(Note: Spoilers for “Avengers: Infinity War” herein. Read on at your own risk!)
Since the release of “Avengers: Infinity War,” some viewers have been calling the logic of purple supervillain Thanos a big hole in the movie’s plot.
“Infinity War” finds Thanos (Josh Brolin) searching through the galaxy for the six Infinity Stones. Thanos’ goal is to eliminate half the life in the universe using the stones’ incredible power, but he doesn’t do that for no reason. Thanos believes that the only way to save the universe is to thin out the life in it, to eliminate conflict for resources that would otherwise lead to death and suffering.
It’s kind of a ridiculous plan because Thanos is, in fact, a ridiculously bad guy. Even before he had the Infinity Stones, Thanos had been waging a military campaign against the universe one planet at a time, ravaging populations under the guise of “saving” people. It’s what gives both Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) of “Guardians of the Galaxy” their tragic backstories: both are from places where Thanos killed huge numbers of people.
Some viewers have called Thanos’ plan a big plot hole in the story of “Infinity War,” because with all the power of the Infinity Stones in his possession, his goal seems like a really bad solution to the problem. After all, if you have a glove that grants wishes, why not wish for something that’s not murder — like doubling the resources in the universe to make sure there are enough for everyone, rather than eliminating half the need for them?
The home video release of “Infinity War” features commentary by Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors of the movie, and screenwriters Chris Markus and Steve McFeely, and they addressed the viewers who have called Thanos’ plan a plot hole during the movie. In their discussion, the filmmakers noted that it’s Thanos’ character, and not airtight logic, that drives his decision to use death to save life.
Thanos actually lays down some of his rationale within the confines of the movie. When the characters of “Infinity War” show up on Thanos’ home planet, Titan, they find it in utter ruins. Soon after, we learn that before it was destroyed, Thanos went to the leaders of Titan with his idea: Kill half the people on the planet, but choose them randomly and dispassionately (rather than by ethnic or class lines, for example), to save everyone else. Titan refused, and though we never quite learn what happened to it, we do know that he destruction of the planet was enough to put Thanos on his path.
While talking about the “Infinity War” scene on Knowhere, the filmmakers went through some of the underlying drives and emotions in Thanos, specifically as relates to Gamora, his adopted daughter. They noted that Thanos is a “sociopath with a messiah complex,” and also said the events on Titan are part of Thanos’ reasoning, but his character flaws are what really drive him.
“People have asked us why Thanos didn’t just use the stones to double the resources in the universe, and clearly he is not interested,” Anthony Russo said during the commentary.
“No, it’s about free will,” McFeely added. “That doesn’t solve the problem. We’re just going to get there millions of years from now. This is an opportunity for people to get it right. He trusts them, you know?”
“Well, he was told ‘no’ to an idea that he had that he felt was the only solution, and then was proved right to himself when that solution was not acted upon,” Joe Russo said. “So his messianic complex — he is now committed to following through on the idea he had many many years ago. He is not a stable — although he appears stable at times, he is not a stable individual.”
The filmmakers also point out how abusive and manipulative Thanos is to Gamora, and his ruthlessness is on display throughout the movie — he’s not a nice guy. As McFeely explains it, though, Thanos is almost “rebooting” various populations, galvanizing them to take care of one another through their suffering, and heading off the destruction they would face like Titan did. The Russos added that Thanos also is coming from the flawed starting point of a guy who thinks he’s a messiah, and is also fully okay with mass murder, so long as it’s random (because otherwise it would be genocide, and genocide is wrong, under Thanos’ logic).
So there you have it: Thanos’ plan isn’t a plot hole, it’s a function of his essential character. He didn’t double the resources in the universe because that’s not what he’s trying to accomplish, and also because he’s an unhinged, sociopathic supervillain who is basically on a holy crusade. Thanos’ plan only has to make sense to him, and in terms of fitting his character, it’s perfect.