When we are watching an action-hero Hollywood flick we expect its villains to be unidimensional. Their aim being some-kind of destruction of the world. And this need for destruction is a result of either an infinite hunger for power and glory. Or caused by personal tragedies that turn them into revenge-seeking madmen who see destruction as the only solution for their sufferings.
But never we expect its villains’ to have a higher purpose in their minds. Ready to sacrifice what they most love for that purpose. And when they are at the verge of achieving what they set out to do, we don’t expect them to be overcome with a feeling of doubt. And a feeling of regret and loss that almost make us empathise with their motives, if not their actions.
But that’s exactly what the antagonist (Thanos) of the latest Avenger flick was able to make us feel.
Thanos is a far cry from the villains we usually see in the action-hero flicks. And we get the first sign of that during his conversation with his adopted daughter, Gamora.
Thanos believes the Universe is crumbling from the weight of ever-growing population and only way to restore its balance is to kill half the population of this world and he intends to achieve that by getting all the infinity stones that will wipe-off half the population with a snap of his fingers.
So when Gamora asks Thanos what he would do when he has found out all the infinity stones and achieved its goals, Thanos replies,
“I’ll finally rest and sit down watching the sunrise on a very thankful universe.”
Now, this is not the reply of a conventional anti-hero of action hero movies. What Thanos says here isn’t motivated by some personal agenda of power or money. He believes universe needs a balance. That it is currently overpopulated. Its inhabitants are consuming its finite resources at an unsustainable rate. And if allowed to continue, the universe would collapse and the universe would cease to exist.
From Marvel Comics we know that from a young age Thanos is a nihilist. And he worships Mistress Death – the physical manifestation of Death itself. So when he says that he wants to wipe off half the the universe, he doesn’t say out of malice (or madness.) But from the true belief of a doctor who sees a deadly disease in a body and cutting it off from the body as the only solution to save it.
As eccentric as his methods are, Thanos believes in executing his actions in the most impartial way. The half of the population that dies is selected randomly, fair to both rich and poor. Every planet he goes, every civilisation he confronts is dealt with this treatment. And that is the reason the moment Thanos’ sons land on any planet, they almost comically announce that the planet-dwellers are lucky to be chosen to die at the hand of Thanos. That they are serving a higher purpose in all this.