Marvel has a villain problem in the MCU. I know it. You know it. Marvel Studios knows it. While you could argue it's not practical to focus on the villains when the priority is and has always been to build up its heroes, the bottom line is that most of Marvel's dopplegänger villains in the movies have been two-dimensional at best and forgettable at worst, with Loki being the lone exception.
Marvel has rectified this issue (to some extent—let's not get too crazy now) in Phase 3. Michael Keaton's Vulture was a phenomenally realized baddie in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Ego the Living Planet had a full backstory and arc in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. And as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, Cate Blanchett had quite a bit of screen time and an understandable ax to grind.
But as promising as those course corrections have been, none of it matters if Thanos isn't a villain for the ages in Avengers: Infinity War—and Kevin Feige knows it. Speaking at Comic Con in Brazil (via CBR), the Marvel Studios president promised it will be worth the wait. "Within the first five minutes of Infinity War," he teased, "people will understand why Thanos is the biggest and baddest villain in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe."
That's not exactly a difficult feat for the Mad Titan when competing against the likes of, well...almost any of the villains to date. But Thanos has been looming over the Avengers for years, and the buildup will mean nothing if he is not convincingly terrifying. Feige also addressed that, speaking about the pressure of Thanos living up to the hype:
You know, we’ve been teasing Thanos since the very first Avengers film. Remember the end of Avengers, the very end of the movie he turns around in the chair and you realize something bad is coming. We’ve been teasing him for years and the trick is when you tease something for that long you have to deliver.
While it's good that Marvel is fully aware the payoff with Thanos has to be huge, it remains to be seen if they'll accomplish it. There's no telling what will happen in the first five minutes of the movie. He might kill an Avenger or two and truly shock us all, or the nefariousness of the opening moments might be completely overhyped. This isn't the first time Marvel has promised us a great baddie only for them to still be a bit of a letdown.
Still, from the very little we know of the film, it's promising. In the D23 and SDCC sizzle reel released earlier this year, there was a shot of Thanos literally shattering the moon and raining down its destruction on our heroes. Could the footage we saw in that reel and the first official trailer of the devastation in New York be the opening scene of the film? That level of destruction and despair on our heroes' faces makes it seem it would be a mid-movie clash, or even the finale.
But Marvel is known for its deliberate misdirection in trailers and giving away far less than we think in its marketing. The entire third act of GotG Vol. 2 was never once hinted at in the trailers, and Thor's eye being ripped out by Hela was cleverly disguised in all of Ragnarok's promo material. There were even scenes shot solely for Homecoming's promo campaign that weren't in the movie. I would not at all be surprised if the trailer is all smoke and mirrors and structured in such a way as to keep us in the dark. Marvel's gotten much savvier over the years about not giving so much away prior to release that its hardcore fanbase can figure out spoilers ahead of time. If there's any movie that they'd want to keep a surprise for fans, it's Infinity War.
If that scene of utter destruction does happens in the first act of the movie, it will indeed cement Thanos as the most unstoppable force the Avengers have ever faced. Let's hope that Feige is telling the truth and not just buying into his own hype regarding Marvel's ultimate villain. After half a decade of build-up, it's what audiences—and the Marvel Cinematic Universe—deserve.
Avengers: Infinity War opens on May 4, 2018.