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The movie reviews here aren’t your typical “how good was the movie” fare. Instead, we review movies to see where they give us pictures of God’s greater story and our place in it.
Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of eighteen movies, with dozens of characters and overlapping plot points over ten years of films. This movie stands apart from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by being the first movie to end with failure for the heroes. And I think there’s a lot that can be said here.
To be frank, I really love the super hero/comic book genre. I was totally into comic books as a kid (Spider-Man and X-Men were my favorites), so our current whole movie era has been this fanboy’s delight. But from the perspective of a parent, I love the movies because they frequently display self-sacrifice, using power for good, working with others to use your own unique gifting, and the importance of standing against evil even when it feels impossible. Infinity War preserves those elements, and adds some additional layers that I think set this movie apart.
The Bad Guy for the Greater Good
Thanos is an intriguing bad guy. Despite being teased in several of the movies so far, his appearance waited till this one and his motivations have been entirely shrouded. This movie opens the way to a different kind of villain than most–he’s not bent on conquering a world or setting himself up as ruler. He’s not even the raging bad guy with a chip on his shoulder (I’m looking at you, Kylo Ren). Instead, Thanos acts from a sense of nobility, that what he’s doing is for the greater good.
This “greater good” is not a new idea. Nazi experiments in eugenics certainly (at least on paper) held to this idea. Our old pal Grindelwald in the Harry Potter series was known for the phrase as well. I’m betting the Fantastic Beasts series will delve more deeply into that. This type of evil is insidious for a couple of reasons. First, the villain sees himself as a hero and thus seemingly unaware of the evil he or she is perpetuating. This is a Romans-1-depraved mind. Second, they are acting from conviction. Many villains of books and movies are motivated solely by selfishness and greed, whether it’s for money or fame or power–their motivations are only skin deep. The self-stylized hero-villain, though, holds onto something deeper–a core belief in themselves and their motives, a far more unshakeable foundation.
I think it’s important that we see the difference and help our kids see that difference, too. There’s a large gap between the egotistical coworker or neighbor who is more self-centered than Narcissus himself and the well-intentioned but harmful zealot. Plenty of evil is done in the name of good, whether that be in science or public policy or international relations or religious fanaticism. How else does one explain 9/11?
The Good Guys Can’t Get It Together
Another interesting aspect of the movie is the inability of the heroes to truly unite and face Thanos. Part of this is due to the fact that Thanos was already vastly more powerful than all of them and especially so as he gains the infinity stones. But the other part is that they have competing motives at play. Vision and Scarlet Witch are trying to escape from the life that traps them. Iron Man is, as always, supremely confident in his ability to handle anything and everything. Spider-Man is eager, but still too concerned with proving himself to “Mr. Stark” than being wise. Star Lord is torn apart by grief and rage. Dr. Strange–well, we don’t exactly know what his motivations are, but we know that he looked into possible futures and has seen something that’s making him so freely give up the time stone.
What this comes down to is that the heroes can never present a united front. Their motives and inner struggles are a barrier to working as one to defeat an enemy that is stronger than each of them individually, but possibly not collectively. Disunity threatens us from the inside out. Specifically, God created us to be a people united in Jesus as our head. That’s why unity is pressed for so frequently in the New Testament, because it’s through disunity that our power to serve and sustain each other is robbed and Satan gains ground.
The Heroes Lose
This is by far the easiest point to see and harkens back to moments like The Empire Strikes Back where you have a movie that ends more bleakly than it began. With our movie, we have a story where the good guys put up a fight to the death, but it’s all for naught. Despite all their effort and nobility and last-minute, far-fetched ideas…they lose. In fact, many of our heroes turn to dust even if they managed to survive facing Thanos. Evil wins.
But doesn’t this remind us of another story that seems to end badly, where it appears that the villain has defeated the hero and evil has won the day?
And there’s the hook for all of us. We know that another Avengers movie is coming in April 2019. And we all just know that somehow our heroes are gonna win, that they’re going to find a way to undo all the bad, even to undo death itself.
We’re gonna come back because we need resurrection.
Even though we don’t know how, we know it’s going to happen. Evil doesn’t get to win–it’s written into the very fabric of the universe God created for us that good wins in the end. Even death can’t stop that. Even death gets undone.
The Final Word
Avengers: Infinity War was a tough watch. When the credits came up, our family sat in stunned silence. We’re usually excited and chatty after a movie, but not this time. Instead, we were faced with mortality and the power of evil. We were faced with the grief of watching death and loss. And most of all, we were mentally asking the question: how are they going to beat death?
Because we know they will. Death has to lose.
It always does in the end.
Questions for Family Discussion
- What is Thanos’ motivation for trying to get all the infinity stones? Does it seem look a good motivation or a bad one?
- Do you think Thanos see himself as a good guy or a bad guy?
- Does the problem that Thanos is trying to fix seem like a real problem or is he just making it up?
- What other solutions do you see to the problem that Thanos is trying to correct?
- What would you say to Thanos if he gave you five minutes to talk him out of his plan?
- Why did the heroes fail to defeat Thanos? Is there anything they could’ve done differently to fight and defeat him?
- What do you think of Cap’s statement that “we don’t trade lives”? Is Vision right to say that’s what he did when he crashed his plane?
- Why did the heroes fight Thanos, especially those who were vastly overpowered (such as the Wakandan warriors and Black Widow)?
- What would you have done if you were Star Lord and you were in the presence of the man who killed someone you loved dearly?
- Why do you think Dr. Strange gave up the time stone so easily?
- How does it feel to watch these people die? Does the manner in which they died change how you feel about their deaths?
- Do you think there’s a way for all the deaths to be undone? Do you think it’s fair that so many died by Thanos’ actions?