Everyone knows that Stephen is obsessed with Game Of Thrones, and as a result he’s written almost exclusively about the subject and the rapidly approaching season premiere of the final year. I can’t fault him. When passion for particular subject matter supersedes any desire to consume different content, it might border on the excessive side, but “crazy” is a word lazy people use to describe the dedicated. Or some shit.
So here’s another article about Marvel movies.
The following has been a hot button issue since Infinity War hit the silver screen, and I think its about time a professional finally weighs in on the topic. Is Star Lord to blame for the outcome of Infinity War?
The short answer is a resounding “no”, and I’m going to give you a couple reasons why. Let’s begin with why Quill is NOT to blame.
I’d like to say that the following contains huge SPOILERS for Infinity War and possibly a couple other movies, but they’ve all be out for a while, and I have no sympathy for you.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 was released and takes place in 2014. Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star Lord) is introduced as a young boy who holds his mother’s hand as she dies. It quickly becomes evident that his mother was everything to him. As the movie(s) progress, we learn she was a single mother who shared her love of music with her son. This music becomes the soundtrack to Vol 1 and Vol 2, thus making the movies memorials to his mother. It stands to reason the when your last memory on Earth before being abducted into space is of your mother passing away, I’m sure it’s easy to cling to that for longer than is mentally or emotionally healthy. Fast forward a few years, and Quill is established as a Ravager who only cares about himself. He forgets his one night stand’s name, he even forgets she’s on the Milano, and once he’s in possession of the orb (containing the Power Stone), he turns his back on his Ravager family to collect the full profit. He looks out for him and his alone. The crazy thing about that is his desire to be the sole benefactor of the Power Stone transaction with the buyer on Xandar brought him face to face with his soulmate, who we’ll refer to from this point forward as Gamora. After that exposition, and in light of giving you the run down on why it’s obvious that Gamora is Quill’s soulmate, I’ll just come right out and say it.
Star Lord found a soulmate in Gamora.
This is where my argument begins to go unheard. On the topic of Star Lord vs Thor in “Who’s To Blame?” people begin to assume that as Thor was losing everything, Quill coasted. Some argue that he even came out ahead in all of this. To an extent, yes, he coasted. However, we’ve only gotten a sneak peak of Peter Quill’s life. We saw his mother die when he was 8, we don’t know what kind of upbringing he had with Yondu and the Ravagers, we don’t know anything about him until we see him on Morag, scavenging for the Orb whilst rocking out to some Redbone. After this he meets Gamora, forms the Gaurdians, goes on some wacky adventures, meets and kills his freaking father…and through it all he has Gamora. This is it. This is all we know. We don’t know what all they’ve gone through as a couple, and we can’t understand the bond that they cultivated in between Vol 2 (which technically takes place in 2014, months after Vol 1) and the events of Infinity War 4 years later.
Can we please remember that while Quill is technically only 50% human? He was born to a human woman, lived the first part of his life as a human on earth, and even claims to be human and from Earth when he comes face to face with the Avengers on Titan. There’s a a manner of thinking I’ve noticed in myself and other people as I’ve gotten older: when a human being, who’s single and worrying about no one but themself, thinks they have everything, they truly have everything. But should they find another individual, a soulmate that completes them, they go from “having everything” to “having nothing but this particular person.” I don’t think I have to convince you that these are two very different thought processes. So Quill has gone from having everything by himself to have nothing without Gamora.
Growing up, I’d often ask my parents if they would die for me. I don’t know why I was asking such disturbing questions at such a young age, but I always got the same answer. My parents were always quick to tell me they would die for me, no questions asked. When I asked why, they told me because they loved me. If we can flip that concept of selflessness on its head for one second, Star Lord was willing to kill Gamora on Knowhere after Thanos had seized the Reality Stone. This man, who had been so selfish for so long, is actually willing to sacrifice far more than my parents were for me. He even pulled the trigger. Peter Quill was going to murder the love of his life because she wanted to keep the location of the Soul Stone a secret from Thanos. Quill didn’t know what information he was protecting. He just knew that Gamora made him promise to kill her should the need arise. Selflessly, he did just that. It should be noted that in an earlier draft of the script, Quill doesn’t pull the trigger. It was a decision made later on in the writing process, and it involved a couple small back and forth between screen writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (he wouldn’t shoot her) and James Gunn & Chris Pratt (he would shoot her). In an article I read months ago and can no longer find, it was the decision of Gunn and Pratt to have him shoot Gamora because it was a character development for Quill. It was because he had become so selfless. It didn’t matter one way or another to the writers: Gamora was going to die regardless. But Pratt and Gunn felt the character had grown enough over the course of four years to make this extremely difficult decision at the behest of his love. Star Lord has evolved out of himself enough to know when personal sacrifice outweighs half of all life. I would argue that this is pure love exercised in an effort to derail universal armageddon. It’s certainly not something that Peter Quill would do in 2014.
Quill pulls the trigger.
Thanos (using the Reality Stone): I like him.
Gamora is kidnapped and ripped away from Star Lord. He’s now officially lost his everything.
Let’s remind ourselves once again that Peter Quill is a human being. One of the most experienced emotions we experience is grief, and Quill’s affected by grief just like you and me. There are five stages grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), and Quill goes through at least three of them during the remainder of the movie. The next time we meet the Guardians, they come face to face with Stark, Strange and Parker on Titan. A battle ensues, and Spider-Man winds up in a headlock with Star Lord’s gun to his head. He then points the gun at Tony Stark: “I’m gonna ask you this one time…where’s Gamora.” After a tad more dialogue and a hilarious Drax joke, Quill begins bargaining. “Tell me where the girl is, or I swear to you I’m gonna french fry this little freak.” The blaster is now pointed directly at Peter Parker’s temple.
Peter Quill is so wrecked about the situation, he’s milliseconds away from murdering Peter Parker, WHO’S A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD KID, in order to get information on Gamora’s whereabouts. People seem to forget that. No one ever calls him out for almost murdering a child. If it wasn’t for the conversation about Missouri, Earth, who are you guys, Thor, the Avengers…Spider-Man would be toast. Why don’t people ever question Quill’s quickness to threaten the life of a young boy? Because he was still desperately trying to find Gamora. He’s in the middle of the very real process of grief.
Finally we make it to that epic battle scene on Titan where the Avengers pull out all the stops to bring Thanos down. Mantis can finally do her mind trick stuff, and Thanos goes under. She warns them to be quick. Here’s my question on being quick: how fucking long does it take to get something off someone’s hand? It can’t physically be skin tight, and if there’s a latch that kept it in place, I blame Stark and Parker for not noticing that. Digressing again. Thanos is incapacitated, and Quill asks him one about Gamora. Thanks to Nebula, he finally gets all the pieces into place - Thanos, Vormir, Soul Stone, sacrifice, soul for a soul, no more Gamora - you can actually see the wheels turning in Quill’s. He even gives Thanos a chance at redemption:
Quill: Asshole! Tell me you didn’t do it!
Thanos: Iiiiii hhhhhad tooooo…
Quill: No you didn’t…no you didn’t…
[Peter Quill begins to completely lose his shit]
Quill: NO YOU DIDN’T!
This wakes Thanos up, the fight rages on, and in the end Doctor Strange gives up the Soul Stone to save Tony’s life. The above altercation is usually where people point their finger and blame Quill for not keeping his cool. Everyone blames Star Lord and this is the moment that draws the ire.
If you look me dead in the eye and tell me that grief or any other emotion has never made you act out in inexcusable and overly passionate way, I’ll commend you for being able to lie to someone without breaking eye contact. I do NOT blame Peter Quill for a goddamn second, and it’s because I see the grief. I see the humanity behind his decision. I see him go through denial, bargaining (again), and anger in a matter of seconds. I see him lashing out irrationally because the only person he’s ever cared so much for since his mother was killed. I see a man who once thought he had everything become someone who now has legitimately nothing.
I’ve always been an advocate for the human aspect of the MCU. How they capture the true and genuine feelings of the heroes we hold to such high esteem. Even though they aren’t perfect, and even though this freak out led Thanos to Wakanda, I don’t blame Quill. I feel his intent, his fear, his heartbreak, and his loss. I don’t agree with his actions in the moment, but I don’t blame him for going apeshit.
All that in mind, it’s Thor’s turn.
Thor’s whole life has been put on blast for us to consume. We’ve been a part of everything Thor’s ever gone through. We saw his banishment, the death of Frigga (his mother), Loki’s multiple fake deaths, his real death, Heimdall’s death, the death of the Warriors 3, who were super easy to kill for some reason. He lost Asgard, he lost an eye, he lost Mjolnir, he lost Odin. He watched Surtur drive a flaming sword through his sister…which, yeah, she sucked fat balls, but he still lost another member of his family. Jane dumped him. He said it was mutual, but that’s just what someone who got dumped and is too arrogant to admit it would say.
So yes. Thor has legitimately lost everything. There’s absolutely no denying that. Rocket even runs that down for us when he pries into Thor’s backstory, and Thor ends the conversation with “What more could I lose?” And it’s true. The only thing Thor could lose would be his own life. But given that he’s colorized in the new line of Endgame posters, we don’t have to worry about that. Yet. So here’s where the whole Thor fucked the pooch theory really starts going haywire.
Thor’s tragic flaw has always been pride. The films are too family friendly to make him a true parallel to Oedipus (but for real…Rene Russo is a total smoke show, and if I was Thor, I’d at least try), but they are essentially the same person. Their ego and their hubris are always ALWAYS their defining traits, and they’re always ALWAYS their downfall. You can call bullshit if you want. But in Ragnarok his ego was a driving force that took him to Sakar and got his hair cut. In Age Of Ultron his taunting of Ultron (“IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN DO?!”) essentially gets the Avengers trapped in the church. Okay, yes, I’m sure that was going to happen eventually, but Thor had no reason to taunt Ultron that way. In Avengers he gets himself trapped in the glass room because he thinks he can take Loki on alone. In Thor his pride gets him banished and stripped of his power. In fact, The Dark World is the only Thor outing that doesn’t play up to his arrogance. Do you get the point yet? Thor is incredibly prideful, and it’s even his downfall in Infinity War (shocker).
You remember that scene in the very beginning where Thanos kills Heimdall, and Thor’s all like, “You’re going to die for that!” And then Thor’s axe Stormbreaker splits Thanos’ torso in two, but doesn’t kill him, and Thor says “I told you, you’d die for that.” Mmkay. So there’s that.
The directors are on record as saying that Infinity War is Thor’s movie second only to Thanos. I can completely understand that. Thor’s journey, his arc, is far more epic and more defining than any other characters’. He begins in the wreckage of his ship after Thanos killed half of the remaining Asgardians, he meets the Guardians, takes a pod with Rocket and Groot ALLLLLLLL the way to Nidavellir, cheers up Eitri the Dwarf, nearly dies creating Stormbreaker, winds up on Wakanda, almost kills Thanos, and watches his friends die. It’s a journey of a couple million light years. If Thanos hadn’t succeeded, or if the movie had been framed differently, it would be Thor’s movie without question. So now we add the ingredients together, and you’ll see why I blame Thor.
Stormbreaker is the ultimate weapon. Read that again. It is the ULTIMATE weapon. Why? Because where once a rainbow bridge with a sword keeper and unlimited power was used to summon the Bifrost, now a handheld axe can do it just as easily. It’s like upgrading your desktop from 2003 to a MacBook air in 2019. Major upgrade. It revives his power to fly, and even seems to give a chance to hover in the air in order to sharply change direction…like this thing actually gives him the power to fly instead of manipulating the air around him. Oh, by the way, it also IS STRONGER THAN ALL SIX INFINITY STONES COMBINED!! Remember when I mentioned that he basically split Thanos down the middle? Remember how he had to throw the axe directly at Thanos, who uses every bit of power in his gauntlet to try and stop the oncoming projectile, but Stormbreaker sliced right through all of it like butter?
Yeah. Eitri the Dwarf, who forged the Infinity Gauntlet also made Stormbreaker. That’s not a coincidence. When you’re capable of making the power object in the universe, you’re capable of making something more powerful than that. Clearly Eitri kept Stormbreaker in his back pocket for quite some time, hoping to put it to good use. Obviously he’d never tell Thanos about the power, but for someone like Thor, who’s grown to be worthy (but still with a tragic flaw), it’d be the perfect weapon. And it was. Until it was sorely misused.
My friend once told me, “Thor thought the axe to the chest would kill Thanos.” No he didn’t. “Yes he did.” No he did not. Why? Because after the axe went through Thanos’ chest, Thor lands and immediately says, “I told you you’d die for that.” Then he shoves the axe deeper into Thanos’ chest to add injury to sick burn. In this moment it all becomes clear. Thor thought he had more time to properly kill the Mad Titan. The throw was carefully orchestrated: hit him in the chest, don’t kill him just yet, get one last moment of vengeance, cause him some pain, then kill him when he has nothing left. You’ll notice that Thor’s not confused that the axe didn’t kill Thanos, nor is he upset he’s still alive. Thor had pre piously decided on his actions in order to have one last moment to gloat in Thanos’ face. One last moment of arrogance.
But if we had learned anything from Thanos over the course of Infinity War, it’s if you give him an inch, he’ll take the universe. For someone so dedicated to a cause, leaving him with one breath left in his body was a huge mistake. All he has to do is snap his bizarrely flexible metal glove, and poof. Everyone’s gone. Not me, though. I survived the snap. You’ll notice that once Thanos returns from the Soul World (yes, I firmly believe the orange environment in which he meets young Gamora is inside the Soul Stone), he looks incredibly confused. This is because even he wasn’t spared form the snap. So convinced he was that half of all life needed to be eliminated, that he was going to accomplish his goal even if it meant he’d turned to dust himself. Thor wasn’t confused because he never meant to kill him. He wanted one more moment to hold victory over Thanos’ head. Thanos just wanted to finish his task. This is what happens when selflessness (yeah, I said it) meets arrogance. This is why I firmly believe the aftermath of Infinity War lies squarely on Thor’s shoulders. He’s given the only weapon that can counteract the gauntlet, squanders its power in order to prove a point, and the snap still happens. Thor is the only character I can see blaming for the outcome of the greatest movie of 2018.
Now let me tell you why both of these arguments are completely wrong.
You can blame Star Lord if you want. You could blame Doctor Strange for abandoning his oath and giving Thanos the Time Stone. You could blame Scarlet Witch for leaving Vision’s side and joining the other Avengers during the fight in Wakanda. You could find some way to blame Gamora for not stabbing herself fast enough on Vormir if you’re dumb enough to conjure up a wafer thin argument for that.
But the reality of the issue is the following: Thanos was always going to get the Soul Stone. He was always going get the Time Stone, he was always going to make it to Earth, he was always going to get the Mind Stone, and he was always going to win. That’s the long and short of it. That’s how the film was orchestrated, and that’s the fate we as fans were always going to have to live with.
The absolutely beautiful thing about this movie is the fact that almost a year after Infinity War and with less than a month to Endgame, we’re STILL talking about it. How the fuck does this happen? When ever, in the history of cinema, have characters been embraced in a manner such as this? Yeah, we can blame other characters here and there for the outcome of this movie and that movie, but never (to my recollection) has the reach of these characters and the actions of their on screen existences been so cherished, debated, noteworthy or beloved. It’s the same reason why Thor can show up in Wakanda with Groot and Rocket, and a theatre in India erupts like a rock concert. It’s the same reason why I cried the first several dozen times I watch the Endgame trailer. It’s the reason why Captain Marvel, a relatively obscure character, can make more in 20 days than Batman and Superman, two of the most iconic characters of all time, can make during their entire theatrical run of 84 days ($918.9 million vs $873.6 million). This debate has run so hot for so long because we want to blame someone immediately involved with the situation, not someone behind the scenes. We want to find fault with these characters, because they seem so super, but they really are human. I’ll say it for the second article in a row, and for the second time in this particular article…Marvel’s grasp on the human existence is what makes debates like these so popular. Who’s fault is it? I blame Thor. You blame Star Lord. We blame some Hollywood bigwig producer who doesn’t understand the source material for the “Martha” incident. And we’re all right.
This is a rare situation we’ve found ourselves in. 10 years into the most successful shared universe of all time, and we’re discussing genuine character development, mistakes and tragic flaws. Not the writing. Not the direction. Not the things that don’t make sense. We’re discussing humanity. This is important.
I blame Thor.
Robbie Clark is a senior writer and contributor for Cinema Soapbox