Thanos may have been a nefarious threat to the innumerable heroes in Infinity War and Endgame, but even to filmmakers he proved to be a pesky nuisance, at least narratively. The Mad Titan was first teased at the end of 2012’s team-up, The Avengers, flashing an evil grin to the audience for a second or two. However, he made his first full-bodied appearance in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, sitting atop his throne as he spewed a cautionary threat towards the radical Kree chieftain, Ronan the Accuser.
During an online watch party for the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, director James Gunn was having fun interacting with his fans on Twitter during which tried his best to answer the barrage of questions. During the session, one particular fan asked him whether the inclusion of the Celestials was purely his idea or the studio’s, to which he replied (via Screenrant):
The only thing Marvel asked me to include was a Thanos cameo and said maybe I could create an origin for the Infinity Stones. Other than that, they were up for whatever and weren’t set on any one way to handle the characters.
When the live screening finally came to the scene where Thanos makes his fully armoured debut, another question popped in for the director. The fan asked whether the introduction of the Mad Titan was thrilling for him, to which Gunn told of the complexities in the plot.
He was an extra complication that made the story a lot more difficult to tell. The relationships between the bad guys was too complex for audiences and was by far the most difficult thing to deal with in editing.
Well, I can comprehend where Gunn is coming from as executive notes may tend to mess with the story you are trying to curate. However, since it was part of a shared universe, the decision was necessary as the Mad Titan was being shaped up to be a colossal antagonist. In addition, characters like Nebula and Gamora had their tragic tales intertwined with the inevitable threat, and as such a tangible appearance would have helped. Nevertheless, I believe Gunn handled it well with not going overboard and overshadowing the real menace of the movie, which was Lee Pace’s Ronan. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.
If anything, Thanos’ brief role in Guardians of the Galaxy drew some gasps from the audience, and even for those who were unaware of the character at that time, it displayed the presence of a looming overlord. Someone who heroes and villains alike should not be messing with. Therefore, having the words ‘Infinity Stone’ and ‘Thanos’ being uttered together within the same movie meant that s*** was getting real. Indeed, Gunn had the hardest choices to make, but he had the strongest wills. One redesign later, a grateful universe witnessed a proper dive into the Mad Titan’s mechanisms… and it put a smile on all of our faces.