Lots has been said about the “larger than life” aspects of Avengers: Infinity War, which is good because it’s true. The movie does an amazing job with the spectacle of the story and the large size of the cast. Something that I hadn’t appreciated as much as usual, perhaps with reason, is the significance of the movie’s quieter scene. Thankfully, the folks over at First Things have that angle covered. From an essay by Christopher Altieri:
The assumption of the villain of the piece—who is really the great villain of the Marvel franchise—is that life, as such, is not good. Thanos claims that his quest is ultimately for balance in the universe. This means that, to him, the Infinity Stones are not keystones holding everything in balance—making it kosmos—but tools to be wielded by one who would bend the world to his own design, a design in which life is disposable. Against this diabolical vision, the film offers fleeting glimpses of goodness at work in the ordinary world and in the souls of powerful and flawed characters.
The film establishes its theme by showing the tension between the ordinary and the extraordinary, epitomized in conversations between characters involved in relationships that we might call—however unsatisfactorily—romantic. These conversations come at crucial moments in the story: Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Pepper Potts in the park talking about settling down and starting a family, right before Dr. Strange appears to enlist Iron Man’s aid in the fight against Thanos; Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) and Vision on Cockburn Street (I think it was) in Edinburgh, where they are almost literally blasted to smithereens, along with their fleeting dreams of an ordinary life, in an attack that seems to come out of nowhere.
“Ordinary” might be roughly synonymous with “everyday”—but it also denotes that which gives order to our lives. The good guys in this movie want to find order in the ordinary. The bad guy wants something else.
Altieri goes on to add this:
The moral of the story is that life is good—indeed, that life is a good, one the good guys seek to preserve, and bad guys seek to destroy. We know they’re bad guys when they seek to destroy life, however apparently noble or genuinely compassionate their real or stated ends may be.
I think the reason that I overlooked this angle on the story was because it is in the very nature of the best Marvel stories to work with the everyday-ness of things. School and work, family and romance, power and responsibility. Those are day-in, day-out realities for Marvel characters. That’s not always the case with those from the DC Universe or from some other companies. But the house that Marvel built stands and falls on the everyday relatability of its characters, even the wealthy and the mystical.
You can read the rest of the essay here. It’s a good one. And you can catch Avengers: Infinity War at your local theater.
(image from thewrap.com)