[WARNING: This Column Will Contain *SPOILERS* For Avengers: Infinity War]
In the direct aftermath of the release of Avengers: Infinity War, Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, was a major topic of conversation in fan circles. Many folks, myself included, felt like he indirectly caused all of the horror that ended the film on that jaw-dropping cliffhanger. Why did people think this? Because of the now notorious sequence where he loses his cool and attacks Thanos, waking him up from a meditation-like state that Mantis had him in at the precise moment when Iron Man and Spider-Man were about to get the Gauntlet off of his hand.
The conclusion reached was that had he just thought rationally for a moment, the Gauntlet would have been removed and the Finger Snap of Doom never would’ve happened.
Now, many have since come out in defense of Peter as cooler heads began to prevail. Even here on Revenge of The Fans, contributor Brent Clark submitted a wonderful piece about how people are being too hard on Star-Lord because, really, the blame for what happened should be shared.
This piece will not be another one of those. Today, we’re going to dive a little deeper into the themes of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script for Avengers: Infinity War and what it really says about Peter, and the bold statement it makes about the idea of Sacrifice.
Yes, sacrifice seems to be the big theme for this epic two-part Avengers story that began with Infinity War and will continue next year with the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4. Heck, it’s even featured prominently in the just-released official synopsis for next year’s capper. The final line of it reads:
“Our beloved heroes will truly understand how fragile this reality is and the sacrifices that must be made to uphold it.”
Sacrifice is the name of the game, and it should be noted that it’s the one through line that holds the entire plot of the film together, as various characters are given a choice: Sacrifice someone you hold dear for the sake of the greater good, or risk the lives of billions more.
At each turn, our heroes choose to save their loved ones instead of making a painful decision that could save the lives of literally half the universe.
- Scarlet Witch repeatedly avoids destroying the Mind Stone in Vision’s forehead because she fears it’ll kill the entity she loves
- Peter Dinklage’s Eitri makes the Infinity Gauntlet for Thanos because he thought it would save the lives of the 300 dwarves who lived on Nidavellir
- Doctor Strange gives up the Time Stone instead of allowing Tony Stark to die (there’s definitely more to this)
Perhaps the most damning example of someone being unwilling to sacrifice the small picture for the bigger one is…
- When Gamora choses to give up the location of the Soul Stone in order to save Nebula
What makes that moment stand out so much is that earlier in the film, Gamora made Peter promise to kill her if the situation ever arose where Thanos could force her to give up the location of the stone. She’s incredibly serious about this promise, and she puts Peter in a predicament of tragic proportions.
Think about it for a second.
Despite appearing in some of the most lighthearted chapters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe saga, the Guardians of The Galaxy movies, Peter’s life has been riddled with nothing but tragedy and loss. From the death of his mother as a child, to being taken from his home planet, to the death of his surrogate father and subsequently having no choice but to kill his biological father, Star-Lord can’t seem to catch a break. And now his girlfriend, who he loves, is asking him to kill her. And it ends up being a promise that even she can’t keep, because she coughs up the information as soon as she sees her sister is in peril.
The craziest part? Not only does Peter agree to do it, but he actually goes through with it!
People seem to overlook this simple fact because of the visual gag of Peter’s gun shooting bubbles instead of lasers during the sequence set in Knowhere, but take a moment now to realize that he didn’t know that Thanos was warping reality with a Stone. He didn’t know that pulling the trigger wouldn’t amount to killing Gamora, and that’s HUGE.
Aside from the fact that it demonstrates exactly how dedicated he is to doing the right thing even if it kills him, it also puts him on even footing with Thanos as the only lead character in the film willing to sacrifice everything for a perceived greater cause. The script makes sure to highlight this fact by having Thanos say to Peter, “I like you.” Because why wouldn’t he? In Peter, he sees a kindred spirit; Someone willing to kill Gamora to save the Universe- even though they have very different definitions of what that means.
Since Peter’s attempt to sacrifice Gamora is foiled by the Reality Stone, it’s Thanos who eventually wins. That’s right. For this chapter of the story, McFeely and Markus decided that Thanos would be the victor. He gets the Stones, puts on the Gauntlet, snaps his fingers, then watches “the sun set over a grateful universe.” If the old adage is true that every villain is the hero of their own story, then Thanos is the greatest hero in the history of everything as far as he’s concerned. He dispassionately killed half the universe, letting fate decide who stays and who goes, and now all life can thrive without the fear of in-fighting, pollution, and degradation of resources.
Let’s unpack that for a second.
What is the message of this film? Considering the only being that gets a happy ending is the one who sacrificed everything he loved for the greater good, does that mean that it casts a pall over those unwilling to see the big picture and do what was right? That’s a surprisingly loaded point of view for a film from the typically rosy shores of Marvel Studios and its parent company Disney. Yet in the framework of this story, it’s a powerful message.
It makes you wonder if the writers are trying to say that each of us has to think bigger. We can’t continue to just focus on what’s going on in our immediate circles, or only on those people closest to us; But rather that we have to start prioritizing what’s best for the world at large, and making more responsible decisions because- as per the lesson of this film- if you’re unwilling to get out of your own bubble then you’re doomed to lose anyway.
But let’s get back to Peter Quill for a second. While it’s widely assumed that Captain Marvel will be the ultimate savior in Avengers 4, you’ve got to wonder if our favorite Star-Lord is going factor in, too. Despite turning to ash in Infinity War, we all know he’ll be back, and when you consider what this film said about him and Thanos, it stands to reason that Peter will be a big piece of the puzzle once he’s able to get his revenge.
But, as always with Quill, any triumph he achieves in Avengers 4 will have a tinge of tragedy to it because though he’ll technically “Win,” he’ll do so with the knowledge that Gamora is gone for good.
Tell me again how Star-Lord was weakest link in Infinity War, how easy it would’ve been for him to “keep his cool” on Titan, and why it’s “all his fault.”
Thanks for reading,