Do not read this post if you have been living in a cave and did not watch Avengers: Infinity War (I). This post contains spoilers and comments and better be avoided if you want to enjoy the movie.
So you’re here. You’ve seen the movie. You’ve cried a little in your car. The truth is: it was a such a good movie to evoke such emotion and it was planned this way from the beginning. Banner (Mark Ruffalo) nearly gave it away in a previous interview when he said that half of the avengers die. I thought he was joking. But half the avengers did die, half of the world too, half of the universe’s life forms as well. I wonder if cats perished too? And horses, and birds?
You’ve seen the movie, you know the plot. Big baddie Thanos collects infinity stones like it’s nobody’s business and once he has them all collected, he snaps his fingers and destroys half of humanity (and other species). We only care about earthlings and Groot. It’s personal with Groot.
So, who’s Thanos?
Big Thanos appeared in Iron Man #55 (1973) At birth, his mother was shocked by his appearance and attempted to kill him, due to believing that her son would annihilate every life in the universe, but was stopped by A’Lars, Thanos’ father. During his school years, Thanos was a pacifist and would only play with his brother Eros (Starfox) and pets. By adolescence, Thanos had become fascinated with nihilism and death, worshipping and eventually falling in love with the physical embodiment of death, Mistress Death. As an adult, Thanos augmented his physical strength and powers through his superior scientific knowledge. He also attempted to create a new life for himself by siring many children as well as becoming a pirate. He finds no fulfilment in either until he is visited again by Mistress Death, for whom he murders his offspring and his pirate captain (Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanos)
What really attracted me in the wiki description were two words. Pacifist and nihilist. Existence is futile and in order to bring peace, humanity must be destroyed.
“When I’m done, half of humanity will still exist. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be. I hope they remember you.”
He is not a murdering maniac like I thought when I first saw the trailers. He has a healthy respect for Toni Stark and he loves his daughters and sons like a true father (even though the destroyed their homelands).
“Stark… you have my respect. I hope the people of Earth will remember you.”
The scenes he shares with Gamora are heartfelt and you can see his reasoning behind his genocide.
“I hate that chair.”
“So I’ve been told. Even so, I’d hope you would sit in it one day.”
“I hated this room. This ship. I hated my life.”
“You told me that too. Every day. For almost 20 years.”
“I was a child when you took me.”
“I saved you.”
“No, no, we were happy on my home planet.”
“Going to bed hungry. Scrounging for scraps. Your planet was on the brink of collapse. I was the one who stopped that. You know what’s happened since then? The children born have known nothing but full bullies and clear skies. It’s a paradise.”
“Because you murdered half the planet!”
“A small price to pay for salvation.”
“Little one, it’s a simple calculus. This universe has finite its resources, finite… if life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correcting.”
“YOU DON’T KNOW THAT!”
“I’m the only one who knows that. At least I’m the only who has the will to act on it. For a time, you had that same will. As you fought by my side, daughter.”
“I’m not your daughter. Everything I hate about myself, you taught me.”
“Then in doing so, made you the fiercest woman in the Galaxy.”
There is love there. And pride. And based on how Gamora reacts when she fake-kills Thanos in the Reality-stone rendered version, she loves him too, despite him being the ultimate destroyer.
What I also loved about the movie was the ethical dilemma posed. Does one life matter more than the lives of the many?
Tony Stark did not destroy Vision after he was created, the Scarlet Witch refuses until the last possible moment to hurt him and destroy the yellow mind stone and Quill protects his love, Gamora, until he reluctantly has to shoot her (and bubbles burst through his gun). This movie would have been massively different if Vision and Gamora were dead. This choice to keep them alive even if it means possibly the death of half the humanity goes against what is called Utilitarian Consequentialism and falls into an ethics category named “Duty-based ethics” or Deontological ethics.
Based on this theory, people should only choose acts that maximise good consequences, that produce the most happiness and the least unhappiness for the largest number of people.
Of all the things a person might do at any given moment, the morally right action is the one with the best overall consequences.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Consequentialism
This theory is hard to apply in practice as it’s hard to predict future consequences of actions, it’s very easy to bias in favour of particular groups and people (an avenger would not kill one of their own) and each case has to be evaluated separately
Because it’s wrong to kill people, Vision and Gamora should be kept alive as much as possible until a solution is found. The consequences of this decision are not taken into account because action is more important. Stop Thanos, destroy the infinity stones, save the planet. This approach emphasises the value of every human being and deals with the intention and motives first and not with the result of the judgement. As long as each individual action is correct, the result should be correct too (ie, by saving the two, Thanos will be stopped).
Some kinds of action are wrong or right in themselves, regardless of the consequences.
There’s a definite struggle in the movie as even Dr. Strange says that he won’t hesitate to let Tony Stark and Spiderman die if the time stone is saved but when the critical moment arrives, he hands over the stone. I wondered at this point. In all the millions of simulations that he had seen, didn’t he see one where Star Lord f&3d up and hit Thanos? Couldn’t he keep Quill at bay or hidden somewhere until they got the gauntlet off? What if he told Star Lord that his action would doom them if he intervened during the gauntlet removal process? He had the time stone so he could have reverted the time back before Quill’s attack on Thanos…
Just thinking out loud here.
But he did give the stone willingly away and made Thanos more powerful than before. Fail for Dr. Strange.
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