It was a mystery that I hadn’t realized was a mystery.
While I’ve written about this several times before, let me re-explain it for any crusty-blog virgins out there: In the original comics, Thanos is literally in love with death. As in, he sees death as a beautiful woman with whom he’s in love. As in death becomes a literal woman for him.
Now when Thanos first pops up in that mid-credits scene in the original Avengers movie in 2012, it seems like the films are going to follow the lead of the original comics.
“To challenge them is to court death”—at which Thanos offers a knowing smile. Not a lot of room for misinterpretation here.
In subsequent films, the death-thing never really comes up again. But because of the way Thanos was introduced, I thought the love-of-death thing was still there, even if they weren’t bringing it up directly for whatever reason. As mentioned at the beginning, it was a mystery that I hadn’t even realized was there.
In the wake of Avengers: Endgame, however, it has been revealed that there was a conscious choice to change Thanos’s motivations as a character. As Jim Starlin told it to Screen Geek:
I found out why they wanted to take Death out, because the Marvel Universe at this point, they don’t figure the movie-going population is ready for the abstract end of these, such as Eternity and that. Talk is that it’s probably going to change with these Dr. Strange movies coming out. So, I was okay with it. I was kind of surprised when I found out what the new motivation was because it was straight out of Silver Surfer 34 which I had forgotten about. I didn’t realize that until after I read an article about it. Only a fool would figure that a multi-million-dollar production is going to do a page-by-page carbon copy adaptation of your work. It just doesn’t work that way. This is the real world. So I came in there saying give them flexibility because you’re just going to be disappointed otherwise, and I had done enough work where I had other things adapted into screenplay where I realized that things were going to change. What I was so pleasantly surprised about is how close they stayed to the spirit, if not the exact letter of the character and they really did as close an adaptation of Thanos as I think they could have under the circumstances of a different universe movie demands and what-have-you.
So modern, adult movie-goers are not “ready for the abstract end of these,” like Death and Eternity and such? So they’re not as mature and sophisticated as the kids who were buying and reading the original comics back in the mid-1970s? Which can only mean us kids were all genius prodigies, then?
Y’know, I always suspected as much, but I’m glad someone else said it. (Or pretty much said it.)