Thanos Wasn't Supposed To Be The Big Bad Of The MCU

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an unprecedented and still unmatched production, with multiple storylines and characters that cross over then diverge, culminating in the cultural and box office juggernauts that were "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame." The two-part movie not only brought together every character in the franchise up to that point, but it gave us the biggest adversary the MCU has introduced so far.

Indeed, the fact that there doesn't seem to be any plans for a new "Avengers" movie in place shows how big an impact Thanos had as a villain that required all hands on deck. It helps that he is one of the most impressive digital creations in a movie, the next step in the evolution of the CGI character after Davy Jones from "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the Na'vi from "Avatar."

But Thanos wasn't always going to be the big bad. We could have had a much different MCU without an overarching villain.

'It was more of a cameo'

You can still feel the impact of Thanos on the MCU in the way other villains are trying to commit atrocious crimes for the sake of the greater good, with villains like Arthur Harrow following in the footsteps of Thanos' calm yet mighty threat. A big part of what made the character memorable was Josh Brolin's performance, who made the Mad Titan both imposing and scary, but also admirable in a way. 

Speaking on Sirius XM's Jess Cagle Show (via GamesRadar), Brolin spoke of how he came on board to play Thanos as a one-off character for a cameo. As the actor said:

"The whole Thanos character, it was more of a cameo, but they liked the character so much. They had never felt like they had a villain that was substantial enough for what they were creating and then I think they felt like they found it, and then there were two movies that kind of revolved around it. It was a lot of fun and it worked out for them very nicely."

This makes sense when you think of how most of the Marvel villains were one-off characters that never returned, with most of them being killed after their first appearance. From "Iron Man" to "Ant-Man" and "Black Panther," these villains were mostly just reflections of the hero, and not really having lasting impact on the MCU, so it seems that it really was the planning of Thanos as an overarching villain that started changing things.

Though Thanos died quite clearly in "Endgame" — twice in fact! — the laws of modern blockbuster filmmaking indicate no one is ever really gone, and Brolin has some idea of whether he'd return to play the mad titan again.

"I don't know what their plan is. We've kind of bookended this thing after 10 years. I was so happy and I loved being involved in that so much because that wasn't the intention when I first got involved."

"Avengers: Endgame" is streaming on Disney+.