Writing Tips and Film Critique

Revising Thanos

I think Thanos is one of the top two villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ron Perlman’s acting makes Thanos a believable character, and there are a few emotional moments in the film that define the character and pull us, the audience, into the story, not letting us go until we sit in awe at how the story ends. That said, as much as I love this movie, I have to wonder if Thanos’ plan in the film makes sense.

In The Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos explains that his homeworld, Titan, was like many planets: too many mouths and not enough to go around. From this, we can gather that Thanos is simply talking about food. Okay. Good start. Next, Thanos says that he offered a solution to the extinction of the people on Titan, an extinction likely due to starvation. This solution was killing half the people on the planet in a random selection to ensure fairness among the rich and poor. Thanos was called a madman, and what he predicted came true. What did he predict? We don’t know. He possibly predicted that people would starve, and the planet would become depopulated and desolate. Then again, if the problem was a lack of food, and some people were starving to death, doesn’t that solve the problem? At some point, the survivors are going to have enough food to live. Also, why would the planet become desolate? With fewer people on it, planted food can grow, animals can breed freely, and life can begin to flourish again as more food becomes available for the larger population that is coming. So, unless there was a much larger problem on the planet that Thanos isn’t telling us about (for example, plant life was dying out for an inexplicable reason, causing a major disruption in the food chain), his story simply doesn’t make sense. It’s vague with an intention that the audience will accept it at face value and fill in the blanks on their own, in whatever way works for them. In addition, Thanos’ plan to wipe out half the population on every planet doesn’t make sense.

What would make sense? Starting with Thanos’ background, the problem has to be about more than simply a lack of food. Like I said, that problem eventually solves itself, given the natural cycle of life on a planet. Thanos’ prediction could not have come true. So, the problem would have to center around events connected to a lack of food or other resources. For example, if there were rich and poor people on Titan, and food became scarce, wouldn’t the rich people attempt to buy up as much food as possible to store it for themselves? If that happened, and the poor people discovered this, wouldn’t the poor people inevitably rise up in desperation and attack the rich people to take all the food they’re hoarding? Who on Titan would allow themselves to simply starve and die? A survival instinct would have to kick in at some point, right? So, perhaps Thanos’ prediction could have been war, bloodshed, people going crazy and killing each other. That would be Thanos’ reason for wiping out half the population at random, to avoid the conflict.

However, would killing half the people on the planet even be a viable solution? Yes and no. Of course, at first, fewer people would have more food. As those people had children, though, the population would boom again. On Earth, it took 1 billion people only 200 years to multiply into 7 billion people. Given this, if Thanos went to a planet of 7 billion and left 3.5 billion alive, it would only take a few generations to restore that 7 billion number. In other words, wiping out half the population yields an extremely temporary result. Thanos would be able to rest, but not for terribly long as he would have to continue to cut populations in half every so often. If the Infinity Stones make Thanos immortal, then snapping his fingers every few generations would be his forever job.

So, what should be Thanos’ plan? For a moment, let’s skip past the solution of simply doubling all the resources in the universe. If the Infinity Stones can make half the people in the universe disappear, then surely, they can make double the resources appear out of nowhere. Given Thanos’ background, though, it’s more likely that Thanos would be a Robin Hood type.

We know that Thanos eventually found a way to get off Titan. How did he do this? Did his people develop spaceships and leave the planet? If so, didn’t the first people to leave come back with food for everyone remaining? Let’s assume there were so few people that everyone left at the same time. Well, somewhere out in the universe, Thanos and his people discovered an abundance of food on another planet. If the planet was uninhabited, then his people could settle on that planet and his story ends there. If the planet had a civilization already on it, though, then perhaps Thanos and his people had to fight that civilization for food. The other civilization wouldn’t share, I guess. Now, if Thanos’ mind is on the other populations in the universe and making sure they don’t suffer as his people suffered, then his solution, now, would be putting together an army to steal from the richer planets and give to the poorer planets, as his people did with this other civilization they encountered. Wiping out half the population on every planet wouldn’t be a solution for him anymore since he now possesses the ability to travel to resource-rich planets and acquire food for the populations that need it. He could use their resources to build cargo ships specifically for transporting food and other resources to planets in need. In fact, he could help other populations build their own spaceships and start their own shipping lines between planets, so they could take care of themselves. Teach a man to fish, right? Also, some of the people from the poorer planets Thanos feeds can maybe show their gratitude toward him by joining his growing army. Perhaps this is a demand Thanos makes.

How could this connect with Thanos wanting the Infinity Stones? Perhaps upon hearing of the Infinity Stones, Thanos decides that his operation would be far easier to carry out if he could simply snap his fingers and magically move resources from rich planets to poor planets. (Again, let’s set aside the idea of simply creating more resources.) Now, if this was Thanos’ plan, then how would it look for The Avengers if they were trying to stop Thanos from an equal distribution of wealth that would end all starvation in the universe? Suddenly, the Avengers could seem like total assholes.

This wouldn’t be difficult to fix, though, as the motivation for the Avengers could be that they don’t trust Thanos with the power of the Infinity Stones. Captain America could even say, “Who can we trust with the power of God other than God?” Maybe Tony Stark responds, “Some people don’t even trust God with that power,” to which Dr. Strange could say, “Thanos is one of them, apparently.”

With these changes, we now have a proper motivation for Thanos that sensibly springs from his background, which now has more explanation and depth to it, and we have a possible conflict within the Avengers, initially, with some of the Avengers maybe thinking it’s not a bad idea to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Of course, that line of thought could be overruled by the “power of God” argument.

So, what do you think? Does Thanos’ plan, as it’s given in Infinity War, make sense? Do my changes to his plan make sense? What do you think his plan should’ve been? Feel free to drop me a comment below.

2 thoughts on “Revising Thanos

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