Thursday, May 3, 2018

Picking Through the Infinity War Graveyard [Contributor: Melanie]


So... how we doing after Avengers: Infinity War, kids? Emotionally traumatized? Totally ready to see it again and put yourself through that grueling final half hour of the film?

The box office record-breaking Avengers: Infinity War was a storm of a film that certainly gave Game of Thrones a run for its money as far as the death toll is concerned. In fact, I’d argue Infinity War did Game of Thrones one better because, unlike recent seasons of the HBO series, absolutely no one had plot armor (except, perhaps, Tony who seems to be rather important to both Dr. Strange and Thanos...). And people dropped like flies pretty quickly by the end, to the point where I was almost a little numb to all the "dying."

But there were three deaths that really stuck with me because, honestly, at a certain point there’s just a ton of oversaturation with all the people turning to ash. So where the people whose deaths might actually stick are concerned, which packed the most punch and had the most lasting impact on the film? Well, I’ve boiled it down to three (pretty obvious) choice farewells.

“You could never hurt me.” 

First up is a guy who got the crap kicked out of him in virtually every scene he was in. Seriously, he got stabbed like, four times and then had to go through the trauma of being killed — not once, but twice. Now while this death is on my list, I don’t see it sticking simply because such a big deal was made out of Vision being made up of far more than the Mind Stone. So I imagine in the future they’ll find a way to get him back in action, sans Mind Stone. But as of right now, he’s super dead and it sucked pretty bad.

Vision was kind of a Chekhov's Gun from the moment he was created. By that point, we knew Thanos would one day go after Infinity Stones. So we knew that, eventually, that thing was going to have to come out of his head one way or another. Unfortunately, he went and developed a healthy budding romance with Scarlet Witch and it makes that knowledge that much harder. Vision’s analytical mind is at war with his growing human heart. Tragic.

It’s messy and you don’t know the right answer. And the movie does an excellent job of dangling possibilities in front of you before snatching them away. The Stone removal plan might have worked but they all simply ran out of time. In yet another gotcha moment in the film, Wanda has gone through the severe emotional trauma of murdering her loved one for the sake of the galaxy (Thanos tried to bond with her on that point and it was awkward) only to watch as the Mad Titan simply reversed her gut-wrenching work and then killed Vision anyway.

The climax of that particular story was an entire film in the making and was pieced together well within the plot, turning an intimate emotional rollercoaster for one couple into a world-altering narrative arc. I think it speaks to the film’s overall ability to take interpersonal relationships and superimpose them in the grand scheme of things rather seamlessly. The choices made by a few, for the sake of a few, have large and pervasive consequences. Vision’s entire plot in the film is one such example.

Now, will this death stick? I don’t think so. Like I said, there was too much mention of Vision’s ability to survive without the Stone and too much establishment of Shuri’s ability to do it for that not to come back up. I think Vision will return and be free of the burden of his Stone. But that doesn’t make his drawn-out, looming death any less horrible than it was.

“The sun will shine on us again, brother.”

Loki was the first to drop in the film, and who would have thought that little cretin would have managed to become someone worth mourning? I’ll say right off the bat that I found Loki’s demise to be the most gruesome to watch. Strangulation is a pretty personal act and, more often than not, it’s not rendered in a biologically correct fashion. Not that I necessarily need to see people going purple-faced and bleeding from the eyes but watching it here was pretty disturbing and it was a shockingly human death for a man who spent much of his adult life playing up his status as a god.

Loki entered the MCU as a charismatic villain full of self-imposed tragic backstory after he learned he was adopted. He then uses his existential crisis as justification for usurping his brother’s place as king and the overall betrayal of his family and homeworld. After his temper tantrum in Thor and the first Avengers film, he gets some emotional rehabilitation back on Asgard where he comes to understand that his love for his mother and brother can’t be undone by the knowledge of his adoption, and that his father’s mistakes don’t reflect a lack of love in his household. He remains a fairly dangerous wildcard but, ultimately, proves his loyalty to his brother and their home.

It’s fitting then, that after this multi-film character arc he gets to go out very much on those terms, and they’re his own. Loki faces Thanos — the man who first set him loose and provided him with his army years ago. He declares himself Loki Odinson and a prince of Asgard (rather than his brief bout of trying out the mantle of Loki Laufeyson). And when his ill-thought plot to end Thanos before he begins goes up in flames, he accepts his death calmly and tells Thanos, simply: “You will never be a god.” The parting wisdom echoes what Loki himself once was told by a man who refused to bow to him.

It’s a muted but earned end for one of the longest lasting villains in the franchise. He's not granted a fairy tale happy ending now that he suddenly cares, and even if he survived I’m fairly certain his survival instincts would have kicked in here and there to the chargin of the Avengers. But he went out as one of the good guys, trying to get a sneaky stab in there. What more could you ask of the God of Mischief?

But... will it stick? I’m 98% sure Loki’s gone for good. Loki has been “dead” before but the film makes a point of saying that this time it might be true. After all, he was pretty brutally strangled to death and then left to die on an exploding ship in space. Plus, with the changing out of founding members of the franchise, Loki’s death would mark the first exit of the old to welcome the new.

“This isn’t love.”

Look, cards on the table, not only was the Soul Stone sequence the best scene in the film, it was easily one of the best sequences in the MCU. Period. It was also the death that played most into the last act of the film, affecting the decisions of Thanos, Quill, and Nebula.

In the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora is introduced as the estranged daughter of Thanos who appears to have little love for her adoptive father. In the second film, we get more backstory on her childhood: giving us a look at the ruthless warrior Gamora once was under her Thanos’s tutelage and the the compassionless sister she’d been to Nebula. In Infinity War, we finally get Thanos’s perspective on his children. Gamora is saved during a massacre when Thanos becomes instantly attached to her. The seeds of vulnerability are implanted quickly — we see Gamora’s instant regret when she believed she killed her father and it becomes apparent the two share a complicated, terminal familial bond.

Jump ahead to Thanos dragging his favorite child up a mountain for a sacrificial death that echoes the Akedah (Binding of Isaac) better than any piece of modern media attempting to invoke that same theme. The scene is a cocktail of confusing emotions for both audience and characters. Turns out, Thanos did love Gamora. And in any other story, that might be the beginning of a redemptive arc; but instead his love is fatal for her. The whole thing is both a literal look at an emotionally abusive relationship and a view of the metaphorical implications.

So will her death stick? Very doubtful. Gamora has a pretty similar fate in the comics when her body was destroyed by the Dad of the Year, but her soul survived inside the Stone before she was eventually freed by Adam Warlock (who will appear in the third installment of Guardians of the Galaxy). We seem to get confirmation of this in that end scene where Thanos visits Gamora’s soul inside of the Soul Stone (her soul taking the form of her childhood self). Perhaps between now and the third Guardians film we’ll get to see more Gamora if the illusive Death ever rears her head taking Gamora’s image to guilt Thanos (think the First in Buffy), or if Thanos takes more trips to Soul realm to talk with his daughter.

So... where do we go from here? Well, most immediately to Ant Man and the Wasp where fans speculate we may learn more about the nature of Thanos’s snap-induced genocide (some have speculated those who vanished were simply transported to the Quantum Realm). What everyone is most excited for, however, is the MCU’s Hail Mary against Thanos: Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel, a.k.a. the most powerful character Marvel has to offer, a.k.a. she who is about to hand Thanos’s butt right back to him, a.k.a Mel is just really excited for Captain Marvel. In short, Carol was an Air Force captain who gained immeasurable abilities in strength, durability, stamina, flight, and even energy control after exposure to the Kree biology.

So between now and some vague time in Spring 2019, keep it together kids. As Doctor Strange said, we’re in the endgame now.

(P.S.: I will make #FreeGamora a thing.)


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