The depiction of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War more than did justice to Jim Starlin’s classic 1992 limited series, with one major difference. The MCU Mad Titan is the embodiment of Malthusian philosophy, fearing that over-population will ruin the universe. The comic book Thanos, however, is in love with Death (sadly, she’s more into Deadpool) and figures if he murders half the universe, she’ll finally notice him.
This motivation was teased a little in Thanos’ pre-Infinity War appearances, but the Russo brothers decided against focusing on it. As this new fan theory persuasively argues, though, what if each Infinity Stone represented part of the villain forcing the universe to come to terms with its own mortality.
Reddit user Moustache-of-god laid it all out in his post on the social media site, where they wrote:
In Infinity War, Thanos’ actions are meant to force the Universe to accept Death as a part of it. Each scene where Thanos takes a stone represents a different aspect of that realization and fight. It is the story of Thanos forcing the whole universe to face Death and come to terms with its own mortality.
In the MCU comic books, Death and Thanos are two separate beings, with Thanos’ main motivation being to please Death romantically. In Infinity War however they forgo that motivation in lieu of a more….utilitarian reason. Instead of a misguided god-like figure trying to please his crush IW Thanos acts and speaks more like the force of nature that death is in the comics. The universe is overpopulated and will die if left unchecked. Everyone must accept death as a part of the Universe, because right now they act as if it will never catch up to them. Thanos’ goal is to force this.
In summary, the user explains that the Power Stone represents how supremely powerless each person (even the Hulk) is in the face of death; the Space Stone represents the universality of death (even the trickster God Loki must die); the Reality Stone shows us how we can delude ourselves to the inevitability of death (with the Guardians of the Galaxy finding themselves in a fabricated reality); the Mind Stone shows Vision, an innocent, coming to terms with mortality and understanding that death is necessary; the Soul Stone displays to the MCU that everyone with a soul must face death, as even the tyrannical Mad Titan cannot escape it, and finally, the Time Stone shows us that no matter what death will find you (as seen by Wanda’s sacrifice of Vision being reversed and rendered worthless).
All things considered, this is a cut above most fan theories and whether the Russo brothers intended it or not, is a damn good read of the film. One of the most interesting conclusions is that Thor becomes the only character to truly understand what this means. He’s gone from being the proud and carefree Prince of Asgard to seeing his family, civilization and friends cruelly wiped out, concluding that “I’m only alive because fate wants me alive” and knowing that his mission may indeed kill him if he intends to destroy Thanos.
Will any of this thematic musing bear fruit in Avengers 4? I sure hope so, because it adds some nice literary weight to what’s already a damn good movie.