Look I know that Marvel movies aren’t considered top-tier cinema to movie snobs like Martin Scorsese, but they’re fun and popular, and maybe for that reason alone they’re culturally important. So I’ll say some stuff about some of them because I guess that’s what blogs are for.
The good thing about interpreting stories is that there’s some flexibility to it, and even when the story makers are still alive, it’s considered bad form to explain what you intended when you wrote a story. So even if I’m totally wrong about my interpretation, I’ll get away with it unless the Russo brothers read this and tell me I’m wrong. But that would be cool too.
My thesis is as follows: Thor is depicted as a Jesus figure in Infinity War, and the Avengers as the Church in Endgame.
1. Thor as Jesus Figure in Infinity War
The obvious stuff later in the movie is hardly worth mentioning: Thor has to stretch his arms out crosslike in order for Stormbreaker to be made so that Thanos can be defeated, only after Rocket and Eitri repeatedly explain to him that doing this will kill him. The entire scene is contrived – there’s no reason why the machine needs to be broken in that particular place, or that they can’t repair it with an old chain instead of an Avenger’s nearly-charred carcass. Overall this small detail adds 4 minutes to an already long movie.
But it’s not a single scene. The rest of the Avengers are meanwhile getting their butts kicked by Thanos and his army, whether on earth or on Titan. It’s only when Thor shows up with Stormbreaker (in a scene whose epicness we thought was unmatchable until Endgame came out) that we’re given any reasonable hope the good guys might win. So Thor’s side quest finding the right weapon, which begins as soon as the Guardians of the Galaxy find him floating in space, is central to the whole plot.
In fact, the first hints are dropped in that very (very funny) scene. Thor is floating around space, he hits the windshield of the Benatar, the Guardians drag him in. Star Lord is induced to jealousy after Gamora and Drax admire Thor’s muscles and fat-shame Star Lord, respectively. Drax gives Thor various descriptions before he’s conscious, such as “it’s like a pirate had a baby with an angel.” Star Lord, in his jealousy, begins to make his voice deeper when Thor wakes up.
The whole scene is a grab bag of randomness, but one way to tie it all together is to see it as another bit of contriving on the part of the writers (I mean, when would we ever expect Gamora to be…flirty?). The goal, in this case, is to get Drax to utter the line “you’re imitating the god-man.” He says it to Star Lord in mockery, but man that’s a helluva line, and it makes sense of everything else in the scene. Thor is set up as a god-man, one who will willingly sacrifice his life by extending his arms with the goal of saving the world, and who descends from heaven in a ray of light to turn the tide in the battle against evil happening on earth.
2. Meanwhile on Earth
While all this is happening, a group of Avengers are on earth arguing about what to do about Thanos. The relevant detail about their argument is the line, repeated more than once during the movie, “we don’t trade lives.”
That’s exactly the difference between the Avengers and Thanos, of course. Thanos is willing to trade lives – he’s willing to kill some people to help some other people (even Gamora to get the Soul Stone). In his mind, it’s a fair trade – half die so the other half can live better, more comfortable, environmentally-friendly, lives. The Avengers, on the other hand, aren’t willing to kill even one innocent in order to stop Thanos’s massacre.
Any number of people could have been sacrificed to prevent the disastrous ending. Remember, Thanos needed all six stones. If they had destroyed Vision and the Mind Stone with him (which Wanda did, but too late), OR if Loki had let Thor die rather than give up the Space Stone, OR if Dr. Strange had broken his vow and destroyed the Time Stone, the tragedy could have avoided. It was the good guys sticking to their good guy principles that allowed evil to win the day. If they had been just a little bit more Thanos-y, they could have stopped Thanos. Impressive set up to a dark temptation. Pretty good for a comic book movie.
The only character willing to be a little Thanos-y is Dr. Strange, who tells Iron Man and Spider Man that he wouldn’t hesitate to let them die in order to keep the Time Stone. But when he peers into the future(s), he realizes that this won’t work. Even pragmatism has to admit its limitations. The only way to win is with a little bit of idealism.
3. Endgame: Imitating the God-Man
Of course, the god-man fails, due to a bit of bad judgment. Thanos survives and snaps, half the universe turns to ash, and everyone is sad even though we know everything will be okay in the next movie because it’s Marvel. But still, Spider-Man saying he’s sorry brought a tear to your eye or you’re as bad as Thanos.
Thor fails because, well, he’s a Jesus figure but not Jesus. Or, he failed because Jesus’s sacrifice saved souls, not population numbers. The death of the God-man opened the gate of heaven, but we have our own role in whether we walk through it or not. In order for evil to be defeated in our own lives, we have to imitate the God-man, and in order for Thanos to be defeated in the MCU, the Avengers have to imitate the god-man. They have to trade lives – not those of others, but their own. It’s not enough to be non-Thanos; to save all of life, they have to become anti-Thanos.
Iron Man and Black Widow give their lives actually and knowingly. But Hawkeye intends to – he fought Widow till the last second. Hulk makes the reverse-snap not having any idea whether he’ll survive it. Cap, in probably the best shot in the entire MCU, stands up, tightens his shield, and walks back to fight Thanos and his whole army alone, not knowing that the Scene of Greatest Epicness was about to happen. Adding Thor who was willing to give his life in Infinity War, that’s all six Avengers explicitly choosing to die, to trade lives, so that Thanos can be defeated. Thor does it first, but for good to really win, everyone has to imitate the god-man.