By Cloudguy 84 Comments
Since the release of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th, I’ve been pondering if Thanos’ actions were right or wrong and if the Avengers should have tried to stop him.
I saw Infinity War on its release day with one of my close friends, both of us pumped to see the film after waiting for it for so many years. The build-up was worth it. My friend and I came out of the film happy and baffled by what we witnessed. Both of us expected to see heroes die in the final act of the film, yet. Not on the scale, everyone witnessed.
Thanos made his first appearance in Invincible Iron Man #55 as a villain for the titular hero. Since then, Thanos has become one of the Avengers most powerful and popular villains in Marvel comics. His comic counterpart is quite different from his big-screen, unlike the comic version, who is obsessed with pleasing Lady Death herself, that obsession is what causes him to seek the Infinity Stones. The Marvel Cinematic Universe rendition has tasked himself with the task to cure the universe’s problem of overpopulation, rather than please Death itself.
Throughout the film, Thanos explained his idea of universal peace, a way to end suffering. Sacrifice half the population, so that the over could survive. His argument was compelling when put in front of his many examples. So, the question is; is the cinematic rendition of Thanos, really a Mad Titan?
For those who haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War yet, expect major spoilers ahead as I’ll be covering some vital plot points.
I’ll start by saying that this is as unbiased as I can make this, while I enjoyed the film. I will be analyzing this from a purely theoretical point of view. I would also like to add that I do not
My question is: Is it right to kill half the universe to save the other. Yes and No.
Scouring the internet and asking a wide variety of people who’ve seen the film (friends, family, students and colleagues) if they thought they could do it differently, many of them came forward with the reasonable idea of doubling the universe's resources. Which sounds like a great theory, but may not work in actuality. From what little “large scale control” we’ve seen that the Infinity Gauntlet can muster, much of it seems limited to individual thoughts and actions. rather than the “Infinite” power, it seems to have. For example, rather than stop all the Avengers in their tracks in a single action, it appears that it can only stop one of them at a time. Although, this may have just been done for cinematic effect.
The problem with increasing the universe's resources is that it doesn’t fix the problems that the universe already has, in fact, it may increase it. War driven species or factions suddenly gain twice the amount of limited resources that are needed for war, whether precious metals or energy, that increase can send them on an upward spiral that can lead them to conquer/destroying other species that they weren’t able to before. But wait you ask! Why not just increase resources such as food product or landmass to increase farming or animal growth?
Planets and lands controlled by Autocracy or Plutocracy would continue to be run as so. If not even worse than before. (A historical example of autocratic leadership would be Genghis Khan and King Henry VIII and for plutocracy would be the now-defunct civilization of Carthage.) If those planets happened to struggle with overpopulation or lack of resources in which Thanos believes is the core problem of the universe. Those rulers would have even more power over the people. While their general conditions may go up in quality, the dangers of suddenly having increased valuable resources may bring in other races to plunder them. Not only that, it may send planets that are already fighting over resources into overdrive. Now with a jump into power, technological advancements can be made by the increase in resources. For better or worse.
Yes, Thanos may increase land mass in which people can spread, but where would this land come from? Would he bring the ocean floor to the surface so that the dominant species gain more access to land? Would he raze mountains so that the land could be flat for crops? That aside, more land mass and higher food rates can increase the population rather than deal with what already exists.
The real issue is, is that with an increase of resources, is that the population will continue to grow at an even faster rate as there is no longer the fear of running out of consumables. While we may not run out of food, land loss is an increasing issue. If we look at the world we have, Earth in all it’s complicated glory thanks to humanity. Is getting to the point in which we can no longer sustain ourselves indefinitely, whether it’s land or resources. Take a look at a Hong Kong photography project by Benny Lam, who showcases how horrific the overpopulation has gotten.
Those who currently live in Hong Kong and are the poorest of the poor, live in small 15-square foot homes that are referred to as Coffin Cubicles by the locals. (Stacke, 2017)The above photo is a showcase of how poor the living conditions are for some of those who live in the biggest cities in the world. Now imagine those coffins, on a much larger scale.
Now time for some brief science! (Which I don’t 100% understand. Just thought I’d mention that I’m not a rocket scientist. I’m a media student.) In 1964, Nikolai Kardashev, a Russian Astrologist created and designed a scale in which we can measure how a civilization’s technological advancements based on energy that is usable to us. This scale is completely theoretical and Earth hasn’t even reached the first point to be on the scale. Anyway, on to the even nerdier stuff than discussing a comic book movie…
According to the Kardashev Scale, a scale that theoretically ranked civilizations on their technological level throughout the universe. This scale ranges from 1-5, humanity? Zero. Not even on the scale. Although, we will supposedly reach rank 1, within the next 100-200 years. So, how is this relevant to our overpopulation and doubled resources problem? Class-2 civilizations are the problem.
Kardashev theorized that those civilizations that come under class-2 would have potential to harness the power of a star, of any size or shape. Through this, they can drain the life force through it and have supposedly infinite resources, at the cost of natural light and heat, which may doom future races and those who aren’t able to survive in the freezing, space. (Creighton, 2014)
You see, Thanos’ problem is one that has been discussed for an extremely long time that can relate back to the great Trolley/Train Dilemma.
Edward is the driver of a trolley, whose brakes have just failed. On the track ahead of him are five people; the banks are so steep that they will not be able to get off the tracks in time. The track has a spur leading off to the right, and Edwards can turn the trolley onto it. Unfortunately there is one person on the right-hand track. Edward can turn the trolley, killing the one; or he can refrain from turning the trolley, killing five. (Thomson, 1976)
The theory behind the quoted text is: Would you save one life or five? In Thanos’ case, would you sacrifice half of the universe to save the other? If anything, the Avengers themselves come across this problem with dire consequences. As Thanos is after the Infinity Stones, one of which is in possession of The Vision, a cyborg with control over the Mind Stone. His current predicament is that he must die for the Stone to be destroyed, through his own destruction, only then they can stop Thanos, yet; the Avengers have the mentality that no-one should die. A mindset that cost them half the universe’s population. Possibly making them the bad guys of the story as they were unwilling to sacrifice one to save an uncountable number of lives.
By the end of the film towards the final few minutes, Thanos accomplishes what he’s always dreamed of, the complete Infinity Gauntlet. (A device that allows him to harness the Stones Energy.) Through that, he deals with the universe in only the way a Mad Titan would, killing half of the universe. You see, this is where things get interesting. During a fantasy/revelation moment, we see Thanos, alone in what seems to be an infinite lake; before him stands an apparition of young Gamora, whom he killed earlier in the film to gain the Soul Stone. Asking him what did it cost him to achieve his goals? Only to be answered with, “Everything”. Thanos in the MCU is actually quite a complex character compared to many of the previous villains and possibly more so than several titular characters that are realistically one-dimensional.
Was it right to sacrifice so many lives to save the other? No, not without truly terrifying consequences, but to Thanos, there was no other way.
Out of all the characters in the MCU, he is one of the few, to truly lose something of value to him to gain what he didn’t have before, a cost of his own child. While she herself hated him, he raised her, watched her grow and was given the choice to complete his task which he’s spent a lifetime fighting towards or kill his own child. He chose the latter, and through that event, he eventually accomplished his goals.
One last point I would like to bring up is the reality of what if through his own power, Thanos killed those with the capabilities of truly saving the universe, through technological means or otherwise. Is that it wouldn’t possibly make a difference if they were alive. Let’s take a look at an example; through our own technology, we have the potential of saving thousands of lives, yet, through other people’s own choices, we don’t, even if it’s not in our control.
This is where it gets slightly political, but I’ll be as unbiased as possible. Through our own government’s powers, we can increase the funding for medical care, medical research, reduce poverty or increase living conditions in poverty-stricken areas. Yet, we don’t, where does that money go? Who knows. One of the things I do know is that we have the potential to save humanity from itself, but fear being told how to live our lives or what we should do with our money, but by doing so, we may have the chance to save ourselves from us. But the thing is, when we are given the chance of doing something in which we don’t have a choice in, the unthinkable can happen, for better or worse. Take the pyramids of Egypt were built by a combination of slaves and high-classed workers. And to this day, we are in awe of their wonder, many of those who built them may not have a choice, but we continue to seek wonders that were made through agony and pain. (Shaw, 2003) Or during World War II in which several million Jewish people were massacred for simply being different. An action that, still, to this day affects many ways we live our lives.
This, this is what makes us unique, the ability to create or destroy whatever we wish when pushed into it against or choice or willingly. So then why, why would it be so bad to start back at square one? To start again, to right those wrongs. To do it differently.
Thanos may not have fixed the problems of the universe, if not made some worse. But his actions may have been just as bad as the Avengers themselves. Who is the true villain in this scenario, The Avengers, who wouldn’t risk one life to save the universe, or Thanos, who would risk half the universe, to save the other? What would you do?
Thanks for reading.
- Creighton, J. (2014, July 19). The Kardashev Scale – Type I, II, III, IV & V Civilization. Retrieved May 23, 2018, from Futurism: https://futurism.com/the-kardashev-scale-type-i-ii-iii-iv-v-civilization/
- Shaw, J. (2003, July-August). Who Built the Pyramids. Harvard Magazine. Retrieved May 24, 2018, from https://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids-html
- Stacke, S. (2017, July 26). Life Inside Hong Kong’s ‘Coffin Cubicles’. Retrieved May 22, 2018, from National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/07/hong-kong-living-trapped-lam-photos/
- Thomson, J. (1976). Killing, Letting Die, and The Trolley Problem. In J. Thomson, Monist; An International Quarterly Journal of General Philosophical Inquiry (Vol. 59, pp. 204-217). Colorado, Colorado: University of Colorado. Retrieved May 23, 2018, from https://learning.hccs.edu/faculty/david.poston/phil1301.80361/readings-for-march-31/JJ%20Thomson%20-%20Killing-%20Letting%20Die-%20and%20the%20Trolley%20Problem.pdf