Avengers: Infinity War Review
I really, truly loved Avengers: Infinity War. It is the most meaningful movie I have seen in a long time, and the fact that it is chock a block with more action scenes than anything else doesn't change that. It is beautiful, replete with amazing performances, and elegantly ties together a complex weave of stories. More than anything else though I appreciate its depth... every time I think on it I find more to reflect on.
The first thing I thought on was its themes. Where Star Wars: Last Jedi was about failure and what we do with it, Avengers is about loss, which is a very different realm. That loss lives in the relationships that fill the movie... friends, lovers, family, mentors... they all go. Does that loss have meaning? Was it worth it? What do we do now? These are the questions it asks, of hero and villain alike.
We already know many of the relationships between characters from earlier movies, though some characters and connections have less chance to shine than we wish they did. Even then the small points, such as Cap and Thor commenting on hair rather than their radically altered visages, contribute to the feelings of ral connection. The shifting perspective from the layered stories highlight just how many of these points of connection have been built up, and the quality and the quantity of the relationships makes it all the more meaningful when they are snuffed out. The theme of loss and layered perspectives actually draw our focus to the actual protagonist of the film: Thanos.
The core fact that has to be understood is that Thanos didn't just believe he was right in his cause, he knew it. He took the death of his world as not just proof of that righteousness, but as a memorial to his failure to change things. At the beginning of the movie, when he is talking to Thor about knowing you are right and failing anyway, it was the loss of Titan that he was referring to. And that loss, to him, was caused because he wasn't willing to sacrifice anything... his morals, his life, his people. So Thanos was resolved not to make that mistake again.
Many people have pointed out that Thanos had the power to create life instead, and to simply double the amount of resources in the Universe. There are various reasons I am sure the Mad Titan would counter with, but at the end of the day the reason he would not have done that is because he did not want to. This had to be his way, because he had to have been right before and his sacrifices had to mean something. Thanos is hardly the only person in the movie who acts based on that illogical, but understandable, reasoning. It’s why Quill freaks out, why Thor plants his axe in the wrong place, and why Wanda delays the inevitable.
In pursuit of that goal, Thanos reshapes the Universe and the people who live within it. He mirrors his loss and the death of his own world when he lays waste to the Asgardians, unintentionally setting Thor on his own path of self-destructive sacrifice. He comes back with the Soul stone, and Nebula immediately knows both what he did and that he couldn’t have done that with her because all she was, all she would ever be, was a punching bag for the daughter he had actually loved. At the end of the movie when he says he gave up everything, he means it: love, life, happiness, hope… they are all gone. And he thinks it is a price worth paying to not feel loss the way he did before. To ensure that nobody does.
In the face of this bleak nihilism is Steve Rogers, saying “We don’t trade lives”. It seems simple, or even simplistic, but it isn’t. In the face of loss, Rogers says we mourn but keep fighting. And what we fight for isn’t a theory of how to end a basic fact of mortality, because to do so is to eliminate the things that give life meaning. We fight for our friends, our loved ones, our hopes. Sometimes we lose, but we shouldn’t turn that loss into a justification for becoming the monsters we once fought. The world changes, and if we want to honor our loss, so do we. We don’t trade that life, because at the end you are left with nothing.
I love this movie. I think I understand Thanos.
But I stand with Steve Rogers.