Since his introduction in 2012, at the very end of The Avengers, Thanos has appeared single-minded in his quest: to gather the six cosmic artifacts, and use their combined power to rule the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But is it possible that the Mad Titan’s motivations are a little more nuanced than that? A new character bio for Avengers: Infinity War suggests they are.
Appearing on the Toys R Us website hub for the upcoming Marvel Studios sequel, the brief character description refers to Thanos as “cunning,” “intelligent” and “fierce,” adjectives that have long been associated with the classic comic book villain. However, this new biographical sketch continues, touching upon the motives of the Mad Titan, “a ruthless cosmic threat consumed with saving the universe from itself.”
There’s a lot to unpack in those 11 words, particularly considering the first phrase would seem to contradict the second. Few would dispute that Thanos is ruthless cosmic threat, as evident from decades’ worth of Marvel Comics stories, to say nothing from his previous MCU cameos. But that he’s “consumed with saving the universe from itself” brings additional layers to his quest. That would suggest he’s not quite as power-hungry as previously thought; behind the unsettling grin, there may be a sense of altruism.
Of course, Thanos envisioning himself as the savior of the universe, rather than its conqueror, probably doesn’t change the end result. But it raises the question of what, or who, he believes he’s saving the universe from. The use of the word “consumed” may provide a tantalizing clue, as in the comic book source material the Mad Titan has been obsessed since adolescence with the physical embodiment of Death, whom he longed to impress. Could Death, as fans have long theorized, make an appearance in Infinity War? If that’s the case, is Thanos intent on saving the universe from her, or for her?