Possible minor SPOILERS about Guardians of the Galaxy. This isn’t really anything that you wouldn’t know from watching trailers, but if you’re trying to avoid everything about GotG before you go in, you might want to sit this one out.
We first met Thanos “The Mad Titan” at the end of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. Since then we’ve learned that he’s going to play a big part in the ongoing future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He shows up again in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which opened this past weekend to huge box office returns. The villain, henceforth played by Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men), doesn’t play a huge role in the action directly, but what you walk away with is a sense of his role. He’s a sort of puppet master, controlling the action, and while he may not be at the forefront, he’s a specter looming over everything that goes down. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige compares him to another favorite sci-fi villain, the Emperor from Star Wars.
In an interview with Slashfilm, Feige talked about the way they’ve gradually been building up the character into an ominous, behind-the-scenes presence. He also discussed why they’re taking it slow and he only shows up in a couple of scenes. He calls it another “step forward” for the character, and said, “We wanted Ronan to be the bad guy [in GotG]. We wanted to focus on the creation of the Guardians team itself, so didn’t want to spend too much time with Thanos.”
Feige goes on to shed additional light on how Thanos will evolve moving forward, and what his ultimate role in the MCU will be. He said:
But we wanted to showcase that there’s a guy behind the guy behind the guy. The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back, [behind] Darth Vader. So we wanted to see a little bit more of him, a little bit of attitude. See him, and hear him for the first time. And just to get — which is one of my favorite shots in the whole movie — him leaning back on his throne and smirking, which he does on every cover of every Thanos comic book, which is cool.
So Thanos the guy behind the guy. It sounds like we can expect him to show up in a scene or two for a few movies, building an air of menace—we’ve heard tell that he won’t play much, if any, role in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron—moving pieces around a giant, celestial chess board. It does sound like he’s going to eventually get to the point where he takes a more prominent, foreground role in the action, however.
While that sounds like it has potential, he’s going to have to step up his game a little. As we learn in Guardians, Thanos is after the Infinity Stones, though at the moment, he has a grand total of none. So if Marvel truly plans on him being a legitimate threat to the galaxy, he’s going to have to take steps to actually become a threat. At the moment he’s this sinister force, but doesn’t appear to have the necessary power behind him to be as terrifying and destructive as he should be. According to Ronan, Thanos can destroy an entire planet, we just haven’t seen that ability yet, he just needs some Infinity Gems.