It’s been about two weeks since I saw Avengers: Infinity War. I saw it twice over the course of 48 hours, on the night it premiered and then again on the next night. Over 10 years of storytelling and 19 films have led up to the ultimate big bad of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and the most pearl-clutching post-credits sequence in Marvel history, and it in no facet failed.
I could talk about the rainbow lens flares and how cool the Hulkbuster looked, and how Danai Gurira needs to be in literally everything forever, but who cares, honestly. Comic books and its culture have always been inherently political and reflected what was going on socially, and Infinity War did exactly that. As our favorite heroes have evolved over the course of the last 10 years, so has American politics, and in turn, the Avengers have evolved to reflect the current state of our country.
As far back as Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man when the beloved arachnid was owned by Sony the film became a reflection of post 9/11 America. As a random New Yorker proclaims from the bridge as Spider-Man tries desperately to hold a subway car together, “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.”
The ball for this officially hit the ground harder and with a louder thud with 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. As Civil War drew the lines in the sand of a more clear-cut “us or them” philosophy (Hilary or Trump in 2016, anyone?), Ragnarok showed the Hunger Games-esque results on the world of a man in power who neither knew what he was doing nor cared. The only positive that came out of this was Jeff Goldblum doing what he does best and playing Jeff Goldblum.
With the climactic release of the most anticipated film of the year, Avengers: Infinity War is, of course, the best MCU film up to this point (Sorry, Ant-Man), and also brings some darkening parallels of the current state of American politics to the screen.
As our beloved Avengers have returned and seemingly let bygones be and partisan lines fade, we have finally met the ultimate Big-Bad that we have been built up for the last 10 years. Thanos is here, and he also brings in a dangerous question comic fans rarely want to entertain. Who really is the villain of this story?
Is Thanos the real villain of Infinity War? Or is it our beloved band of misfit toys? It admittedly feels weird and uncomfortable to utter the phrase, “Captain America is the Villain,” but it might not be too far off, especially as he is a war criminal. More on that in a moment.
Thanos opens the film for once, as opposed to popping up conveniently in a post-credits sequence to keep the suspense going. Thanos is ultimately wrecking everything in his path because he is on a journey to collect the six Infinity Stones so that he can control the Infinity Gauntlet and thus, snap his ginormous purple fingers and wipe out half of the universe. He has planned this because he sees the world as being overpopulated and not able to create enough resources per individuals.
While it is easy to write him off as the villain, plain and simple, when we write out and unpack his plan, he is actually weirdly relatable. His plan is very reminiscent of English Scholar Thomas Malthus, who proposed a similar plan in the late 18th century, although he didn’t have nearly as stylish of a glove. His plan, known as Malthusianism, involved equally morally questionable suggestions such as delayed marriage and abstinence.
You’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, that is really creepy and terrible,” and I totally agree with you. It is completely weird and terrible, however, if we moved the voice to someone else, say Sen. Marco Rubio or White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee, it sounds like something they said. As we head further and hear more and more about rollbacks and fights for various social justice issues, it suddenly isn’t that implausible to hear from a politician in the current arena.
As the film reintroduces all of our favorites back onto the screen such as Scarlet Witch (magically without her thick, Russian accent), Iron Man, Black Panther, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, one introduction, in particular, is interesting. As Scarlet Witch and Vision are fighting off Thanos’ children who are trying to steal the mind stone from Vision (which in and of itself turns everything else into a hot mess for our heroes), the cavalry makes their grand entrance.
I think there is still a ringing in my ears from the sheer volume of screaming that erupted from the theater when Captain America stepped out from the shadows; with Black Widow and Falcon in tow. While Captain America doesn’t have nearly as much screen time as the rest of the titular team, what screen time he does have is used to his advantage.
As Captain America, he has always represented the core of American values, which is made more interesting when you take a minute to step back and remember that he is a war criminal now thanks to the Sokovia Accords that were signed in Civil War. The physical embodiment of America is a fugitive.
So what does this mean exactly? This can be unpacked in a myriad of different ways which we don’t have time for, but I chose to look at it as where we are now. Every day, we wake up to different news that is pretty dark whether it be the fifth school shooting of the week, or another attempt to roll back rights on the LGBTQ community. Take your pick. And Captain America has always been a believer in the underdog, and a fighter of the people.
While everyone’s thoughts on protests are various levels of complication, one thing that can’t be ignored is the will of the American people to want to do what is right, to want to eradicate whatever evil is around us, hurting if not us our neighbors, our friends, or our family. We want to protect our communities with every breath we take, and that is something that has only grown stronger in the era of Cult 45. As Peter Parker said to Tony Stark, “I can’t be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man without a neighborhood.”
Despite being in some form of exile, Steve Rogers never stopped wanting to help and protect the people. He specifically found Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and Vision so that he could help them. He never ever gave up on Bucky despite the damage he induced while being brainwashed. He specifically reached out to T’Challa (Black Panther) and asked for help so that they could protect the world from Thanos and get help for Vision.
Infinity War was every last bit of fantastic from the writing, to the character development, to the comedic relief that Drax never fails to bring. But it also represented the good parts of humanity that come out in times of darkness, much like a diamond from under pressure. It’s easy to be left feeling bummed about half of the MCU being lost in the Soul Stone, (Fear not, friends. They’re still around, we just have to figure out how to get them out of there,) if you don’t read the comics.
Rest assured the still untitled Avengers 4 is going to bring us the happy ending in every realm that we wanted, especially now that Captain Marvel is on the case.
Photo By: Avengers: Infinity War