So THE AVENGERS just ended. You're sitting in the theater, happy about what you just saw and now the credits are rolling. Of course you're staying through the credits, because it's a Marvel movie and you always stay through the credits.
The credits fade to black and the mysterious figure that supplied Loki with his army is talking to someone. He cryptically says, "To attack Earth would be to court death."
That someone turns around and smiles. The credits roll again.
Seventy Five percent of the theater goes, "Who the fuck was that?"
Fifteen percent of the theater freaks out then and there.
The other ten percent, guys like me and my friend Casey, look at each other and go, "Oh, that guy. What's that guy's name again? I've gotta look that up real quick."
Thanos, the Mad Titan and he's a little bit nuts. I'm not going to give you a breakdown of who he is or what this might mean for the future of the Marvel movieverse—there are plenty of great posts that do just that—but I am going to give you a little insight as to why Marvel went with Thanos as the big bad of their biggest franchise.
Short answer: Their options were kind of limited.
Right now, Marvel is riding the wave of THE AVENGERS and its record breaking couple of weeks and just two years ago, the company was purchased by Disney for around four billion dollars. They're not exactly hurting for money right now, but that wasn't always the case.
Back in the 90s, Marvel comics kind of sucked, they were going broke and had to find ways to stay afloat. The easiest way to do that was to sell the rights to certain characters to studios to be made into a movie. DC Comics is owned by Warner Brothers, so all of their characters have always been housed under one roof for films. Marvel, on the other hand, created their own studio so they'd at least have a hand in the development, but since they had no real money, the bigger studios had most of the pull because they were the ones footing the bill.
This led to different studios all over Hollywood getting the rights to different characters. Fox bought up the biggest chunk, getting X-MEN (which means any and all characters described as a mutant), FANTASTIC FOUR, DAREDEVIL, ELEKTRA and SILVER SURFER and Columbia Pictures (Sony) owns SPIDER-MAN and GHOST RIDER. Universal owned the rights to THE HULK but had no interest in doing another one because the box office for Ang Lee's film was so bad that the rights reverted back to Marvel—who made their own version that was almost as bad. Universal also owned NAMOR at one point, but that might not be the case anymore. New Line used to own BLADE, but those have reverted back to Marvel and the same goes for Lionsgate and THE PUNISHER.
A few years ago, Marvel Studios scrounged up enough money to start independently financing their own movies and only needed the bigger studios for distribution. They used the 10 characters they still owned as a starting point to get the money they needed and went from there. Slowly, they started reacquiring the rights to characters that hadn't been adapted for films yet, starting with IRON MAN, then THOR then BLACK WIDOW until they had THE AVENGERS assembled.
Having spent so much time building towards THE AVENGERS, they didn't want to shoehorn in any old villain, so the logical move was to just put Loki at the forefront. No one really had a problem with that and it worked out pretty well. But at the same time, they wanted to set the tone for the next wave of Marvel movies, so they inserted the bad guy at the end that was probably the easiest to build up over the next few years even if he wasn't as well known as some had hoped.
Thanos works just fine in this regard but he's not even the best AVENGERS villain, let alone the biggest bad guy in the Marvel Universe. That title belongs to none other than Doctor Doom, but unfortunately, he comes with the FANTASTIC FOUR along with another great Marvel villain Galactus—who is much cooler than a fucking cloud, Tim Story (though to be fair, Warren Ellis kind of made him a cloud in the Ultimate Universe and did a much, much better job of it).
It seems that by consensus, the top two AVENGERS villains from the comics are Ultron and Kang. They couldn't use Ultron because he's a robot built by Hank Pym, a character that hasn't been introduced yet. That may change soon though, if Edgar Wright's proposed ANT MAN movie ever finally gets going. Kang is another that they would have loved but probably wanted to avoid because everyone is terrified of making time travel movies and Kang is a scientist and scholar from an alternate version of earth in the 30th century. And that kind of thing confuses people that just want to watch stuff blow up.
Other notable AVENGERS villains include the Kree/Skrull (which is what everyone originally thought the aliens were going to be), Baron Zemo (a Captain America nemesis), and the Scarlet Witch.
This is where it gets tricky but weirdly optimistic.
Hollywood is a stupid, stupid place and the people in charge only care about one thing and strangely, it doesn't involve making good movies. Studio executives only care about not looking like an idiot. The way these rights usually work is that if there's not a film in active development at a certain date, the rights revert back to the previous owner. That's why we keep seeing crappy GHOST RIDER movies popping up, it's why SPIDER-MAN all of a sudden started over and why they keep hiring people to write and develop new DAREDEVIL, FANTASTIC FOUR and X-MEN movies. To be fair, I loved X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, though.
The people at Fox would rather waste money "developing" a FANTASTIC FOUR movie that they have no intention of releasing rather than see the rights go back to Marvel and have them make one that fits in to their shared universe and be potentially great and a box office success. That's really all there is to it—no one wants to be known as the guy that got rid of a potentially huge movie just because he didn't know how to make it himself. It's the most frustrating thing in the world because how great would it have been to see Tony Stark mention Latveria or Wolverine stroll into the Shwarma place at the end of AVENGERS? You know Hugh Jackman would have paid his own way to NYC to do just that.
That's why the Scarlet Witch being usable by both Marvel and Fox is so intriguing. It could potentially heal a bit of a rift between Fox and Marvel which could pave the way for Reed Richards hanging out and talking science with Tony Stark or Matt Murdock showing up somewhere for a chat with Steve Rogers.
So there's always a chance, however slim it may be. It's possible that good business decisions and giving fans what they want will trump massive egos and blatant selfishness, but this is Hollywood we're talking about, so on the other hand, it probably won't.
Sources: Screenrant, BadAss Digest, Newsarama
P.S. I don't have an editor or a fact checker so I'm doing my best here. Don't rip my head off if things aren't 100% accurate. Also, it's a blog.