So you might have guessed from the heartache I've bled into the title, but I recently came back from the two hours and forty minutes of unadulterated devastation that is Avengers: Infinity War. I won't say I didn't spend most of that time laughing and smiling, because that would be a lie. It's a hilarious movie, and it isn't even sad, not really. It's just devastating.
I've heard a few complaints about the ending. That it's a cliffhanger for the Avengers sequel set to come out in 2019. And at first glance, I might agree with that. But there was something more to it that blossomed enjoyment in me for the ending. I remember, back in the theatres of Avengers: Age of Ultron, when Ultron had the idea of creating a mass extinction event to kill off all humans, I sat there thinking, "He'll never do it." And not just because the heroes will bare their teeth and give their all to stop Ultron. No, I knew Ultron wouldn't accomplish his goal only because it was too big, too evil, and too risky for the Marvel Universe. I know, I know. How could I let the meta get to me in the middle of enjoying a superhero movie? But it was a comfort I was happy to sit with. As the movie went on, seeing Ultron's misguided passion made me almost curious to see success. Every villain from Obadiah Stane in the first Iron Man movie to Killmonger in Black Panther has been thwarted, and when the big ones come along, as they do in the Avengers movies with Loki, Ultron and now Thanos, you expect to see a greater struggle between good and evil. And that's what the Russo brothers give us with Thanos. A struggle so massive, you begin to question whose Hero's Journey you've been following.
Upon my second watching of Avengers: Infinity War - because I'm apparently an emotional masochist - I watched the movie with intent to follow Thanos as the one walking this Hero's Journey, and I found that it fit. That's probably why I wasn't quite so bothered by the movie's ending, finding a sort of conclusion in it beyond the apparent cliffhanger for the Avengers, or what's left of them, anyway (I'm still not over it). The movie begins and ends with Thanos, following his journey to what he believes is the moral conclusion to the very threat he faced in the ruin of his home world. Like every good villain, he's the hero in his own mind, and like any good hero, he succeeds in his attempt to right the apparent wrong of the universe around him, misguided as his solution may seem to literally everyone else. I couldn't help comparing Thanos to Death Note's Light. A protagonist with a twisted moral compass, because the protagonist doesn't always have to be the hero. Thanos makes sacrifices to achieve his moral conclusion, deep and cutting sacrifices that he is shown to carry with him to the very end. But, what we haven't seen of his Hero's Journey just yet is his road back, the road he, as the hero, is meant to walk as a changed person in the aftermath of his journey. Let me just say, this right here gives me hope for the Avengers. Maybe Thanos will realize that he could have just replenished the universe with the all-powerful might of the Infinity Gauntlet rather than desolate half the universe, but part of that mental blindness is what gives Thanos such a deep and realistic character. He witnessed the aftermath of overpopulation on his home world and spent his life thereafter, a self-proclaimed survivor, going from planet-to-planet to kill off half the population as his solution. He doesn't know anything else but this. But now, having accomplished his one goal in life, he'll see the aftermath of this new devastation, wrought by his own hand.
All of this to say, I strongly believe the framing of Avengers: Infinity War is meant to reflect Thanos' Hero's Journey, and as such, is leading up to a change of heart in the next movie. This little rant has mainly been a means of coping with everything I just watched beyond turning to memes for comfort, and honestly, I'm pretty satisfied with the ending of the movie. It's something we've never seen before from a Marvel film, and even though it left me with a gaping hole in my chest for all my lost children (Spider-Man, I'll never let you go but why you gotta hurt me like that), it brought Thanos under a new light. He's not just the after-credits ghost of malice anymore, he's real, and he's not just a formidable threat. The Age of Ultron lasted, like, half a week, but the repercussions to come with Thanos' actions are set to be long-lasting and prevalent in the psyches of the survivors... Unless the next movie retcons everything, in true comic book fashion.
Whatever happens next, can you just picture that final scene as Thanos looks out over his New World, but rather than the somber score, Frank Sinatra's "My Way" is playing? That would've been a fun little punch to the gut.