*Here, there may be
Recently, Bryan Young over at Syfy.com wrote an interesting piece about how Avengers: Infinity War owes a debt to Star Wars: Episode I and Seven Samurai.
While I won’t deign to argue extensively with Bryan’s reasoning, as he is so insinuated into Star Wars both as a fan as well as professionally, I will simply say that not everything can owe Episode I.
(I know it’s a favorite of his in the Star Wars Galaxy.)
Regardless, his points about stylistic influences are valid, as are some of his deductions regarding the final bits of both Avengers: Infinity War and Seven Samurai as they relate to Thanos and the final Samurai looking back over what they have accomplished, and at what cost.
Perhaps one of the biggest influences Bryan may have missed (or considered and discarded) is the influence of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” on the story arc of Avengers: Infinity War.
In “Foundation,” Asimov introduces us to Hari Seldon, a “psychohistorian” who, through the use of mathematics, as well as historical and social study, can predict the evolution of a society, a planet, or even a Galactic Empire, based on past events.
How does this relate to Avengers: Infinity War?
In essence, Hari Seldon (from beyond the grave, mind you) predicts the fall of the Empire, the circumstances that lead to the fall, as well as the events that post-date the fall, as well as how to mitigate the millennia-long recovery of civilization, through the dark ages of the loss of technology, by doing one simple thing:
But how can doing nothing change anything? Surely, we must do something to avoid allowing civilization to be lost (or Thanos to destroy half the Universe), mustn’t we?
No. And the solution is elegant and has already arguably been set in motion by the events of Infinity War.
Importantly, in “Foundation,” the solution is to simply allow events to occur, to maintain the status quo, until a series of crisis points is reached, and only then acting.
But how is one to know when a crisis point is reached? When only one choice is left to make; that is to say, when there is no other choice available. Only then will an action cause events to develop in such as way as has been foreseen in order to reach a predicted, or desired, outcome. But the society cannot know this is the way things must develop, or else their action/inaction between the present and the crisis point will overly influence the predictive model, rendering it useless.
In Infinity War, Doctor Strange agrees to Tony Stark’s plan to continue to Thanos’ home world of Titan, to take the fight to him there rather than on Earth, where they know Thanos is headed. Strange agrees to this because Stark doesn’t know which choice is correct; Stark admits Thanos has been “living in his head” for six years, since the Battle of New York in The Avengers, and so cannot trust any decision he might make, and so makes the unexpected one.
The status quo here was to continue on the path they were already on, rather than alter it.
While awaiting Thanos’ return to Titan, Strange looks ahead at possible outcomes of the war (14 million-plus of them) and discovers ONE–a single one–outcome in which they are victorious.
When Thanos finally returns to secure the Time Stone from Strange, the various heroes battle until they are beaten, and Strange surrenders the Time Stone to Thanos, telling Tony, “We’re in the endgame now.”
Thanos returns to Earth to gain the final stone, the Mind Stone, from Vision. Up until this point, the Earth-bound Avengers had developed a plan to destroy the Mind Stone (and Vision along with it), thus keeping it from Thanos, but felt compelled to take an alternate path, one where they remove the stone from Vision first, in oder to avoid “killing” him.
In the end, they cannot remvoe the Mind Stone in time, and are forced to destroy it and the Vision as Thanos is about to take it–when they have no other choice–only to be twarted as Thanos uses the Time Stone to rewind time enough to take the Mind Stone before it is destroyed.
As Thanos completes his plan, snapping his fingers and ending half the universe, Strange tells Stark “This is the only way,” before fading away into non-existence.
“The only way…”
Thanos took what he percieved to be the only action–the destruction of half the universe–gaining the Soul Stone through the only action possible to him–the sacrifice of Gamora–in odrder to do so. Strange fought Thanos, knowing he could not win, and only surrended the Time Stone at a point when all other choices had been eliminated.
It was the only way.
Avengers 4 (as yet untitled), may follow this formula through to its end, with both Thanos and the remaining heroes being reduced to taking the only actions left to them at critical points, unknowingly playing a part in a greater universal struggle Thanos himself does not yet understand…