If you have not yet seen Avengers: Infinity War, then please come back another time after watching the film, because we’ll be taking a deep dive into the movie that’s brought a level of awe and devastation to its fandom.
In a previous post on the Geeky Parent Guide, we looked back at the past ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It has presented a wealth of wonderful stories filled with touching moments and balanced comedic timing that comes with bonds formed on- and off-screen with a fantastic cast. With glimpses of Thanos over the past few years, it has become harder to avoid the realization that Phase III of the MCU is nearing its end, and one massive storyline will come to a close. Whether or not our favorite characters survive, which we always hope they do, it’s knowing the conclusion of the Infinity War films will be the finale on the big screen for some characters that have been around since the beginning.
It might be difficult to let go. Ten years and many movies have led to this point, where wanting to let go has been taken out of our hands – and put into Thanos'.
It’s safe to say that the topic of death is not an easy one to broach with anyone, let alone a parent and their child. When is the right time? Perhaps one might believe it’s easier to allow such a topic be introduced in film, because the reality of it isn’t quite as real – and yet, the life and death of our superheroes might be difficult to process, whether you’re a pre-teen, young adult, or a 38-year-old parent whose kids aren’t old enough to see it.
Let’s discuss Thanos and Doctor Strange. Yes, there are many characters in this film that make decisions throughout the course of Avengers: Infinity War, but these two, in particular, share a similar path and end up moving in opposite directions. As a possible teachable moment for anyone, particularly for our younger audience, this film presents how those seeking power achieve it and at what cost.
The Mad Titan (a.k.a. Thanos) is a large, menacing-looking being that possesses great strength and, at the beginning of the movie, has the power of one of the Infinity Stones. In the opening scene, we immediately see that death will play a big part in this film. It is presented early, in large numbers, and from a director’s standpoint, emphasizes the magnitude of the film, helping to prepare the audience for the many deaths to come by the end of the film. Thanos wants nothing more than to possess all of the Infinity Stones and then use that power to wipe out half of the universe’s population. His motivation behind such madness is to self-regulate the unavoidable suffering that comes from overpopulation.
In his quest to find one of the stones, the Soul Stone, he realizes that he must sacrifice something meaningful, something he loves, in order to obtain the hidden stone. Even though Gamora did not believe her unwanted adoptive father was capable of loving anything or anyone, it did not prevent Thanos from believing he truly loved Gamora and her loss would be immeasurable. With one tragic throw from a cliff, Gamora’s broken body is a violent reminder for a younger audience that some individuals seeking power will go to any lengths to hold it in the palm of their hands.
As parents, protecting our children should be the upmost important factor in our lives. Gamora’s death represents Thanos and his self-indulged fantasy of being a supreme being that decides the fate of others – when in fact, he should have been focused on his daughter, keeping her from harm and not making her disposable. Parents might have a difficult job explaining this component to their younger children, because a child might not comprehend why a parent would do anything to harm their own child.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Doctor Strange began his journey with an origin story that identified his ego and desire for control to be one of his weaknesses. His inability to see beyond his own pain and knowledge, prevented him from learning the mystic arts quickly – until it became clear that his calling as a guardian of Earth against infinite realms meant leaving behind his ego, so he could transform into the Sorcerer Supreme.
The Doctor Strange we see in Infinity War is a giant leap forward from the self-titled film (2016). His masterful abilities helped to protect others by using the Time Stone to see into the future. In these alternate timelines after a battle with Thanos, there was only one time, out of millions, where the Avengers were successful. Knowing this one outcome, Doctor Strange and a small group of the other MCU superheroes led an attack against their enemy. This plan was nearly successful, and yet, they failed, and the life of Iron Man was negotiated. Strange told Thanos to spare Iron Man’s life and, in return, he would give Thanos the Time Stone. Ultimately, this signals the importance of Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) in the future.
While Doctor Strange used his power to try and defeat Thanos, when failure was in sight, he used the Time Stone to negotiate the life of Tony Stark. Thanos used his power to kill Gamora, in order to gain another Infinity Stone. Doctor Strange used his stone to save another and he ultimately paid the highest price. After receiving the Time Stone, Thanos fought one final battle against the Avengers. He captured the final stone, the Mind Stone, and the end was soon near.
In what would be a fatal blow to almost anyone else, Thor’s strike could not prevent Thanos from snapping his fingers. Thanos quickly escaped Earth and, slowly, the effects of his will come to pass. From one scene to the next, characters from the beloved franchise begin to disintegrate into the air, bringing the titan’s wish of eliminating half the universe’s population true. One by one, piece by piece, heartbreak by heartbreak, characters we’ve loved seeing on the big screen eventually vanish right before our eyes and out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This ending is a key component to Doctor Strange’s greatness. He saw the one positive future out of millions and took that chance, despite the cost of so many, despite the cost of his own life. As he crumbled away, the realization that he did everything to defeat Thanos in the present, and by saving Stark’s life above his own proves he’s willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good. Despite not having any children in the movies, Strange protected his friends and all of civilization by the only way he could see fit.
The loss of these characters generated thrilling and devastating anticipation. After the first superhero fell, evaporating into nothingness, the audience (where I saw the film) gasped, and the stunning silence between each of the next fallen superhero was palpable. The attention given to the big screen of a movie might never have been so fixed in all of my years, as fans of so many characters dwindled away into the ether.
The sense of shock and sadness was noticeable, particularly in my own chair, trying to fully absorb the shattering blow left in Thanos’ wake. I don’t have to imagine how a younger audience would feel, as some of those gasps were from a trio of teenagers sitting to my right. Although we can tell our children that what happens in movies is make believe, the twisted nature of how some of these deaths transpire might leave a lasting impression. If your children see the movie and they are around or below 13 years of age, then perhaps a conversation before or after seeing the film to let them talk about their feelings will help them cope with the profound loss felt after seeing Avengers: Infinity War.
I know I need to talk about it.
Avengers: Infinity War involves many troubling themes that might be difficult for a younger audience, such as torture, abuse of power, and killing individuals to obtain power. This film does a wonderful job at having a collection of superheroes that support each other, with the occasional sarcastic comment, which helps to contrast devastating visuals from such malicious acts. If you don’t feel your child is ready to witness such violence, then it would be best to let them wait until they’re old enough to understand the nuances of such emotional turbulence.
If you believe your kids are mature enough for the PG-13 rating, this movie will clearly show right versus wrong, establishing a moral center around superheroes willing to defend the universe, and continuing to do so after being inflicted with gruesome injuries. Infinity War is a fantastic movie filled with amazing action sequences, comical lines, and a collection of superheroes worth rooting for in the face of a supervillain. If you’re unsure whether your kids should see it or not, check it out first – seeing it a second time will definitely be worth your time.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.