Thanos and Tony Stark have more in common than an Avengers: Infinity War fan might initially realize, which is why the writers and directors gave them intimate lines of dialogue in the film's third act.
Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War follow. Major spoilers!
On the commentary track of Avengers: Infinity War's digital download, co-directors Joe Russo and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely opened up about the connection between Thanos and Tony Stark. When the Mad Titan bested Tony Stark in combat on Titan, he revealed he was "burdened with knowledge" like Stark and promised the earthbound tech genius had his respect.
"The journey that Tony's been on as a genius scientist is that the evolution of his armor. This is the best it's ever gonna get for Tony and it's nanotech," Joe Russo said. "He goes to the cutting edge of what his mind can deliver, and it still is not enough to beat Thanos. In fact, it barely keeps him in the fight."
The development of Tony's armor and his growing necessity to protect the world (as has been on display, especially in films like Avengers: Age of Ultron), make Thanos and Tony similar in their ideas of building a future, though their solutions are drastically different.
"You realize this interesting parallel between Thanos and Tony," Markus said. "They're both aware of something from an early point and constantly having to deal with being smarter. Thanos is a futurist as much as Tony Stark."
When it comes down to it, Thanos knows Stark as the man who thwarted his efforts to take over Earth via Loki in 2012's The Avengers. "Which is why he's aware of Stark from the original Battle of New York as the person who undid the plan," Joe Russo said, giving extra meaning to Thanos having respect for Iron Man.
Looking back at Avengers: Infinity War, Tony Stark was the only character Thanos made a true effort to kill (exempting the required sacrifice of Gamora) since murdering Loki in the first scene.
"Part of what we wanted to do out of the gate was to unsettle you as you're watching the film," Joe Russo said. "You're sitting in the theater thinking most characters have been safe in the Marvel universe for over a decade and we wanted to knock you off kilter and make the audience understand that the stakes were going be significant and the cost was going to be very high in the movie."
"Thanos is violent and cruel," Joe Russo said." It's interesting because, as Thanos moves forward from this moment, once he disposes of his armor, he almost becomes a holy warrior where he doesn't spend a lot of his energy intentionally trying to murder people unless they are, in some way, a threat to his agenda. Almost no one ends up being a threat to the agenda except for Tony who I think he feels has a sort of existential connection to Thanos."
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