Best Marvel Ever! Kudos to the directors and the editors to assemble so many heroes impeccably into a story of this complexity. The storylines are clear and cohesive. The tempo is well balanced and composed. Visual effects are as good as always.
Thanos is the biggest tragedy in the film and demands you ponder over the issues in the real world.
While all the superheroes have their individual foibles and weaknesses, making them highly relatable to common audiences, Thanos is almost flawless and God-like. He has unparalleled strength, intellect and will power to act on his faith (a galaxy version of Malthusianism) and realize his vision (to restore the balance of universe via massacre). One would secretly wish to be as strong in face of the fickle yet inescapable fate in reality. This formidable demigod, contrary to the common presumption about a villain, has a human side to him. He truly loves Gamora, his adopted daughter. The Soul Stone on his gauntlet is a testament to it. He seems to own a sense of integrity and fairness that he believes people should not be judged by their races, ranks and wealth, and none is superior enough to be the judge, not even himself, so he leaves the dice of death to the hand of fate.
So… what makes such a seemingly correctly built character so fundamentally wrong?
To start with, his unadulterated belief rooted in Malthusianism, the idea that “population growth is potentially exponential while the growth of food supply is linear” and “population growth will eventually outstrip resources” (Wikipedia). Thanos’s personal experience, witnessing Titan, his home star, to perish due to overpopulation, anchors and deepens his conviction. So confined by Malthusianism and consumed by his own traumatizing experience, Thanos fails to see a way out of the doomed end of galaxy except for holocaust. The exponential potential of science and technology development has never flickered across his mind.
While Thanos is fictional, Malthusianism, developed from the works of the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus in the late 18th century, is a recurrent theme in our real life. It has fueled many social and political movements and initiatives, such as birth control, and underpinned racist beliefs and eugenics programs in the 19th and 20th centuries. Though the validity of the theory begs questions, it does demand our deliberation over one question – What action should we take before it’s too late?
To develop science and technology is likely to be an immediate and promisinganswer. But is it enough? Will it be fast enough? Isn’t science and technology always a double edged sword? Are we aware of and ready to bear the consequences that could possibly rise therefrom? In Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”, she depicts a Republic of Gilead, where science and technology becomes an accomplice to the extinction of humanity by indulging people’s insatiable desires and needs. In this horrifyingly alarming fiction, fertile women are reduced to the regime’s public property and tools for reproduction and self-preservation.
Thanos has obviously come to the same question. As strong-willed as he is, he takes actions. He kills to save. He slaughters for salvation. He wages wars in the name of the Savior. Doesn’t this sound somewhat familiar?
In his relentless pursuit to restore the balance of universe, Thanos slides off the balance scale of his own. Massacre is his means to his mission, but the end, however glorious and embellished it seems, does NOT justify the means, and humanity, whether in one’s own person or in the person of another, should be not be used merely as means to an end (Immanuel Kant, 1785).
Each person has his own body, his own mind, and his own life. He has an inalienable right to live it as he sees fit, to act on his own judgement, to pursue the values of his choosing. So does Thanos. But he MUST NOT dismiss the independent reason in all other individual rational beings, put himself above all others, dictates as he sees fit, “snaps the finger” as he sees necessary, and used other beings merely as means to an end. This is why Thanos shall not prevail.
Thanos has everything that it takes to be a hero, the strength, the intellect, the knowledge, the will power, and all the six stones. Yet only to a supervillain will he turn. When he smiled in the rosy glory of sunset, all relieved and fulfilled, ignorant of his own evil and sin, toward the end of the movie,I sighed silently.