WARNING: The following will include spoilers for the plot of Avengers: Endgame. If you haven’t seen the movie, or don’t want to know what happens, this is your chance to STOP reading. Stop! Now!
When the credits stopped running at the end of Avengers: Endgame, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe probably wondered the same thing: What’s next? Unlike the 22 feature films before it, Endgame didn’t feature a mid- or post-credits scene. The future is murky.
Thanos, the villain that had been teased since the post-credits sequence of the original Avengers back in 2012, and the chief adversary in both Endgame and last year’s Infinity War, has been defeated. The MCU needs to sort out a lot of things going forward in its fictional world, but chief among them: How do you follow arguably your best villain yet?
Turns out, there’s a built-in answer within their own lore. In 2013, Marvel Comics introduced a character named “Thane”: a hybrid, mutant son of Thanos, the offspring result of when an Inhuman woman (a superhuman offshoot created by the Kree, the race of people featured in both Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel) returned home after a run-in with Thanos and his army…pregnant. (We will certainly ignore the logistics on that one). In-book, Thane—ie, Thanos’ son—carries on his father’s evildoing after his defeat at the hands of the Avengers.
According to a Marvel wiki, following Thanos’ defeat, Ebony Maw—a Thanos henchman in the films—begins training and molding Thane into a villain who would eventually become “something worse than anything Thanos could have ever dreamed, a better man than him.”
In the comics, Thane came into contact with cinematic Avengers such as Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, and Nebula, so the literature certainly exists should Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and the rest of the powers that be decide to go in such a direction.
Feige recently heaped praise on the character of Thanos, giving much credit to Josh Brolin’s fantastic performance.
“The answer to why Thanos worked is Josh Brolin,” he said in Avengers: Endgame – The Official Movie Special. “The reason Thanos is now this iconic movie villain is because they understand where he was coming from is because of Josh Brolin. People put ‘villain’ in quotes when they’re talking about Thanos.”
Very little is known for certain about what’s to come in the next phase of the MCU. What’s certain is that in July we’ll get Spider-Man: Far From Home, which will take place not long after the conclusion of Endgame, so it’s likely that at the very least we’ll see how Peter Parker deals with the fallout of the larger universe events (Omnipresent Marvel characters Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and Happy Hogan are also listed as cast members).
And while there aren’t a ton more details, a few movies are also in production: The Eternals, which will star Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani; a Black Widow movie (though you’d have to assume it’s a prequel, considering her Endgame fate); Black Panther 2; and Guardians of the Galaxy 3. We also know for certain that series revolving around Loki and Falcon/Winter Soldier will be coming to Disney+. We have a general idea of the characters that the universe is building around, but no clue whatsoever of where they’re taking it from here.
So how can the studio replicate that same success with a future villain? While major Marvel villains like Galactus and the Green Goblin have yet to be explored in the MCU, the familiar origins have already been set, and a character like Thane entering the fold could come along with a build-in emotional storyline, one that already builds toward a strong villain with a motivation that crowds will instantly understand.
Another factor in replicating the success of Thanos would come from the casting department. In the hands of an actor less talented than Josh Brolin, there’s a chance that Thanos—a big purple space monster, really—could have completely misfired (thinking of Ivan Ooze from Power Rangers, currently).
So bringing in a younger actor with a demonstrable charisma—think someone willing to dive fully in to a deprived character, like Ezra Miller, Rami Malek, or even Zac Efron—would be key to the endeavor.
That being said, there are many, many characters in the comics, and it’s nearly impossible to include every arc, and every character in the universe. But that’s just what makes the MCU so intriguing as a property: the well from which to pull ideas from is endless.
That means nothing is out of play—not even a big purple space monster’s long lost son.
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