Blog: Infinity War – Ashley digs deeper

The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – digging deeper into “Infinity War.” Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!

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“Infinity War” opens with Ebony Maw walking through dead and dying Asgardians. And he gives us the central conflict of the film when he says: “Hear me, and rejoice. You have had the privilege of being saved by the Great Titan. You may think this is suffering. No. It is salvation. Universal scales tip toward balance because of your sacrifice. Smile. For even in death, you have become Children of Thanos.” What stands out about that statement, and how does it reveal the way the villains think about their actions?

Ebony Maw believes he is serving a righteous cause, and that’s precisely what makes him so disturbing and dangerous. He truly believes Thanos’s actions are just; he is bringing balance to the universe, and it doesn’t matter how many have to suffer and die. Ebony Maw feels it would be an honor to die as a “Child of Thanos” and expects people to accept their fate without a fight.

There are two types of villains that typically show up in superhero films. There are the self-focused kind, who are merely seeking wealth, power, or revenge; they’re easier to deal with because their plans are on a smaller scale. The villains who are the most terrifying — at least in my opinion — are the ones like Thanos and Ebony Maw. They truly believe their cause is right, and their warped sense of morality threatens the fate of the entire universe.

“Infinity War” isn’t the first MCU film to include cosmic elements, but it feels like the most cosmic entry in the MCU to date, particularly because of the Infinity Gauntlet itself. What do you think about the setup of how the universe functions — particularly as it relates to the more cosmic and astral elements — in the MCU and in Marvel comics as a whole?

Even though I haven’t read many of the original comics and don’t know a lot about the overall scope of the Marvel universe, I was excited when “Guardians of the Galaxy” started taking the MCU in a cosmic direction. By that point, we’d seen plenty of superhero films set on Earth; here was something exciting, new, and different. I also couldn’t wait until the cosmic side of the MCU intersected with the Earth-bound one.

Since science fiction is my favorite genre, I’m never going to complain about seeing more movies set in space. While I still want to see more smaller-scale adventures in a limited setting in the MCU (think “Spider-Man: Homecoming”), I feel like the future of the MCU is going to be in the cosmic realm.

Although the MCU is still going strong, eventually people will probably want to take a break from the format. As mentioned before, we’ve already seen a number of Earth-based superheroes. The MCU can keep its films fresh and exciting going forward by drawing more from the cosmic side of the universe, introducing new worlds and characters (and possibly alternate dimensions!) for its heroes to encounter.

There are several perspectives shared about life and death in the film. Which one would you MOST align with and why?

In “Infinity War,” the Avengers have to face some of their greatest challenges yet, and it’s interesting to see their different responses to the sacrifices they’re (potentially) asked to make.

Both Gamora and Vision feel they need to die so everyone else has a chance to live. Doctor Strange claims he is willing to let other people die in order to protect the Time Stone. Tony says that he’s willing to lose some heroes, so long as it keeps the population of Earth safe. However, I personally find myself siding with Cap, who vows, “We don’t trade lives.”

All lives are valuable, and the sign of a true hero is their willingness to do everything in their power to save others. You don’t make a bargain with the enemy if it means innocent people are going to have to die.

Of course, in the past, Cap made the decision to sacrifice his own life to save the world and then spent decades frozen in ice. That was a personal choice, and that’s going to be up to the individual hero to make that call. But it’s never a choice that should be forced on someone; for example, I wouldn’t have supported Doctor Strange if he made the choice to directly hand over Tony and Peter to Thanos in order save the Time Stone.

Heroes have to hold themselves to a higher moral standard than the villain, and that includes not throwing any lives away.

Of all the stones Thanos hunts down, the Soul Stone definitely demands the most from Thanos himself. In order to get the Soul Stone, he has to sacrifice something that he loves. The Soul Stone requires a sacrifice — maybe even a blood sacrifice… Why do you think the Soul Stone has this rule, and what implications does it have — not only for Thanos, but any other characters who may try to use it in the future?

It’s interesting that the Soul Stone requires so high a price, especially since it seems like Thanos can just take the other stones whenever he wants.

I don’t know a lot of behind-the-scenes info about why the Soul Stone works the way it does, but it makes for a great storytelling device. The scene in “Infinity War” involving the Soul Stone is one of the most gut-wrenching and emotional moments in the entire MCU.

Thanos’ decision to sacrifice Gamora for the Soul Stone shows us that he is capable of love; the sacrifice wouldn’t work if he didn’t genuinely care for Gamora. However, the decision is also horrifying, because we realize Thanos is so committed to his twisted version of morality that he thinks killing Gamora is worth it.

My personal theory for what will happen in “Endgame” is that everyone who was killed by Thanos in “Infinity War” is now trapped inside the Soul Stone, and one of the Avengers (probably Captain America) will trade their life to free everyone.

Even though yes, I will be crying in the theater when/if Cap dies, this would be such a powerful ending for his character, representing everything he stands for and strives to be. It’s a selfless sacrifice to contrast with Thanos’s selfish one.

One of the most interesting character interactions in the film occurs when Thanos meets Tony Stark. Of all the Avengers, he knows who Tony is. He says to Tony: “You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.” And then goes on to say that Tony has his respect. Why is it a curse to have knowledge, and how has that curse manifested itself in Thanos’s life and Tony’s life? And, of all the Avengers, what makes Thanos respect Tony Stark?

Thanos’s interaction with Tony is a curious one. I don’t know that we’ll understand the full context for it until after “Endgame.”

Still, it’s interesting that Thanos refers to knowledge as a curse, when generally we think of having more knowledge as a good thing. However, with great knowledge does come great responsibility, to tweak the famous line from the Spider-Man series.

Tony is a smart guy. And he feels compelled to use his knowledge and talents as an inventor to help mankind. He feels guilty for his past apathy (the pre-“Iron Man” days), and now he feels like he can’t just stand by as the fate of the universe is jeopardized. He has a personal stake in threats like the one that Thanos poses, especially since it places everyone he knows and loves in danger.

The knowledge that Thanos feels cursed with is the suffering he sees across the galaxy. While he is right to be troubled by this, his solution — wiping out half of all life — is evil.

Thanos respects Tony because he sees a little of himself in the man behind the Iron Man mask. Tony and Thanos are both willing to make personal sacrifices to accomplish their mission, though Tony has a better moral compass than Thanos does.

I am very curious to see how far Tony will go to stop Thanos in “Endgame,” and what sacrifices and potential moral compromises he will be faced with.

Thanos snaps and half the population of the universe turns to ash. But Thanos’s snap has two other consequences: (1) The snap sends Thanos — unless he chooses to go there, which is a possibility — but either way Thanos goes inside the Soul Stone. Why do you think that is? And (2) the Infinity Gauntlet itself looks charred and mangled…what’s your take on those two things and what implications do they have for “Endgame”?

So I feel like my theories/predictions regarding “Endgame” change depending on what day you ask me. But as I mentioned earlier, my current theory is that everyone who died in “Infinity War” is trapped inside the Soul Stone. It’s possible Thanos also died in the snap, which would be an interesting twist, showing that he was required to pay the price as well.

It’s also possible that the Infinity Gauntlet was a “one use only” device, which would mean the Avengers can’t use it or even repair it in order to reverse the snap. They have to find another way, which could involve someone sacrificing themselves to free everybody from the Soul Stone (again, as mentioned earlier, I think it’s going to be Cap).

Or, I could be completely off base about all of this, and the way the Avengers defeat Thanos has nothing to do with the Infinity Gauntlet or the Soul Stone, and instead involves the Quantum Realm and time travel. Whatever happens, I can’t wait to see the conclusion to the story!

Cap’s final words in “Infinity War” are simply, “Oh, God.” Was this a prayer or just a reaction or something else entirely? Where you think Cap is at in the closing moments of “Infinity War,” and what do those two words mean to him?

There’s a LOT going on in “Infinity War,” and script-wise Cap isn’t given as much to do as some of the other heroes. However, that’s okay because I think “Endgame” is going to be Cap’s movie (and sadly, possibly his final movie).

Cap’s “Oh, God” could simply be an exclamation of shock, the only words he can think to say in this moment of grief and terror. But I do think there’s something deeper there, considering Cap’s previous references to faith.

It’s a moment of desperation, where Cap realizes he is utterly powerless to stop the disaster happening around him. His powers don’t matter. He can’t save his friends. Everything he has worked for — every sacrifice he has made — apparently mean nothing now. These words are an admission of his utter helplessness in the face of this tragedy.

I imagine that when we meet up with Cap in the beginning of “Endgame,” he’s going to be in a pretty hopeless place. But I am confident that we won’t see Cap completely give up hope, because that’s not who is he. Thanos’s snap might devastate him, but it can’t take away his inner strength and his beliefs.