I had originally planned to write a movie review, but frankly, my opinion doesn’t really matter. You were either stoked and already saw it, or you don’t care and will not be convinced by me to go. Instead, I will provide my spoiler-filled thoughts to the movie covering morality, death, and cinematic determinism, but mostly just random thoughts
On the existing scale, this movie was a solid 4/5 for me. Enjoyable but doesn’t quite get into the ranks of my favorites. I love ensemble casts because I believe that great things are done by teams, not individuals. However, it was jarring to switch between so many storylines.
A Few Random Thoughts
I really enjoyed the crossover parts. Thor meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy was easily one of the best moments in the movie. The Guardians have always been solid comedic relief, and having rewatched the movie, so was Thor. He excels in contrast to less noble beings, of which Star-Lord is the champion.
Steve Rogers didn’t stay away for very long. He and Tony didn’t meet face-to-face yet, but he really hasn’t missed anything important in the continuing story. I hope they make a big deal about that reunion in Part 2 and have real consequences for having dedicated an entire movie to internal conflict.
I did not know that Peter Dinklage was going to be in the movie. I was also amused that he played the biggest person.
I got the willies when Thor landed in Wakanda to turn the tide of the battle. He clearly earned the title of Strongest Avenger with a new weapon in hand.
However, I am worried about using Groot’s arm as a handle. Would hate to see the head of Stormbreaker fly off on the backswing and get lodged in, say, Captain America’s arm. Hopefully Peter Dinklage’s craftsmanship imbued the handle with extra durability, too.
(Disclaimer: I’m took Moral Philosophy 10 years ago, and I got a B in it even with massive grade inflation. Read the following with a grain of salt.)
The movie tries to make Thanos a sympathetic and well-intentioned, if brutal, person set on saving the galaxy. Let’s take that at face value.
Thanos believes that the universe is succumbing to Malthusian pressure because there are too many people. We multiply like rabbits in a universe that can’t support it, so we all end up in a pile of muck in the end. To avoid that fate, we have to kill half of everyone. He tells Gamora that he saved her people from poverty by doing this in the most direct statement of his ethics.
Thanos has taken a Utilitarian stance that by killing one half, the rest will have a better life. The calculus is that the remaining half will be more than twice as happy (because they aren’t starving), so overall, there’s more happiness in the world.
In short, Thanos believes the right thing to do is determined by the ultimate consequences of the action. Read up on Bentham or Mill if you’re interested in that.
Contrast that with Captain America, who sends the army of the Wakanda and friends into battle to save Vision’s life even when Vision thinks they should do otherwise. This isn’t new: his ethical core motivates him throughout his entire trilogy.
As such, Cap has taken a Deontological stance that defending his friend is the right thing to do because, well, it’s the right thing to do. It’s not about the consequences: it’s about idea behind it, and you can judge actions on first principles. Read up on Kant if you’re interested in that.
So who’s right? Well, given that one guy is the hero and the other is the villain, the writers have expressed their preference. And I think the audience largely agrees: we like Cap because of his moral fiber.
And yet, you have to wonder. I only stumbled into this topic in discussion with Julie. I mentioned how costly Cap’s decision to fight was, and she astutely pointed out that this was the central conflict of the movie because it contrasted with Thanos’s calculating method. My instinct was more Utilitarian. Go purple, I guess.
I think the writers could given Thanos more support than they did. They tried by pointing to Gamora’s home world, but you can’t extrapolate the condition of one planet to a systemic problem across literally the universe, especially when the solution induces extra suffering through the trauma of broken families and institutions. And exponential growth would cause the problem to come back in a few generations anyways.
But a few holes in the story make the villain more evil, and really, we came for the explosions and jokes, not armchair philosophy, so let’s get back to that.
I saw Arrested Development in the credits and was confused where that came from. Afterwards, a friend mentioned that the Collector had a blue Tobias in his collection. This was inserted by the Russo brothers, who directed this movie and previously worked on Arrested Development.
I was surprised by how much this movie shared with the Infinity Gauntlet comic crossover event from the 90s. I read parts of it when I was growing up and finished the entire series a few years ago on a (highly recommended) Marvel Unlimited subscription. The only disappointment is that the MCU currently doesn’t have access to Silver Surfer, who is part of the Fantastic Four movie rights owned by Fox.
The Time Stone
I was disappointed that Doctor Strange didn’t use the Time Stone more during the movie. Playing with time locally seems extremely powerful, and as gamers know, being able to reset to a save game lets you fix a lot of mistakes, like getting stuck on an alien ship towards parts unknown or maybe going back a few steps and warning a few people on Earth to get out of the way so they don’t die.
In a discussion with Julie and her dad, someone keenly pointed out that Doctor Strange did use the stone to look forward through time and knows the single path to success by, say, not getting a redo on Star-Lord’s rash behavior and handing over the Time Stone to Thanos. Clearly Tony Stark has a major role to play yet. And I think that is the best defense for letting events play out.
But messing with time is, well, messy for movies unless you really want to get into time travel and set new rules for how it works. Humans understand of stories through causality: the story begins, things happen that cause other things to happen, then we arrive at the final state. Stories, especially with superheroes, require some suspension of disbelief, but it’s harder break our sense of causality than our sense of, say, gravity. Controlling time is extremely powerful in ways that I can’t even imagine, but that limit of imagination is what makes it so poor for storytelling.
Anyways, I also think it cheapens the story to say that the single path to success is pre-ordained, but I’ll go with it anyways.
Comic Book Dead
Many people had negative reactions to the abrupt and drastic ending, but I wasn’t too bother by it. We know that some characters such as Spiderman and Black Panther have upcoming movies. We also know that there’s a part 2. I don’t think most characters are dead.
Death in comic books is a long-running joke. I can’t remember the source, but I once heard that the more certain the death, the more certain is the return. I have many examples from Marvel comics, but those are spoilers that I did not disclaim.
So who’s coming back? I think Gamora is coming back. She’s only dead to the Soul Stone, which means that science and magic are on her side. My big prediction for Part 2 is that Thanos dies, but in a partial redemption, he trades his own life for Gamora.
I think Vision is coming back. Shuri worked hard to map his brain and make Tony and Bruce look foolish for not building him better, so science can give him a second chance.
I think Loki and Heimdall are gone. They had heroic endings, and they have been in the universe for a long time. It’s time to move on.
Similarly, I think the original Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, and Hawkeye) are in trouble. None of them died yet, so they can still have an epic sendoff in Part 2. Meanwhile, the (mostly “dead”) new Avengers will fight on. It just fits how the MCU needs to grow and move on to new characters.
And that’s it. I welcome all criticism and future evaluation of my predictions because I am just as stoked to see how this all ends.