For a guy who looks like Homer Simpson’s swollen thumb, Thanos is a surprisingly sympathetic villain. Maybe not in The Avengers, where he made his first post-credits appearance, or Avengers: Age of Ultron, but for sure in Avengers: Infinity War, even after he, uh, made half the world’s population (including the bunnies) disappear. That’s a tough task — can you feel empathy for a mass murderer? — and it’s one that Joss Whedon couldn’t figure out.
During a recent interview, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator (who’s working on a Buffy reboot, as well as an HBO series) told IGN, “I kind of hung [Thanos] out to dry. I love Thanos. I love his apocalyptic vision, his love affair with death. I love his power. But, I don’t really understand it. He’s had a lot of power, and he was cool in the comics. And I’m like, Thanos is the ultimate Marvel villain! And then I was like, I don’t actually know what I would do with Thanos.”
Whedon continued, “So, I liked what [directors Anthony and Joe Russo] did so much, and I thought Josh Brolin killed it. And they did an amazing job of keeping that performance on-screen. But it wasn’t like I was like, here’s a set of directions. I was like, I’m gonna get through Ultron, nap for four years, and then I’ll come to the premiere. Which I did! It was like, this is so cool!”
This isn’t the first time Whedon has discussed the apparently miserable experience that was Ultron. The film made him feel like a “miserable failure,” and it “broke him a little bit.” But it all worked out in the end, except for Loki.