How Did Thanos Know Tony Stark in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’?

thanos stark infinity war 1
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In the MCU, Thanos and Iron Man haven’t met face-to-face until their big collision on Titan in ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’ However, it was already evident that Thanos knew Tony Stark, his work, and his brilliance despite never even coming close to Earth before. So, how did Thanos know Tony in ‘Infinity War,’ and why did he say Stark was ‘cursed with knowledge’? It’s time to find out.

  • Article breakdown
  • Thanos knew Tony Stark from before as the man who thwarted his plans in the first ‘Avengers’ movie when Loki attacked New York with an army of the Chitauri.
  • When Thanos said Stark was ‘cursed with knowledge,’ he meant that, much like himself, Tony was simply a grade above his peers when it came to intelligence, knowledge, and understanding of how things work in the universe.
  • The Mad Titan respects Iron Man for improving upon himself, using only his wits and his resources to become better and better, and essentially bringing himself to a level where he can fight literal gods.

Where did Thanos and Tony Stark first meet?

Tony Stark and Thanos officially met face-to-face in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ on the planet of Titan – a ruined, desolate planet that was once the home of the Mad Titan. However, their collision course actually started about a decade earlier, during the first ‘Avengers’ movie.

You see, Thanos was the guy behind the scenes who gave Loki the scepter with the Mind Stone in it and sent him to Earth to conquer it using a space portal and an army of terrifying aliens. Surely, the Avengers helped fight back the army in the Battle of New York, but in the end, it was Iron Man who took the nuke and sent it through the portal, shattering Loki’s and Thanos’ plan.

When they met on Titan, Tony still didn’t know exactly who Thanos was – i.e., that he was looking at the guy responsible for the Battle of New York, the guy who gave him so many nightmares and mental strains.

The fight gets cooking as Tony, along with Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and several members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, almost take away the Mad Titan’s gauntlet before Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, goes crazy on Thanos and starts slapping him around for killing Gamora.

thanos almost beaten

Eventually, the fight ends with Thanos destroying them with ease, impaling Tony Stark and telling him that he ‘has his respect’ and that when he’s done, ‘half of humanity will still be alive.’ As it is any consolation to Tony and the rest of the crew.

Before the fight commenced, though, Thanos and Iron Man had an interesting dialogue that showed the Mad Titan in a semi-vulnerable spot for the first (and last) time in the entire movie, except for his venture onto Vormir where he sacrificed Gamora, of course.

Thanos already knew who Tony Stark was before they ever met, but how is that possible?

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Why did Thanos say Stark was cursed with knowledge?

So, Thanos reveals to Iron Man that he already knows quite well who he is. When Tony asks how Thanos knew him, the Mad Titan says: ‘You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.’

What did he actually mean by that? Why would knowledge be a curse for any of the two? Let’s start from the beginning.

Thanos already knew who Tony was because of the Battle of New York in the first ‘Avengers’ movie. Tony Stark was the one who took the incoming nuclear missile and literally carried it through a portal, destroying the Chitauri mothership with it, and as he did, all the Chitauri seemingly ‘shut down’ – meaning, Stark saved Earth by doing so.

It messed up Thanos’ plan big time, especially due to the fact that the Mind Stone was already in his possession, and he gave it to Loki to use in the scepter, but then it was taken by Earthlings in the aftermath of the Battle. As Joe Russo said in the commentary track of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ digital & DVD release:

“He’s aware of Stark from the original Battle of New York as the person who undid the plan.”

Thanos didn’t believe that Earth was ready to defend itself from such advanced technology and threats, so when Tony Stark did what he did to win the Battle of New York, the Mad Titan was actually impressed and kept tabs on Tony from that point going forward. Now, when he said they were both ‘cursed with knowledge,’ it had a deeper meaning.

Firstly, Thanos realized that they both have something in common – they both strive to save people and make the world – or the universe, for that matter – a better place. Of course, they do it in completely different ways, but at the core of their beings, both Tony and Thanos are futurists, as explained by the screenwriter Christopher Markus in the same commentary track:

“You realize this interesting parallel between Thanos and Tony. 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.”

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So, Thanos finds them to be similar despite Tony not seeing the connection. But what does that sentence, ‘cursed with knowledge,’ actually mean? Why would somebody be cursed with knowledge?

Well, it is because Thanos feels they were both way ahead of their time in their respective environments. Tony was above and beyond the rest of humanity when it came to understanding how things work on a scientific level and what kind of impending doom may arrive at any given moment, whereas humanity lived in a state of blissful ignorance.

That is why he wanted to build a protective shield over the Earth, and that is why he had nightmares and anxiety attacks after the Battle of New York. Yet everyone thought he was crazy to suggest the shield, fearing the impending doom.

On the other hand, Thanos felt the same way about himself. He warned his people on Titan that their resources were sparse and that an impending doom was upon them. Nobody believed him, and what happened? Titan was left in ruins.

thanos about titan

Thanos knew that his plan had the eventual goal of bringing balance to an unbalanced universe and fairness to every being instead of having the universe rely on the survival of the fittest. If you cut the population in half, there are double the resources for everyone to enjoy, and the universe turns into heaven.

I mean, one could state that Thanos simply could’ve doubled the universe’s resources with the ‘Snap’ instead of killing half of all living things in it, but that is a topic for another day.

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The ‘curse’ that both Thanos and Tony had was the curse of knowing way more than the rest of their peers knew, and it brought them discomfort. Tony, however, didn’t feel the same way, as he said to Thanos: ‘My only curse is you.’

Why does Thanos respect Stark?

thanos stark impaled

As the fight on Titan progressed, Thanos was naturally winning due to his superior power, especially having all those Infinity Stones with him. Despite Tony’s best efforts – and the most pristine Iron Suit nanotechnology to date – he could barely hang on in the fight, let alone win. ‘All this for a drop of blood,’ Thanos said.

Eventually, he impaled Tony with a sharp dagger/spear-like object and told Stark that he had the Mad Titan’s respect. Why did Thanos respect Stark?

Well, we partially already answered that question. Thanos thought the two of them were similar – futurists, way ahead of their time mentally, ‘cursed’ with knowledge that other people cannot comprehend.

The second reason why Thanos respected Tony was the fact that he never gave up on the fight despite knowing that they were simply inferior. He tried his best to improve to be able to compete with Thanos, and despite the fact that he eventually failed, it earned Thanos’ respect.

He started respecting Tony immediately after the Battle of New York because he knew that Stark was willing to sacrifice himself with the nuke for the greater good of humanity. Also, believe it or not, seeing what Tony did in New York actually had Thanos worried.

When he took off his battle armor, the fact was – he never bothered to put an effort into killing someone since the very first scene of the movie, where he killed Loki. Russo explained it in the commentary:

“Part of what we wanted to do out of the gate was to unsettle you as you’re watching the film. 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.”

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That’s when he explained the part about the Mad Titan’s respect for Stark:

“Thanos is violent and cruel. 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.”

So essentially, the truth is that Thanos saw that Tony was capable of using only his brains and his resources, and he knew that there was a chance that he might destroy the Titan’s plans once again. It earned Tony’s respect, but it also earned him a stabbing.

You can check out ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ for streaming exclusively on Disney+, whereas it can be bought/rented on the usual platforms like Amazon Video, Google Play, Apple TV, Vudu, etc.

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