Saturday, April 28, 2018

On Dr. Strange's choice and the paradox at the end of the Avengers: Infinity War

Warning: spoilery AF.

I was annoyed with two things at the end of Infinity War, but I now think the Russo Brothers played fair, though they may have created a paradox they did not see.

1. Dr. Strange choosing to surrender his stone looks like he's choosing to surrender.

2. Killing off franchise characters who we know will return suggests the next movie will undo everything in this one, which is a writing trick that's just as cheap as learning something was a dream sequence, a hallucination, or anything else that creates a story without consequences.

But here's what I think is going on:

Using the Eye of Agamotto, aka the Time Stone, Dr. Strange saw only one way to defeat Thanos: By letting Thanos win. When that happens, Fury will summon Captain Marvel, and with her help, the Avengers will defeat Thanos and undo what he did.

But there's a problem with that: it suggests that no matter what the Avengers do, they will win, because no matter how they lose, Fury will summon Captain Marvel and they'll win.

I see two ways to undo this:

1. Establish that something the Avengers did inspired Fury to call Captain Marvel.

2. Convince us that even with Captain Marvel, the Avengers are sure to lose.

The problem with #2 is it follows Fury's decision to call Captain Marvel—the only way we can be completely convinced that the Avengers might lose will be if they do lose. So long as they win, winning seems to follow inevitably from Thanos's victory. Which is why, artistically, the first choice would be more satisfying.

Ah, well. It's a minor quibble. I'm sure I'll like the sequel, even if it does suffer from the sort of paradox that time travel stories often generate.

ETA: As for making this movie matter when the Avengers finally win, the solution is simple: someone has to die to undo what Thanos did. I think we know who that will be.