My heart belongs to the Marvel Universe and its pantheon of heroes. Superbeings like Spider-Man and Iron Man should be unknowable because of their abilities, but they remain human thanks to their unique personality quirks, wit, and failings. Where Superman and Wonder Woman loom over the DC Universe like mythic gods, Marvel’s heroes are fallible. In other words: I love the Avengers because they’re Earth’s Mightiest Fuck-Ups.
Avengers: Infinity War embraced this truth to a tragic degree. In that epic crossover, heroes across the Marvel Cinematic Universe waged war against Thanos, a genocidal mad space warlord looking to erase half of all living things in the universe by using the omnipotence-granting Infinity Gauntlet. Heroes like Captain America and Doctor Strange put up a valiant effort to thwart Thanos, but in the end, Thanos reigns supreme. The power glove wielding purple titan proved too strong and ruthless to combat, and our surviving heroes had to contemplate their defeat as beloved icons like Peter Parker dissipated into ash whilst theaters packed with children watched in horror. The unthinkable happened: the Avengers lost. And they in part brought it on themselves.
These heroes were doomed by their imperfections. Similar to us mere mortals, Spider-Man and Thor self-destruct when their flaws are exploited, and unlike DC protagonists, Marvel heroes generally aren’t compensated with raw power to limit the negative impact of their shortcomings. When they fall, they fall hard just like the rest of us normies who are already well acquainted with failure by just being human. Avengers: Infinity War is the MCU’s rendition of rock bottom that everyone hits at some point in life.
How did they let Thanos win? Pride mostly. For too long, our heroes’ impulsive, ego-driven behavior didn’t lead to serious consequences. Iron Man should’ve reconciled his differences with Captain America and teamed up with him to prevent Thanos from stealing Infinity Stones; Captain America should’ve compromised and destroyed the Mind Stone by killing Vision; Thor should’ve been less focused on revenge; Starlord should’ve had more self control; The Hulk shouldn’t have felt so emasculated; Gamora shouldn’t have heroically confronted Thanos on Knowhere; Rocket shouldn’t have fled with Thor; Scarlet Witch shouldn’t have left Vision’s side; Doctor Strange should’ve gotten over himself and destroyed the time stone.
The unfortunate recurring theme here is should, should, and should. The Avenger’s various shortcomings seem like things that should be easy to overcome. Taken as a collective failure, though, I can’t help but think that nearly every choice our heroes made was just flat out wrong even while each one reflected their respective values.
The Avenger’s successive mistakes reflect the way real people self-sabotage as well. Whether we fail a class, rear end a car in front of us, or get fired from a job, a portion of the blame often rests on our own shoulders. All our decisions, whether right or wrong, coalesce into good and bad consequences that ripple out, a butterfly effect in miniature affecting our personal universes.
The Avengers should have protected the universe by any means necessary. Thanos was an existential threat to life itself and deserved to be treated as such, yet we all know that’s a near impossible ask. The Avengers trade fists with each other as often as they do with their nemeses. Even their personal ethics are diametrically opposed. Hell, Captain America and Iron Man fought a literal superpowered Civil War over feelings, not cosmic bodily threats. If the Avengers can’t peacefully coexist with one another, was there ever any hope for an outcome where Earth’s Mightiest Heroes unified to defeat Thanos? Might as well expect Captain America and Iron Man to hold hands and dance around Groot; the universe never stood a chance.
The Avengers couldn’t overcome their own personal deficiencies in Avengers: Infinity War. We may love Iron Man’s narcissistic quips, Starlord’s impulsive trigger finger, and Captain America’s reticence to compromise his values, but those same unmistakably human qualities we adore contributed to universal genocide. Ironically, the Avengers’ treasured humanity, the core that defines who they are, proved to be an insurmountable challenge to overcome. As the famous saying goes: “to err is human” and being human means being an idiot.