreling toward this moment when we’d finally learn more about him. “In many ways, it’s Thanos’ movie,” writer Stephen McFeely told us during our Infinity War set visit. Below, read McFeely and co-writer Christopher Markus explain how they make Thanos an emotional center of the film, how they view Marvel’s biggest villain as an “amoral philosopher,” and more.

What is This Movie About?

Can you tell us what [Avengers: Infinity War] is about?

Christopher Markus: What isn’t it about? This is about the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is about everyone getting together, or trying their hardest to get together, to fight a guy named Thanos.

Stephen McFeely: Who hopefully will come together in a way that will be satisfying? We’ve been teasing Thanos for many movies in 30 second clips, 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. That is the word I would use most often. It’s ridiculously big.

How long does it take for Thanos to take the screen?

Stephen McFeely: It’ll take 18 movies. [laughter]

Christopher Markus: We won’t tell you exactly, but you’re going to get Thanos and you’re not going to feel like we’ve continued to jerk you around and kept him in check.

Stephen McFeely: In many ways, it’s Thanos’ movie.

Infinity War is a Thanos Origin Story

Stephen McFeely: Yes, one of the big challenges is how to make sure he’s not just a relentless machine collecting stones like he’s going shopping. So we want to give him a full weighted emotional story. You can kind of say this is Thanos’ origin story so that he will get the weight of any of the previous heroes in terms of the decisions he has to make in order to get what he wants.

But Then Again…

We know from the trailers that the film features at least one flashback to when Gamora was a little girl, so perhaps that’s the “origin story” element McFeely is teasing in that quote. But later, the writers clarify that the film is not an origin story – no surprise, considering they have so much ground to cover in this story.

Avengers Infinity War Trailer Breakdown - Thanos

Conquering Marvel’s Villain Problem

The MCU has received tons of critical praise, but the one thing franchise has been dinged on is, the villains are just not as impressive as Loki, over and over. That’s something you guys are aware of, so trying to create “The Big Bad” of this franchise, I’m curious, how are you navigating that?

Christopher Markus: Well part of it is motivation, where if you have a villain who just wants to kill somebody or just wants to take over the world because it seems like a fun thing to do, or has been paid by the Russians to take over the world…run for President to take over the world. That guy isn’t very interesting. He’s pathetic but, we take this from [comic book writer Jim] Starlin. Thanos is an amoral philosopher. He’s not the Devil – although he does sometimes have the Devil standing next to him. We wanted that all the way through. To have a villain with understandable motivations and emotions. Thanos has family. Thanos has two daughters that we know of. Thanos has eight million backstories in the comics but they’re all kind of sad.

Stephen McFeely: What I want to point out, is that my favorite two [villains] in the entire MCU are Loki and [Jessica Jones villain] Kilgrave, because he’s creepy and awful, but really cares in a strange way.

And he totally doesn’t see himself as the villain.

Stephen McFeely: For sure. And screen time, right? A lot of screen time for both of those characters. Chris is right, they both have these weird family relationships. So Thanos will get the benefit of both of those things. He’s got daughters that he clearly has to deal with, and James did a nice job of setting the table for us, but we’re certainly going to run with that. And screen time. This is not an origin story. 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.

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Avengers: Infinity War arrives in theaters on April 27, 2018.

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