We’ve been rewatching all the MCU movies in chronological order. From the start, I semi-dreaded getting to Infinity War and its stupid, ridiculous villain and its bumbling, completely-off-their-game heroes, and ultimately, a crushing and emotionally devastating defeat that we all knew had to be reversed somehow in the sequel. And stupid Vormir (with its stupid ghost of stupid Red Skull) and its stupid “sacrifice” which was not all credible in this movie and deeply unfair and painful in the next. Overall, most of the MCU movies are thrilling, entertaining, and sometimes hilarious, but aside from a few laughs and a few small triumphs (which then feel like they didn’t matter…) this one just pissed me off overall.
In the comics, Thanos wanted to kill half the universe to impress Death because he was in love with her. (This storyline was even hinted at in one of the end-credits scenes, where a Chitauri said “to attack Earth is to court death” and Thanos’ eyes lit up.) It’s crazy, and kind of dumb, but here’s the thing: it was acknowledged as crazy and dumb.
In the movie, he wants to kill half the universe so that the other half has enough resources not to starve. People just sort of accept that and even relate to it as if it were good intentions gone very wrong, as if it somehow compares to Killmonger’s rage over racial injustice and oppression in Black Panther.
Here’s why it’s stupid.
- If you have all those infinity stones, you could solve the problem so many other ways. Create more resources! Change life so that it requires less! Whatever!
- It’s not even a universal problem. There are, presumably, planets where nobody is starving or struggling. There are, no doubt, planets and colonies where killing half the population would cause collapse and probable starvation.
- Starvation on a civilized world is almost certainly not a simple “too many consumers, not enough resources” problem, but one of inequitable distribution and poor resource management. (On a more primitive one it’s probably more a matter of ability to extract those resources.)
- Killing half the population without regard to economic status seems like it would be far less effective than specifically targeting the rich, who consume more than their share.
- Population is not a static number. On Earth, the human population doubled from about 1925 to 1971, and doubled again from 1971 to 2020. Thanos is something like 1100 years old, right? You’d think he would have some perspective here.
- Which species get killed and which ones are “resources” themselves? Often the movie states it as “half of all life” and yet we don’t see trees, shrubs, grass, or any animals getting dusted, only humans. What of other apex predators? What about invasive species? What about the sort of livestock that put a strain on other resources while being resources themselves?
There are no doubt more, but this is what I came up with in half an hour or so this morning. The writers really should have stuck with the original motivation for Thanos — with no actual personification of Death for him to impress, just his own belief. (Or maybe he confused Hela with Death, and Thor could catch him up on events from the Ragnarok movie…)