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INTERVIEW: Infinity War Writers on Making Thanos Properly Use the Infinity Stones

Thanos has been looming for years, now. The best villains are the ones that even if they aren't strictly sympathetic, still have a compelling motivation. In the wrong hands, Thanos could be just a generic alien villain. What was your approach in grounding such a character that by nature isn't really grounded?

McFeely: Two things: Story structure-wise, he's the hub of the wheel. Because of what he's doing, everyone has to react to him. Very often in an origin story, it's going to be, "How does that villain mirror the main character?" Doctor Strange, or Cap, somebody like that. Well, you've got 23 main characters -- that's not going to be the same dynamic.

He's the star of the movie. That's really how we tried to do it. This is the Thanos movie, and Thanos is going to undergo trials, he's going to win, he's going to lose, he's going to try to get to the finish line, and the camera's here -- it's on his shoulder. And there are the obstacles.

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Markus: But even in the comics, when he has crazy motivations -- trying to make Death fall in love with him -- he has feelings. He's an interesting guy. We never wanted him to go back into two dimensions when he had such potential to be fascinating.

Part of that was really helped by the fact that, coming into our story, he has two adopted daughters. Very few villains come carrying bad Thanksgiving family issues like Thanos does, and that was fun to mine.

The most famous Thanos story is one we're seeing at least echoes of in this film -- Infinity Gauntlet. Of course, the situations in the movie are very different from the comics, but how did that story and its surrounding stories inspire you directly or indirectly?

McFeely: Scale. Those are big, universe-ending events, and that was one of the watchwords from Kevin -- don't be afraid to reach really high and ambitiously for the stakes of the movie.

Winter Soldier, Civil War, we've always taken the parts that are the most helpful to us and made a different story out of it. We'll do the same thing here, but the ambition is the same. The scale...

Markus: Starlin has a cosmic view of things, and things can get quite psychedelic. [Thanos] has stones that do anything, and if all he's doing is punching you with it, it's like, well, he's not that good at it.

McFeely: That was a big conversation for many months. He's got to use each stone in a way that is true to the stone. What does that mean? You can't just pay off with laser punching. We need some unique events.

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