Since The culmination of MCU dropped 2 weeks ago, The movie has broken all box office records, left millions teary-eyed and has sent shockwaves through the whole fandom of comic book fans across the globe. But one thing is for sure, this movie is Thanos’s Movie. So as much as the big Villain who arrived after 10 years of teasing wants to bring balance to the universe, there is something else he wants as well.
Marvel movies are sort of fixated on complicated relationships with fathers, are not they? Tony has a distant relationship with his father. Thor and Black Panther has respect for their father, but learnt they were not perfect and must atone for their sins, Peter Parker is motivated by his need to impress Tony, who serves as the only father figure in this franchise, Ant-Man stories are about struggling to be a dad, also while trying to impress his surrogate father figure Hank Pym, Peter Quill learns that who he thought as his father is really a monster and the man he thought was a monster was really his daddy.
And Off Course Gamora and Nebula hate their Tyrannical Father, the villain of this Movie Thanos. If there is anything like an overarching theme of the Marvel Cinematic universe is, You need to grow the hell Up. Most of the times the protagonists start as selfish man-babies and need to learn how to become responsible and self-sacrificing adults. That transformation is often pushed forwarded by father figures with good and bad, especially recently the last few movies being primarily about fathers and their Children (Black Panther, Thor Ragnarok, Guardians: Vol 2, Spiderman to name a few).
After overcoming the issues they had with their father the terrifying thing they face is a father who wants to make them a child again. A father who thinks he knows whats best for them. Because Thanos wants to be a father figure not just to his adoptive children but to literally the whole universe. His minions are called “Children of Thanos”. He refers to Scarlett Witch, someone who has never met before as My Child. Unlike most of the egomaniacal men who appear in these movies, Thanos is not just a wannabe Dictator. He is not motivated by a selfish desire for power, but in his own mind, a selfless one. He wants to take responsibility for other people not just control them. Taking responsibility is what means to be a parent. He is Uncle Ben’s famous speech (Great Power one ) taken to its extreme. That’s just all in his head though, his fiction. Because really he is just as egotistical as they come, he wants to subjugate you and have you love him in return, be grateful that a benevolent Dictator is the one subjugating you.
At the same time, Thanos just does not want to be a father, he wants to be all father. He wants to be a god. That’s what Loki explicitly tells him, he will not become at the beginning of this movie and what he does become at the end when he collects all the stones. But what’s interesting is godhood is framed as fatherhood in this film. His servant Ebony Maw says to the dying Asgardians that “Even in death you become the children of Thanos”. Father, God, King – Thanos is the negative embodiment of all of this figure. In him, they are all but same. And all of that hinges on Thanos views love.
Early in the film there is a seemingly throwaway line from Wong that is perhaps the most important line in the film. He says -“Attachment to the material is detachment from the spiritual.” Throughout the movie, our heroes, as well as Thanos, is tested along this lines. Thanos had to sacrifice the only person he loves, the only person he is attached to in the physical to gain what is fittingly called is the “Soul Stone” on his spiritual journey towards Godhood. Throughout the film the Avengers face the similar type dilemmas, needing to sacrifice someone they love in order to save half the universe. None of them though are up to the task, hesitating too long to make the decision. They fail time and time again because their version of love is selfish. It is passionate and irrational and in terms of this film, it is childish, it is irresponsible. Attachment to the material world, even the people they love leads them toward oblivion at every turn.
But Thanos claims he is dispassionate. His level of concern is totally outside himself. Before sacrificing Gamora, she tells him that, “This is not love.” Is she right about that ? Thanos has abused and tortured her entire life, all the while thinking he is doing so out of love, with the hope to make her stronger. So is love just a feeling you have despite the horrible way you have treated someone. Apparently, it is. That’s why the universe grants him the soul stone. And that might be the most uncomfortable idea in the film.
All of this is in contrast to Tony, the only person Thanos treats as an equal. he does not call him my child or belittle him or try to teach him a lesson but says Tony has his respect (Is it a warning ? I think so). It’s no coincidence that Tony starts the movie as wanting to be a father and spends most of it keeping Peter, his ward (So to speak) safe. The other side of the coin is Doc Strange, who is willing to sacrifice people to keep the Time Stone safe, which Tony thinks as morally backward at the time.
The battle at the end of the film is then between two dueling notions of fatherhood. One that is emotional and one that is dispassionate. One who is protective of its children wrapping them up in a suite of armor and trying to keep them out of harm’s way and another who forces them up in dangerous situations in order to make them stronger, feelings be damned.
With the story only half told, I am excited to see how these ideas are paid off in the next film. How through the conflict with Thanos these characters overcome lingering issues with their parents and become responsible adults themselves.
Avengers Infinity Wars might be one of the most Expensive, Biggest, Loudest, Star Studded, Action extravaganza there has ever been, But I am glad at its core it has got something at its mind.