This is your first and only warning that the following post contains SPOILERS for the latest MCU film, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)”. If you haven’t seen it yet, run away! Actually, go and see it and return. That’s it. Now let’s continue.I feel the need to point this out from the start because I’ve heard too many people make a minor complaint after seeing the movie. This is part one of two. Of course it ended the way it did! There’s more coming next May. Rest assured, you didn’t just watch half of your favorite heroes “mist” away forever (hint: just check Marvel’s film forecast for the next couple of years).
Rather than writing a long-winded re-cap and critique of the film, I want to focus on what made this film of great magnitude work in a somewhat up and down film franchise. Not all MCU entries have been pristine (let’s be honest with ourselves). For every “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2016) or “Black Panther” (2018), there is a “Thor: Dark World” (2013) or “Iron Man 2” (2010). Some are very good and some seem to have missed the mark wide left. Many times (in my opinion; that’s all it is) the downfall or lacking element of these weaker films is the villain. Go back to my post last year about antagonists to see what I look for in a believable and compelling villain: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/02/08/vilest-villainy-vowed-to-venture/
“Avengers: Infinty War” is about Thanos. Plain and simple. It’s not about our huge lineup of heroes. They are secondary. What “A:IW” did and quite well was establish a villain we first got wind of in the post credit scene of the first “Avengers” (2012) film. That means we’ve had six years of anticipation and minor mentions in the films leading up to the big showdown.
Who is Thanos? We need to know this in order to feel the full weight of the character. What drives this galactic entity to attack Earth? Well we don’t really know until we step into this film, which starts with Thanos and his Black Order after they’ve attacked and killed half the people on Thor’s ship after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017). We learn that Thanos has a tragic past, seeing over population destroy his home world of Titan. From that, he has sought to bring balance to the universe by going from planet to planet, wiping out half of populations to establish peace. This is his goal and if that was all it was, then I would say we are dealing with another one dimensional villain bent on destruction.
Thankfully, this is not all there is to him. In order to accomplish his goals of ushering in the same balance and peace to Earth, Thanos has to fight Earth’s mightiest warriors. Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and so many of the heroes we’ve been introduced to and following since the first “Iron Man” (2008) film band together and take on Thanos, his Black Order, and lesser minions. Thanos has faced defeat already and he knows he needs more to combat Earth’s heroes. Enter the ultimate McGuffins of the MCU: the infinity stones.
To wield all the stones (space, time, reality, mind, soul, and power) and become truly invincible, he needs something to contain and harness each power. That containment cannot be accomplished unless it be forged from a dying star, much like Thor’s hammer. Hence, the Infinity Gauntlet was made and Thanos is able to place each collected stone in the gauntlet. The film follows his collecting said stones and every time he manages to add one to the gauntlet, we feel the impending doom, hoping he fails.
Alas, he does not fail. Thanos collects every stone but there is a cost and this is where the film convinced me and made me proud as a storyteller. While most of the stones seem to be “easy” for him to gain, one in particular is not. The soul stone has been elusive and hidden from everyone (even from us in the audience because there have been no clues as to its whereabouts). One person does know however of its location and that would be Thanos’ adopted daughter, Gamora, who we were introduced to in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014). Sent on a mission by Thanos to locate it, Gamora knows where it is and is forcibly persuaded to tell him the location.
Once there, Thanos learns he must trade a soul for a soul. In the most poignant, humanizing scene I could have hoped for, Thanos tragically sacrifices the life of Gamora for the soul stone. My heart twisted as I watched the pain and tears in Thanos as he did so. There it is. There is the moment I didn’t even know I wanted. Give me an antagonist I can sympathize with and you’ve given me a character with depth. Thanos pays the ultimate price and even confesses at the film’s ending that in order to accomplish his goal, it cost him everything, revealing that his love for Gamora was real.
So, yes. Our heroes not only failed (another important part of this story because we need to see heroes fail in order to be reminded that they are not invincible) but they are greatly weakened and diminished as we see Thanos destroy half of the universe’s population with a snap (literally). Remember, this is part one. Part two should bring everything back around and I think I can most assuredly postulate that we will see the atrocity of Thanos’ actions against the universe be righted or at least partially restored.
In conclusion, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)” is about Thanos and his main conflict. His rise and fall moves the story forward and we are treated to a villain I actually found myself liking as much as I liked the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”. For different reasons, of course, but it’s all the same. Give me an antagonist who is more than a surface-level psycho and I will be engrossed in the complexity of their conflict and goal.
Call to Action: Seriously, I shouldn’t have to say go see it but if you did and didn’t notice this aspect of Thanos, I encourage you to go see it again. Do not think of it as a movie about our heroes but about the tragic character that is bent on bringing balance to the universe, unaware that to do so will cost him everything.