"Thanos is the protagonist - How Infinity War works" and "Thanos deserved to win", two video essays.


Nov 3, 2017
Portland, OR
The topic of Thanos as a protagonist deserves more nuance than my hyperbolic initial posts. I reacted strongly to the original post which features videos that do not exemplify any such nuance (the first one clearly uses protagonist in the title and the thumbnail says “hero” which people seemed to take surprisingly little issue with)

That being said, while the idea of Thanos as a protagonist might be interesting from the standpoint of insight into the creative process of the writers, this is still a comic book movie. It’s not breaking new ground. You can point out aspects of Thanos’s role that mirror certain aspects of a traditional protagonists journey, but they are skin deep.

Thanos killing Gammorah is not really an “all is lost” moment. It is not thrust upon him and it does not change his course. He gets a bit sad about it and then does it without hesitation. He gets what he’s wanted all along out of it. It is a minor trial at its deepest.

What is clearly the actual “all is lost” moment in Infinity War is when Thanos snaps and literally 50% of the universe including the heroes die. Infinity was is not an entire story in and of itself, and Thanos winning is obviously the low point for the actual protagonists.

Dream Machine

Oct 25, 2017
In a descriptive sense, yes. He's the one being proactive and enacting changes on the story while everybody else is just reacting to his actions.

People are too loosey goosey with main character/protagonist/hero/good guy labels, though. Being the protagonist in itself doesn't confer any moral superiority, or mean they deserve to win.


Oct 25, 2017
I decided to do a half-rewatch of the movie just to make sure my analysis was correct. And yeah, Thanos is definitely not the protagonist of the movie. I already explained how him having the most screen time is not indicative of him being the focus of the movie. I also explained how the movie does not flow nor follow from his character. And, upon rewatch this is SUPER apparent, the movie does not in any way flow from Thanos as he is largely absent for large chunks of the movie. Instead, the film actually follows and flows with the actual protagonists of the movie, the Marvel Heroes.

Well, what happens after this? Does the movie continue to follow Thanos? Do we move with him to the next scene? No, what follows is one of the longest periods in-between seeing Thanos, our supposed protagonist, again. So, what does happen? Well, we are introduced to all of the actual protagonists of the film as they learn about and prepare for Thanos. We follow Hulk as he crashes into Strange's House, we are introduced to Tony Stark and Pepper, we watch as Tony teams up with Strange and Banner, we watch them engage in Black Order whilst Spider-Man shows up. And, we watch as they lose and Tony chases them.

Do we cut back to Thanos now? No, what did you think he was the protagonist? We're just getting started, we have more heroes to introduce and follow. Next we are introduced to the Guardians who meet up with Thor, they share some heart-to-heart before separating, then we move on to Vision and Wanda who are rudely interrupted causing Captain America and Co. to show up to save their asses. Then they all hop in a Jet to go back to Avengers HQ.

We do not cut to the real Thanos after this flashback concludes, obviously, since the movie isn't about him. We cut to Gamorra spending some private time with Quill.

After that, it's back to our heroes as we shuffle between them. Cap and his team meet up at Avengers HQ and then they travel to Wakanda, then we cut back to the Maw with Strange and Stark, then the Guardians invade the ship so they can all meet up.

What happens next is a crazy scene as the movie once again focuses back on our heroes, shuffling through them all and then back again. Remember how I was stressing the flow of the movie? This is EXACTLY what I'm talking about, the movie flows with these heroes. We cut to Thor and Rocket having a quick heart-to-heart chat before arriving at the Dwarven Ring, we then cut to Iron Man and the Guardians formally meeting and discussing a plan, then we cut back to Thor and Rocket as they plan with Eitri on how to craft Stormbreaker, then we cut back to the Guardians and Stark on Titan as they deal with the plan on how to stop Thanos as Strange reveals the future. That's called a flow and the movie flows with the heroes.

After that, we go back to Wakanda to prepare for Thanos, we cut back to Thor preparing to build Stormbreaker, then back to Wakanda as the battle starts and worsens, then back to Thor has he nearly completes Stormbreaker, then back to Wakanda where the situation gets dire, then cut to Thor arriving in Wakanda to fanfare. Wooooooooo!

At this point, I stopped tracking because the flow of the movie was clear and the rest of the movie is mostly Thanos just switching between punching people on Titan to punching people on Earth. None of these encounters are framed with him as the central focus as opposed to our heroes.

So again, how is he the protagonist? How does the movie flow from his character?

You are absolutely right, the movie does NOT flow nor follow Thanos, it flows through the Marvel Heroes. However, what does that have to do with whether or not Thanos or the Marvel Heroes are the protagonist? That only means they are the main characters, also known as the point of view characters.

The point of view characters are the characters through which a story is told to the audience. In "Shawshank Redemption", the story is told through Red, though Andy is the protagonist; in "The Great Gatsby", the story is told through Nick, though Gatsby is the protagonist; in "Sherlock Holmes", the story is told through Watson, though Holmes is the protagonist...etc. The point of view character can be any character; the protagonist, a sidekick, room mate, neighbor, friend...etc. or even the antagonist.

A protagonist is the character(s) pursuing the story goal; the antagonist is the character(s) attempting to prevent the story goal. Thanos's goal is to collect all of the infinity stones, so he can wipe out half the population; the Marvel Heroes try to prevent him from achieving his goal. We the audience are told the story through the characters trying to prevent the story goal.

Let's say Thanos is the antagonist or the character trying to prevent the story goal. What is he preventing? He's the character on a journey to collect the infinity stones. He only tries to prevent the Marvel Heroes from preventing him from achieving his goal.

Thanos get most of the screen time, almost all of the scenes either show Thanos, show Thanos’ minions carrying out his instructions or show the Marvel Heroes plotting against Thanos. He is pretty much the center of the whole movie. Thanos is the protagonist of this part 1 of 2. It's actually pretty common for a villain to be a head at the end of a series of parters, up until the final one, where the good goods usually reign supreme. Thanos is the winner, he achieved the story goal by the end of the 1st part, but the Marvel Heroes will surely be the point of view characters & the protagonist of the 2nd part, because their goal will be to reverse what Thanos has done; they will be the ones pursuing the story goal.