Film Article: Clash of the Titans – Thanos vs. Thanos

Written by Jeremiah Greville May 03, 2018

avengers infinity war

Don’t forget to read our review of Avengers: Infinity War here.

In honour of Avengers: Infinity War being the biggest thing ever since…well, the last Disney property to come out, and certainly until the House of Mouse puts out the next Biggest Thing Ever, I wanted to do something different this week and talk about the man with the plan, the man behind the biggest movie opening of all time.

Kevin Feige

No, not that guy.


This guy.

That’s right. Thanos, the Mad Titan himself.






If you saw Infinity War this weekend but are confused by that “Mad Titan” bit, the short answer is: it’s from the comics. But this is old-hat by now. Almost everything weird in the MCU and other comic films has the same explanation: it’s from the comics. It’s always from the comics. One of the best things about the MCU in particular is how well they translate and interpret comic stories for the screen. They know what to keep, what to change, and what to jettison. And their love for the characters always shines through.

But Thanos is an interesting case. While his quest for the Infinity Stones (or Gems) is largely the same as it was on the page, as is his ultimate plan for them, his motivation is radically different. Both men have the Infinity Gauntlet, and both men eventually gather all six stones. Both men want to kill half the universe, and in their finest hour succeed in doing so. But Movie Thanos is driven by a conservationist desire to save life, while Comic Thanos does it impress Lady Death.


No, not her. (Though honestly, that would’ve been great…)

Lady Death

Yes, her. Lady Death, the skeleton with boobs.

Despite how silly that may sound, Lady Death is truly the personification of death in Marvel Comics. She’s not just a death-themed character, but death itself. And Comic Thanos was, at one time, madly in love with her.

Now, the purpose of this article isn’t to comic-splain Thanos to you. The internet exists—spoiler, but you’re on it—and wonderful resources are already out there. Heck, most people reading this might be familiar with both versions of Thanos already. Instead, I want to ask the question: which is better? Which version of Thanos is the best? Now by version, I mean specifically their motivation. The love-sick lord or the sociopathic saviour? I don’t know if there’s a clear answer or winner. So instead, I’ll present their cases below. Which version—which motivation—do you think wins out?


Movie Thanos

If you left Infinity War thinking Thanos was the main character, you’re probably right. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have gone on record to say as much. He drives the action of the movie and much of it is told from his perspective. It also helps that Josh Brolin gives an understated and emotional performance throughout. His Thanos isn’t needlessly grandiose or maniacal, but a man doing what he thinks is best for everyone. He’s trying to save half of the universe, and thinks that killing the other half is the only way.

Rich Johnston, over at, notes the real-world precedents for Thanos’ motivation. We’re often told the world is overpopulated, or that our natural resources are depleting too quickly. It’s the same story again and again: too many mouths, not enough food. Too many bodies, not enough beds. Regardless of whether or not the problem is real, it’s one we’re confronted with every day. Thanos sees this problem and reacts logically and dispassionately. His solution is harsh, but terrifying because it makes sense. We don’t have to agree with it — dear God, please don’t agree with it! — but we can all at the very least understand it.

(Of course, here’s there part where we all collectively shout, “He had the Infinity Gauntlet! He could’ve made sure everyone in the universe was fed forever!” But we just won’t go there for now.)

His decision makes sense to him, and he follows it through with cold determination, even sacrificing Gamora in one of the film’s most emotional scenes. Movie Thanos is flawed, but understandable. We like him as a villain because he thinks what he’s doing is right. He even showcases some impressive virtues, making him not only understandable, but admirable in certain circumstances. That’s a tall order for any character, not just a villain.


Comic Thanos

Comic Thanos, however, is a whole other story. He doesn’t care about the universe, and isn’t trying to save anyone. He’s not a misguided man on a quest, but a madman fully aware of the evil he’s attempting. While Movie Thanos is trying to save half the universe, Comic Thanos is simply trying to kill half of it. Of course in the end, it’s the same result. It’s the cosmic version of the glass being half-empty, or half-full.

Comic Thanos does it all to impress a girl. And what makes his character work, and the story work so well, is that he fails. Lady Death just isn’t into him. In an hilarious ret-con, she ends up falling for Deadpool instead. But that’s neither here nor there. Lady Death doesn’t return Thanos’ love. In fact, she practically despises him.

It’s a simple story, and might seem rather small for someone who kills half the entire universe, but that’s also part of the appeal. We can all understand trying to win someone’s love, and there’s no messy logic or plot-holes to throw at it. Movie Thanos might have found a better way to save the universe. But what better way could Comic Thanos prove his love?

But the key isn’t what he does. It’s what he doesn’t understand or accept: Lady Death’s rejection. That’s what makes him dangerous, and what makes him an important villain.

Comic Thanos

And now, the messy part. This is where reality kicks in.


Recently, in Toronto, a man drove a van into a sidewalk full of people. It later came out that he identified as an ‘incel’ — involuntarily celibate — and blamed women for the problems in his life. His act of horrific violence was an act against women, to punish them for rejecting him. We live in an age where stories like this are uncomfortably, tragically common. And while Comic Thanos’ motivations may seem silly, it’s truly no stretch to think of him as a villain in this context.

We’ve seen the danger of men who hate women, who can’t accept rejection. Women live this threat every day. Comic Thanos may be a larger-than-life character, but his selfish motivations make him chillingly realistic. And what better threat for the greatest heroes in the universe to fight than a living embodiment of toxic masculinity, patriarchal violence, and sexist entitlement?

Movie & Comic Thanos

But that doesn’t mean that Movie Thanos was the wrong choice. He was compelling and captivating, and worked well on screen. Which version you prefer might come down to your values. And while I won’t debate sexism vs over-population, they are interesting points to consider when talking about Thanos.

I should also note that this question/debate has appeared around the net in a number of places. Dorkly has a great piece arguing for Comic Thanos, and The Mary Sue brings up some drawbacks to Movie Thanos. Aloysius Low of CNET, however, clearly prefers the movie version over the comic. Opinions are torn, and neither side has proven right or wrong.

But what do you think? Did Infinity War miss a chance to do something unique and meaningful with their interpretation, or was their choice ultimately the best one? Is Movie Thanos more grounded and understandable than Comic Thanos? Or should Thanos be a Shakespearean larger-than-life force of nature?

And who has the better chin ridges?

Let us know on facebook or in the comments below. And as always, thanks for visiting!

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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