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Every Way Phase 4 Has Mocked Thanos (& Why) | Screen Rant

Warning: SPOILERS for Marvel's What If...? episode 8, "What If...Ultron Won?"

Here is every way that the MCU Phase 4 has mocked Thanos and why. Since the first Avengers film, the Mad Titan has served as the villain behind the curtain, acquiring the Infinity Stones one by one to achieve his goal of snapping half the universe's population out of existence. He's depicted as one of the most powerful beings in the MCU by the end of Phase 3, and even after his death, the repercussions of his genocide still linger in Phase 4's WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. However, in the two most recent Phase 4 installments, What If...? and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, depictions of Thanos take a sharp turn.

Different episodes of What If...? show a much weaker version of Thanos. He's killed off, turned into a zombie, and openly mocked by minor characters. Shang-Chi, the first Phase 4 movie to take place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, barely mentions the mayhem Thanos caused at all. What If...? also allows other characters to use the power of the Infinity Stones, and it's clear to audiences that Thanos wasn't even taking advantage of their full potential.

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Phase 4 of the MCU makes something of a mockery of Thanos, but it's not without cause. Having established the genocidal maniac as perhaps the quintessential supervillain of this decade, Marvel now wants to send a message that it's time to move on. As the narrative reality fractures into a multiverse of possibilities, the franchise wants to show that it has bigger and better things for the MCU than the Mad Titan and his misguided goals.

Shang-Chi is the first MCU project to take place after the Blip without being massively influenced by its repercussions. Spider-Man: Far From Home follows Peter Parker readjusting to life after being absent for five years and then returning only to immediately lose his mentor. WandaVision and Falcon and Winter Soldier both focus on the immediate fallout of Thanos' scheme both for individuals and the world as a whole. Shang-Chi, however, barely mentions the Blip, and Thanos' name never even comes up. Instead, the film focuses on entirely new characters who seem to have moved on from the events of MCU Phase 3. On the topic of Thanos' Snap fallout in Shang-Chi, producer Jonathan Schwartz said that they "don’t want to dwell on the events of Endgame too much... we wanted to keep people’s heads in the story that was unfolding before them, and not then how it related to stories that have already been told." Marvel is clearly ready to move past the Thanos debacle and on to new stories.

What If...? episode 2 follows a T'Challa who had been taken by the Ravagers instead of Peter Quill. In this universe, T'Challa is able to prevent Thanos' genocidal plan simply by talking him out of it. Throughout the episode, numerous other members of the Ravagers, an intergalactic crime organization, denounce Thanos' plot as immoral genocide, which he admits with the caveat that it was at least efficient. It's a stark contrast to Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame in which Thanos was a self-assured character who considered himself and his victory inevitable. His loss of will also seems to have weakened Thanos' fighting abilities in the episode, as he manages to take on a squad of guards, but then gets handily beaten in a fight with Proxima Midnight and Cull Obsidian, characters who served him in the primary MCU timeline. Audiences would've witnessed yet another Thanos death if Nebula hadn't intervened at the last moment, and it's obvious that the character is a far cry from the fearsome antagonist viewers know from the films.

The animated show also makes a complete mockery of Thanos even when he has five of the six Infinity Stones. In What If...? episode 8, Ultron inhabits Vision's body and uses the Mind Stone to destroy the Earth. When Thanos unexpectedly shows up with the other five stones, Ultron instantly bisects him with a laser beam, claiming the stones for himself. The scene doesn't really make a lot of sense considering Ultron shouldn't be much more powerful than Jarvis inhabiting Vision's body, and that combination was notably beaten and killed by Thanos in Infinity War. It almost feels like a lazy plot device used so that Ultron could acquire all the stones without taking too much of the episode's time, but Thanos is clearly the butt of the joke. It's just another way that Phase 4 of the MCU significantly powered down Thanos' abilities and turned him into something of a parody.

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Episode 8 of What If...? also showcases the true potential of combining all six Infinity Stones. After using their power to effortlessly wipe out all life in the universe, Ultron manages to figure out how to access the multiverse. He takes on the Watcher, one of the most powerful beings in the MCU, and beats him in a one-on-one fight. It's a brief glimpse at the limitless power that the Infinity Stones are said to possess, and it makes Thanos' usage of the mighty stones appear trivial by comparison. He primarily uses them for basic combat and instant travel, and even his ultimate goal of removing half the universe from existence doesn't make much sense when the full potential of the stones are considered. Although he is meant to be a fanatic tyrant on a holy crusade, it's still difficult to avoid the conclusion that Thanos underused the Infinity Stones' potential by automatically resorting to such an arbitrarily malevolent solution to his problem with the universe. With literally limitless possibilities that the Infinity Stones could achieve, What If...? makes Thanos' scheme seem almost farcical.

In the end, moving on from Thanos is probably the right move for Marvel anyway. He was a fantastic villain to unite the whole Avengers team, but there are only so many times and ways an audience can see a supervillain die before the satisfaction reaches a point of diminishing returns. The MCU clearly has some big new bad guys lying in wait, so making a mockery of Thanos may actually be a great way to showcase how insignificant the Mad Titan is in comparison to what's coming. Although it's unclear whether Thanos will appear or even be mentioned in future episodes of What If...? or later in the MCU Phase 4, t's a good bet that he won't be much of a threat to the universe.

Next: Marvel Finally Understood What If's Best Stories (Too Late)

The What If...? season 1 finale airs on Wednesday, October 6 on Disney+.

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