Last year after seeing Infinity War, I wrote my thoughts on some of the themes surrounding sacrifice as a kinda instant-reaction post but with Endgame officially reaching over $2 Billion in box office revenue, I thought it was only fair to finish my thoughts on all the Avengers movies.
I’m not going to waste any more time setting things up because the movie definitely doesn’t. We don’t make it past the Marvel logo before the movie officially starts.
An Asgardian distress signal is sent out as Thanos has recently come aboard in search of the Space Stone after recently acquiring the Power Stone from a now demolished Xandar. Loki being Loki, saved the Space Stone before Asgard was destroyed (Ragnörak). Loki exchanges the Stone for Thor’s life before trying to kill Thanos. He is unsuccessful and dies. Heimdall also dies – his last actions being taking Hulk to Earth. Hulk crash-lands in the Sanctum Sanctorum NYC in time to warn everyone.
Tony is asked to join the conversation and we get a reminder of what the Stones are and what they might do. Steve also gives Bruce some updates about the Avengers’ status. He is about to call Steve when a giant spaceship lands in NYC.
Everyone gears up to stop some bad CGI minions from taking the Time Stone. They are unsuccessful as Stephen and the Time Stone are taken on-board the donut ship, along with Tony (and Peter who stowed away).
Meanwhile, in SPACE, the Guardians are chilling when they pick up the Asgardian distress signal. Thor comes to and informs them that the first place they helped save is dead and Thor is going to a dead star to get a weapon to kill Thanos. He also mentions the Soul Stone which means something to Gamora based on her face. Rocket and a moody teen Groot assist Thor while the others stay behind.
In Edinburgh, Wanda and Vision seem to be living happily together (I have never seen Edinburgh so quiet but whatever) when they are attacked by some of Thanos’ minions but luckily saved by Steve, Nat and Sam.
On the way to Knowhere (because that is where the Reality Stone was taken at the end of The Dark World), Gamora asks Quill (who are now in a relationship) if he will kill her rather than let her get taken by Thanos.
I love that their relationship has developed off-screen. It helps sell the realism of the MCU and for anyone who knows Gamora’s views on singing and dancing, will have guessed the new relationship status based on her singing along to Quill’s music.
When confronted by Thanos, Gamora kills him without hesitation and… cries.
FUCK! I have so much to say about this wonderful moment. For now, let’s just say this took me by surprise in the best way possible.
Turns out all of this was a ploy to see how Gamora felt about him. Knowhere is already rubble. Thanos takes Gamora and Quill shoots her (but Thanos turns his laser to bubbles).
The Avengers still on Earth take shelter with Rhodey and Bruce. Vision suggests sacrificing himself so Thanos can’t get the Stone. Since Wanda’s powers were created by the Mind Stone, Vision believes that she could be the only one to destroy it. Wanda doesn’t like the idea of killing her beau and Steve is always against any life being taken for granted.
Bruce suggests that Vision might be able to still exist with the Stone if they somehow got it surgically removed.
Stephen is rescued by Peter and Tony. Tony officially makes Peter an Avenger. All three agree to Tony’s idea of taking the fight to Thanos and letting the ship continues its course rather than trying to find a way back to Earth (also, let’s face it, they probably couldn’t fly the space ship back to Earth).
Thanos and Gamora have a heart to heart. Gamora is a bit pissed that Thanos committed genocide against half of her people and all. Thanos claims that her planet was on the brink of starvation and now it is a paradise. He wants to do the same to the whole universe. He asks Gamora where the Soul Stone is and when that fails, he tortures Nebula until Gamora gives in.
They travel to the beautiful Vormir where a ghostly Red Skull informs them that gaining the Soul Stone requires giving up the thing you love the most. He pushes Gamora over a cliff.
In Wakanda, Shuri thinks she can save Vision. Thanos’ minions arrive so everyone gears up to give Shuri some time.
Thor, Groot and Rocket/ Rabbit work together to make Thor a Bifrost infused axe complete with Groot handles and all. The trio arrives in the middle of the Wakandan action.
On Thanos’ homeworld of Titan, Quill, Drax, Mantis, Tony, Stephen and Peter all meet each other to discuss the who, what, where and why of Gamora. They agree to team up to take down Thanos. When the man shows up, he makes his case once more and the others try to subdue him. Quill’s grief gets the best of him and things fall apart.
Quill gets a lot of shit for this moment (i.e. if Quill had done nothing, Thanos would have been defeated) but people seem to be forgetting several things.
The first is that Thanos doesn’t win because Quill messes up, he wins because everyone fails to secure their own Stones. Nobody gives Stephen the same level of shit or Gamora or the Xandarians or the Collector or Wanda.
Second of all, can we give the guy a break? Imagine sacrificing everything to save the day. Now, imagine sacrificing everything only to lose. He almost kills Gamora. He pulled the trigger. He has to live with the fact that he would have killed Gamora and he still failed her. Grief is messy enough as it is but Quill isn’t just grieving Gamora’s loss but also a loss of innocence.
Now, you can still think he messed up but the guy needs some sympathy as well.
Regardless, things go downhill from there. Things end when Tony, going head to head with Thanos, gets stabbed in the chest. Close to death, Stephen offers up the Time Stone to spare Tony’s life – given Stephen’s earlier comment about their chances and his priorities regarding the Stone, it is likely that Tony is needed more than the Stone.
On Wakanda, everyone winds up in the battle, including Vision. Time runs out and Wanda has to destroy the Stone and Vision but with Thanos now having the Time Stone, he gets the Stone anyway.
Thor stabs Thanos in the chest but it’s not enough. Thanos snaps his fingers.
Casualties include (but are not limited to) Stephen, T’Challa, Bucky, Sam, Groot, Drax, Mantis, Quill, Wanda and fucking Peter Parker (damn you, Tom Holland!).
Thanos goes away to retire. Maria and Nick get dusted but Fury manages to send out a signal to Captain Marvel.
You know, before going into this movie, I made a few predictions. I thought that Robert and all the Chrises would steal the show. The rest of my predictions were a range of options like either Thanos will lose but at a great cost (someone will die in the process) or Thanos will win and there will be great losses all around.
In a lot of ways, my predictions came true or fell in the realm of possibilities I had thought about but SOOOO many things about this movie were surprising.
If you had told me that two of the best characters and actors in this movie would be Saldana and Olsen. I wouldn’t have believed you, not because they are in any way bad actresses but because in all the MCU movies, they have been supporting roles so it never occurred to me that they would be given larger roles with plenty of material to use to their advantage. I mean, Saldana had more screen time than Robert and the Chrises, who saw that coming?
I also never thought that the biggest movie of the year would explore themes of abuse… WELL! I’m going to save the more triggersome talk for the end of the post but the mere fact that I feel the need to add a trigger warning to an Avengers’ movie discussion is a testament to just how far not just Marvel movies have come but superhero movies in general. We are living in an age of Logans, Black Panthers and more!
But before all that stuff, let’s talk about Tony because this is essentially his nightmare that we are witnessing.
A scene I purposefully neglected to mention in my Age of Ultron review was one scene between Tony and Fury where Tony confesses that the vision of all his friends dead with an army heading for Earth was his main motivation for creating Ultron. The worst feeling about his vision was the fact that he survived.
This movie features an army heading for Earth as Tony watches the people he loves die without him being able to do anything about it. After Peter’s dusting, Tony gives a little look at his hands – he’s waiting/ hoping to vanish too but it never happens.
He fails and he has to live with it.
But even if all that stuff doesn’t matter to you or is a little too much to think about on every viewing, there is still so much to love because the number of meticulous details is astonishing.
I am still picking up new things on every viewing. My last viewing gave me “die blanket of death” when Drax was fighting Strange’s cape.
Other examples include but are not limited to Tony transferring elements of his suit from his feet to his arms and back so he could land stronger kicks and punches against Thanos.
Or the fact that Steve, Okoye and Rocket had to watch Bucky, T’Challa and Groot die for a second time.
Or how Rocket refers to himself as the Captain of the Milano and by the end of the movie, he is the only remaining Guardian left. Rocket also gets to show off his prosthetic obsession again as he hands Thor a fake eye and gets to fight side-by-side with Bucky.
Or how the crew had to work with the Black Panther crew because they had created their own map and chants that needed to be incorporated into this movie.
OR how Loki’s death scene acts as both a callback to The Avengers and as a testament to how much Loki has grown. The line “We have a Hulk” was originally told to Loki because he was the threat to Earth. It is now said by Loki (he is including himself in the WE). It seems fitting that the Avengers’ first enemy is defeated by their latest. As well as being poetic, it also adds context to Thanos i.e. this enemy is worse than the first.
And I really could go on because there is so much to unpack and so much that deserves unpacking. There were a lot of elements to juggle and I think the crew found a great way to balance everything out. All the character groupings help maintain conflict and compliment each other really well. I think the best team might be Thor, Rocket and Groot.
There really are too many people to thank for this movie because along with the entire cast and crew of this movie, I feel like Infinity War is a response to so many of the movies that have come beforehand.
I mentioned in my Avengers review that each character has an individual reason as well as a group reason for facing Loki and this movie has some similar themes.
Xandar is destroyed which was the Guardians’ first outing. Thor watches his loved ones dies at the hands of Thanos. Other characters have a personal reason for keeping the stones where they are etc. It just all works cohesively.
There is no repetition which is rather impressive for a plot that is essentially a treasure hunt. The writers did a great job varying the search for the stones whether it was the stone being already in Thanos’ hands, the stone requiring sacrifice from both Thanos and our heroes or the stone being handed over willingly.
You never see the same thing twice. We aren’t bored and things keep moving.
I can’t wait to talk about Endgame!
I’m going to leave it there for now but I am going to add some Thanos themed thoughts below.
TW: the next section is going to be delving into abusive relationships. Approach with care if you have experienced abusive relationships directly or indirectly.
Some background on me – my longest relationship was an abusive one… and I didn’t know it which must sound immensely stupid/ strange/ confusing to anyone who has never experienced an abusive relationship and trust me, I felt the exact same way.
It was long after the relationship had ended and only when I was confronted with what a healthy relationship looks like (in the form of my then loving boyfriend opting to talk through a problem rather than run or fight) that it occurred to me that I might have been in an abusive relationship.
I think I didn’t see it while I was in the thick of it for several reasons:
- It was my first relationship so I had no baseline for what constituted “healthy romance”
- It was with another woman – people don’t talk/ show/ do anything concerning two women IN A SERIOUS healthy relationship let alone an abusive one (I’m not even sure fifteen-year-old me knew it was possible to have an abusive dynamic be anything other than female victim and male abuser)
- She was my best friend
No. 3 is what kept coming up as I watched Infinity War.
You see, my ex was a manipulative, soul-sucking monster who knew exactly how to hurt me in more ways than one and she knew exactly how to tell when I was too depressed to argue or retaliate… AND YET… we were friends before we started dating and she was my friend during a time when I was deeply depressed but didn’t know it. I had alientated all my other friends because they didn’t know what was going on with me and I couldn’t explain it. All except for one – so no matter how bad she treated me and how much pain she caused, she will still always be the best and worst friend I had for three years of my life because she was the only friend I had for three years of my life.
So what does this have to do with Infinity War?
Well, let’s put it this way. I didn’t think I would need to attend a support group after seeing the movie. I did a double showing with my friend. We went immediately from watching A Quiet Place to Infinity War and I never would have guessed that the latter would be the one to truly envoke a painful and horrifying reaction.
The evolution of superhero movies is kinda insane. If we look at the campy, good vs. evil stories to where we are now, it isn’t hard to see why less evolved movies just aren’t cutting it anymore. When DC is producing a fun romp but Marvel is producing a fun romp that discusses themes of sacrifice, love and abusive relationships, then there isn’t a lot of competition.
To say it was a bold choice to discuss Gamora and Nebula’s abusive relationship with Thanos to the extent this movie did is an understatement!
I can and probably will do an entire essay on what people get wrong about abusive relationships but the main one that struck me when watching Infinity War was the level of nuance they gave to the dynamic.
So often abusive relationships are spoken in such binary terms (evil abuser, good victim) which is great until people start to question how the “good” person couldn’t see the evil and then we enter victim blame territory.
A character like Thanos perfectly embodies the power of abusers. Josh Brolin plays him with such charm and the Russos shot him as the protagonist so the audience feels a connection to him that makes us feel kinda uncomfortable because we know that he stripped Nebula of her humanity (alienanity?) by literally taking her “flaws” and replacing them with something better/ easier to control and serve. He raised Gamora and Nebula as enemies so together they couldn’t support each other or rise against him. He committed genocide and forced a child to become dependent and develop an attachment to her parents’ murderer to name a few of his heinous acts.
He is not a good person but the audience is allowed to make that decision for themselves. They aren’t beat over the head with this information and they are given enough reasons why someone might fall under Thanos’ spell. His size and presence are intimidating without saying a word and if that fails, he directly threatens the lives of people we care about.
Now two main issues come up with Thanos in this movie – why did the Soul Stone work and why didn’t Thanos snap more resources rather than fewer people?
If you ask me why the Soul Stone worked, I wouldn’t say it is because Thanos loves Gamora (at least not selflessly).
I can’t speak for the philosophical capabilities of a somewhat sentient stone but if I had to guess, I would say that the stone lets the user make the call. With love being subjective, what I view as love is hardly going to translate to everyone and vice versa so I think Thanos thinks he loves Gamora enough for his sacrifice to matter. I think he does care for her but love as I understand it isn’t about pushing someone off a cliff to achieve something I want. It is about giving up what I want so someone doesn’t have to go over a cliff.
I do think Thanos loves Gamora selfishly. What I mean by that is I love driving but I don’t care if the wheels get damaged at the expense of getting me where I want to go.
Thanos is ready to praise Gamora and shower her in affection when it suits/ praises him. He calls her generous and strong but he does this while taking credit for these attributes and he takes no responsibility for her skills as a liar because he believes she does it badly.
He is a narcissist who craves validation and affirmation.
There have been many memes about Thanos’ snap decision and there have been many counter posts involving mathematics and the difficulting of creating over destroying but I personally think the questions and answers miss the point.
Thanos is an egomaniac! Out of his entire race of people, he believed that he was the only one who knew best. He isn’t open to suggestions on how to make things better. He wants power. His phrasing of a “grateful universe” speaks volumes because it implies that people will be grateful to him/ for him. People will appreciate and come to love him for his actions.
This rationale tied with some god parallels becomes more important in Endgame. I’m not going to spoil anything, I’m just going to point out some interesting observations from someone who has known a Thanos or two.
Loki comments that Thanos will “never be a god” in the first scene (someone with a former god complex would know how to spot an aspiring god). The movie ends with Steve saying “oh god”. Thanos spends the entire movie tracking down the very thing that enables him to have power over life and death (he brings Vision back to life only to kill him).
He wants what every abusive person wants – control without consequence.
He’s not after the Infinity Stones because he’s a humanitarian extremist. He’s after the Stones so he can be a god. Let’s just hope Loki was right.
Well, that was longer than I thought it was going to be.
Can’t wait to talk about the Avengers conclusion!