The Conversation Tony Stark and Thanos Should Have Had

EXT. TITAN—DAY

THANOS strides out of a wormhole onto the ruined surface of the planet TITAN. Crashed spaceships and broken towers rise from a desolate waste.

Thanos looks tired.

STARK (O.S.)

Now, see, you are much more of a “Thanos.”

Thanos turns in mild surprise to TONY STARK, taking the place of Doctor Strange in this fic because the author is an Iron Man fan. Iron Fan? Anyway.

THANOS

I take it the Maw is dead.

STARK

Long face, no lips, Wizard-type Pokemon? Weak against explosive decompression? He didn’t exactly give a formal intro, but he told me your plan before his no-suit EVA. You want to kill half of everyone?

THANOS

I thought you of all people would understand, Robert.

STARK

Who’s Robert? The Maw guy gave me the pitch. The world’s too small, there are too many people, yadda yadda, I’ve heard better takes on Malthus from stoned Freshmen. Come on. What’s this really about?

THANOS

Bobby—can I call you Bobby? Where do you think we are?

STARK

Let me guess. Your home planet climate changed itself to death.

THANOS

This isn’t my home planet, Bobbert. It’s my home franchise.

An EXTREMELY CINEMATIC SIDE WIPE replaces the desolation behind Thanos with—

STARK

Movie posters?

THANOS

The Titan Cinematic Universe. And it was beautiful. Fourteen main film series, two intertwined crossover event trilogies, and that was before we got the T-Men rights back.

STARK

So what happened?

THANOS

What’s happening to you, now.

STARK

They were… talked to death by giant purple men?

THANOS

They ran out of space.

STARK

There’s a lot of space up there. We just flew past like a billion light years of it.

THANOS

Narrative space, Robert. Don’t you remember how it was? At the beginning? So simple? Just you, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, a bunch of ethnic stereotype terrorists, and The Dude?

Thanos snaps himself a DRINK, and offers one to Stark.

THANOS

White Russian?

STARK

What’s Nat got to do with this?

THANOS

That’s exactly what I mean! By Iron Man 2 you’re already establishing characters for two movies down the road. Things used to have a beginning, a middle, and an end! Clean. Simple. Now it’s all references to references. Stories piled over stories until meaning fuzzes out and all you can say is, ‘well, that happened.’ Is that art?

STARK

It hasn’t been so bad. Except for that airport fight.

THANOS

What would you say if I told you that right now, back on Earth, we’re already ten minutes into the climactic action sequence of this film? And there’s still a full hour left to go?

STARK

This isn’t a movie, Thanos. This is real life!

THANOS

Real life? My name is THANOS, and I want half the universe to DIE. You know six people with alliterative names and I’m sure I’m missing some. Didn’t you wonder why the Avengers didn’t help you save the President from Extremis?

STARK

I figured that was just because I’m kind of, you know, a jerk. It’s not proof we’re in a movie series.

THANOS

Look, Bobby, which of us holds the actual honest-to-Stan Reality Gem? That grants knowledge of the true nature of the universe?

STARK

I thought it was more of a Reality Stone.

THANOS

Do NOT get me started on the Gem / Stone thing.

STARK

Okay. Say I take your word we’re in a movie. I don’t see how that makes killing half the people in the universe a good idea.

THANOS

There are thirty-two people in this movie that someone at Marvel thinks might belong on a poster. THIRTY-TWO core characters. Let’s say we give each of them five minutes of character arc. Half a Steven Universe episode for all their growth, pathos, and discovery. That’s one hundred sixty minutes of screen time. That’s as long as OUT OF AFRICA!

STARK

Wait. Hold on. You watch Steven Universe?

THANOS

I’m a huge purple space man. One, Amethyst is bae, and two, that has nothing to do with this conversation.

STARK

You’re talking about a hundred sixty minute movie. Maybe more like 150—you can have more than one person on screen at a time, you know. Though maybe you don’t. You more of a Bergman guy? Long shots of Swedes brooding at landscape?

THANOS

You spend a lot of time in a suit of armor, Robert. What’s the average capacity of the human bladder? Especially if the movie theater serves beer?

STARK

… Okay, fair point.

THANOS

And it’s only getting worse! All I want is a story that makes sense. Clear desire lines. Consequences. But-therefore storytelling. I want unities. I want Aristotle.

STARK

Aristotle thought women had fewer teeth than men. Just saying. Guy wasn’t right about everything.

THANOS

This universe needs editing. And the Infinity Gems will be my red pen. Fair and arbitrary.

STARK

That won’t work! Think about it: when someone dies for good reason in a story, it feels right. You want them back, but you have to accept they’re gone. Like Jean Grey in the Dark Phoenix Saga!

THANOS

Oh yes, Robert, thank you, great example of a narratively consequential death respected by future writers. No, this is the way. Remove characters wholesale, as if they’d never been added. No closure. No illusions. No reboots.

(Because the MCU doesn’t have the rights to the X-Men, the X-Men can be a comic book in the MCU. Because fiction.)

STARK

You don’t get it, Thanos. Say you’re right, okay? Serials have different narrative and structural constraints than classical drama. This isn’t Greece any more, man. Summers are hot and getting hotter. People want an excuse to sit in a dark air-conditioned room, drink a beer, forget their troubles, see people they like try hard at things and succeed, and then go home and write fucky fanfiction about it. Do you think some kind of bummer formalist ending is gonna help us, beyond setting up a cliffhanger for another, even longer film?

THANOS

(taken aback)

Well, I… That is…

STARK

And there’s one other structural aspect of a narrative serial you don’t seem to have considered.

THANOS

What’s that?

STARK

The power of the crossover. Get ‘im, team!

THANOS

Wait. Team?

DOCTOR STRANGE, out of nowhere, slams a SPACESHIP into Thanos, and a HUGE BATTLE BEGINS.

 

EXT. TITAN—MINUTES LATER

… and, at the end of the battle sequence, as THANOS strains against his bonds, MANTIS drops out of a magic portal onto his HEAD.

MANTIS

Sleep.

THANOS

Now, this is EXACTLY what I mean. YOU ALL FORGOT SHE WAS EVEN IN THIS SCENE…. Zzzzzzz.

 

EXT. WAKANDA—LATER STILL

Thanos raises the Soul Stone.

THANOS

Okay. That was almost bad. But now… At last… we shall have narrative consequence and dramatic—

Then, out of Nowhere, THOR swoops in and impales him with an AXE.

THOR

THANOS! Might I AXE Thou a QUESTION?

THANOS

Are we seriously doing this bit twice in one film?

THOR

Yea, Verily! For Tony Of Every Frame A Painting Hath Spake: Things Coming Into Frame Are Funny!

THANOS

… Okay. We’re done here.

SNAP.

 

Max Gladstone writes books about the cutthroat world of international necromancy: wizards in pinstriped suits and gods with shareholders’ committees. You can follow him on Twitter.

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