[Welcome back to Fact or Fiction! Today, Chas Andres, Brad Nelson, Mark Nestico, and Emma Handy render their verdicts on five statements about the movie no one can stop talking about - Avengers: Infinity War! Don't forget to vote for the winner at the end!]
1. After Doctor Strange used the Time Stone to view millions of possible futures, you believed him when he told Tony Stark that there's only one in which Thanos loses.
Chas Andres: Fact. I see no reason to doubt the master of the mystic arts here. Plus, there must be a reason why Doctor Strange gave the Time Stone to Thanos instead of defending it with his life like he was doing back when Low Rent Magneto was poking him full of needles. Does he seem like the sort of person who would forsake his sworn duty on the off-chance that Thanos might spare Tony Stark? Doctor Strange doesn't even like Tony Stark! He's no Captain America, who absolutely would have risked half the people in the universe to save one of his buddies. (In fact, he kind of did.)
No, Doctor Strange picked the one moment where he knew he could give the stone to Thanos without drawing the Mad Titan's suspicion. In Magic, we call this "playing to your outs." Doc took the only line of play that might lead The Avengers to a win, and I suspect we'll see it accomplished at some point next May.
Brad Nelson: Fact . "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot." - Albert Einstein
Does it matter? Even if you're in Tony Stark's shoes, would it matter? The only question that would need to be answered is whether Doctor Strange was on your side. The battle over information is not one we, or even Iron Man, can win at this point. Iron Man has quickly went from a King to a Pawn in this scenario, and he will have to make the choice to trust Doctor Strange's alliance or not. That's all that really matters. Doctor Strange must have a reason not divulging everything to Tony Stark right from the get go. Tony must trust this and so do we.
Now if we want to look at this more from a statistical standpoint there's probably more than just one scenario where Thanos does in fact lose, but the cost may be too high for Doctor Strange to try to go down those roads. Even in our own history, war has come with hindsight scenarios where decisions have been scrutinized as inhumane. One of the most blatant examples of this was Winston Churchill's decision to execute strategic bombing against Germany in World War II. He decided his air force was best used to break the morale of the German people by bombing civilian homes even though it was later found that strategic bombings didn't negatively impact morale. It just killed a lot of innocent people and wasted a resource.
Doctor Strange doesn't have this issue with hindsight given his ability to see all possible conclusions to this situation. He might even know that by telling Iron Man there's only one future where they win is somehow a self-fulfilling prophecy that motivates the mastermind to achieving the goals. After all, there's evidence that backs the psychology behind "one chance" opportunities. Simply telling Iron Man what needs to happen could, in fact, cause it not to.
Mark Nestico: Fact. To think for a moment that Dr. Strange's plan wasn't carried out to perfection is sheer lunacy. A full-frontal attack and disarmament of the Infinity Gauntlet while Thanos is lulled into a haze by Mantis working is ridiculous at best and insulting to the Mad Titan at worst. Strange said it best when he told Tony that they were "playing for the end game." This means the good Doctor likely explained to the team that to beat Thanos, they must first let him win. Dr. Strange knew Iron Man for about 15 minutes, and in that time, there's a zero percent chance he'd give up the Time Stone just because Stark was getting the screws put to him. My prediction is that Dr. Strange and company formulated a plan in which Thanos achieved the level of victory he desired, but think for a moment: Iron Man's suit is made entirely of nanites. That punch…that hit that made Thanos bleed? My bet is that Iron Man planted the seeds within Thanos himself for a battle down the line, and when it happens, Iron Man is going to cash in. Strange knew Tony would survive the purge, and in doing so, knows that he and those left can finish what they started. There is one outcome in which they are victorious…but it's in the next movie.
Emma Handy: Fact. Obviously.
Dr. Strange's prophecy involves him dying. Reality as it currently sits is hardly something that Steven Strange would desire. He had to swallow his pride by giving up the Time Stone to save Tony and then literally cease to exist.
Theoretically, Strange could be a double-agent for Thanos, but that's getting into some really deep comic book logic.
On top of the aforementioned points, has Benedict Cumberbatch ever been scripted to act in a way that isn't correct in the long run?
2. If it weren't for Peter Quill's inability to control his emotions, Strange, Stark, Nebula, and the rest of the gang would have been able to get the Infinity Gauntlet off of Thanos.
Chas Andres: Fact. Look, Peter Quill is my man. If I could do anything with my life, I would wander around space with a misfit crew while listening to seventies music. In fact, here is a link to my Awesome Mix "extended version" playlist on Spotify which includes all the songs on the first two Awesome Mixes plus a bunch of others that I wish had made the list. Did I punch the air and tell everybody I knew when I predicted at least a third of the songs on Awesome Mix #2? You bet I did.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are like a goofy D&D campaign that has somehow stumbled into the Marvel Universe. I love them for that, but they have all the chill and situational awareness of real-life emotional teenagers sitting around a table in somebody's wood-paneled basement. Plus, PETER ALMOST SHOT GAMORA like, three hours earlier. Oh…and THANOS JUST THREW A MOON AT THEM! Should he REALLY be shocked that Thanos sacrificed her? I can understand Gamora being surprised at what Thanos did since she knew the guy, but why is Peter so shocked? (Side note: Gamora's soul is still totally alive inside the Soul Stone, right?)
Anyhow, the rest of the Far-Out Space Nuts almost had Thanos' glove all the way off before he regained consciousness, so I suspect they could have succeeded if Peter had even halfway understood the stakes he was dealing with. The counterargument is that Doctor Strange must have foreseen this and could have sidelined Peter, of course, so we'll just have to assume that Thanos would have just picked the gauntlet back up or something.
Brad Nelson: Fact. This question goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Now that Doctor Strange has set us on a proverbial fate-driven story arc, it's easy to assume all actions must play out the way they do. If Star-Lord (who calls him by his real name Cedric?) doesn't punch, Thanos is his stupid face then the rest of the squad gets the gauntlet. What then? Well most likely Thanos loses this battle, but eventually gets them without the Avenger resistance in his way. He does what he's set out to, but without a team assembled to stop him. Maybe he just gets it back right here and now but kills Iron Man in the process. Maybe Tony's needed and Doctor Strange knows that. Who really knows, but Marvel made us go down this path so now we just must assume Doctor Strange set things in motion the way they needed to happen. It's not the greatest way to tell a story, but it makes sense when one of your characters can literally see into the future.
Mark Nestico: Fiction. Star-Lord might be the most annoying, albeit entertaining, hero in Marvel's gallery, but an idiot he is not. Striking Thanos was the catalyst for him gaining "leverage" over Dr. Strange. Sure, they might have gotten the Gauntlet off Thanos…but then what? They couldn't destroy it, and Gauntlet or no Gauntlet Thanos massively outguns and overpowers the heroes he was fighting against. His feats without the Gauntlet throughout comic history are still on par with galactic-busting abilities, and he's easily one of the most ferocious physical combatants and strategists in all the Marvel universe. Getting the glove off was all part of the master plan. Notice how no one gave Star-Lord the business after his outburst? He was just following orders.
Emma Handy: Fact. This question is somewhat loaded.
The short answer is probably. We see Spidey start to slide the gauntlet off and Thanos catch it with his finger at the last second, so given a few more seconds he theoretically would've muscled it away.
That being said, Dr. Strange saw 14,000,650 different futures and there's only one in which they defeat Thanos. Given my belief that they're currently on that path, it's hard to imagine that there weren't some futures that Quill didn't last out and interrupt Tony and Peter's gauntlet-grabbing.
To take it another step further, before Dr. Strange had investigated the future, Gamora made Peter promise to kill her if Thanos captured her. His emotions forcing him to hesitate had given Thanos time to use the Reality Stone and prevent Quill from fulfilling his promise. If he'd looked past his emotions and been able to do what he promised before Thanos could react, that could've changed Strange's prophecy entirely.
Tl;dr: "No," in the spirit of the question, and "probably" if we look at the entire movie.
3. If you were the Black Panther (#WakandaForever), you would have left the forcefield up around Wakanda…forever.
Chas Andres: Fact. The real question here is what sort of mind control Scarlet Witch was using on Captain America, Black Panther, and literally everybody else in this section of the film.
Loki gave up the Space Stone because he thought he could outsmart Thanos-makes sense for his character. Doctor Strange gave up the Time Stone because he saw the future-great. But Vision was the only character in his section of the film who had the right idea about the Mind Stone: destroy it immediately.
I get why Scarlet Witch didn't go in for that because love makes you do crazy things, but at what point do the rest of them just say, "yeah, okay, enough is enough"? To me, that point comes well before thousands of proud Wakandans must give up their lives to save a single robot. At the very least, grab your dang dropships and drones and use them to deploy and patrol around your barrier!
This is part of why I found the ending of Infinity War so satisfying, by the way. At no point were most of The Avengers willing to make a sacrifice to stop Thanos; they just kept doing Big Dumb Hero Stuff and assuming that they'd stop him eventually because that's what happens in movies like this. The only person who understood the stakes and made the necessary sacrifice without flinching was…Thanos.
Brad Nelson: Fiction. I mean, the movie told us why they couldn't. The monsters were getting in whether they liked it or not, and being flanked was worse than the alternative. I really don't know what else so say so I'll choose to save my strength for the next question.
Mark Nestico: Fiction. It was already demonstrated by the hellhound army that their sheer numbers could push through the forcefield, leaving thousands dead but still allowing a suitable amount to pass through. If they surrounded the field like T'Challa realized they were doing, they'd have had the Wakandan forces surrounded on route to overrunning the palace and potentially stopping the operation to remove Vision's stone. Opening the shield provided a bottleneck for their forces to funnel through and a point to target. Besides…they just went under the shield anyways.
Emma Handy: Fiction. Absolutely not.
Killmonger was right on many accounts and was likely the first true "Antihero" that we saw in the movies. His extremism was horrid, but the idea that Wakanda's greed had had a net-negative impact on history is absolutely correct.
T'Challa ending Wakanda's age of isolationism was such a fantastic ending to the story that Black Panther had to tell.
4. Much like Eric Killmonger in Black Panther, Thanos is a villain one could sympathize with. After all, overpopulation is a real problem.
Chas Andres: Fiction. Overpopulation is a lazy way of thinking about a series of much more complex issues. On one hand, there's enough space in the state of Texas to give every person on earth a 10 by 10 room of their own. On the other, if everybody on earth were to live like Americans do, you'd need the resources of at least ten or eleven planets. Either Overpopulation isn't a problem at all, or it's a far bigger problem than even Thanos thinks it is.
(Incidentally, there isn't a lot of consensus on how Earth's population curves are going to play out in real life. Some scientists think that the population will keep rising until we all choke, but many others point to shrinking birth rates throughout the developed world and believe that we'll peak and level off on our own.)
Regardless, the real issue-at least for now-isn't overpopulation, it's resource allocation. There's plenty to go around right now, but it tends to be hoarded by a small group of rich and powerful corporations. Killmonger understood this and wanted to turn the tables. If Thanos had his way in our world, however, the world's current mechanisms of oppression would remain in place. If anything, the haves would grab even more from the have-nots during the resulting chaos, fear, and mourning.
Plus, Thanos' solution to overpopulation isn't even permanent-it would likely have to be repeated in every generation, which would only lead to more chaos, fear, and mourning. He's like that one dude who read The Fountainhead during his freshman year of college and based his entire life philosophy on a bunch of half-baked twitter threads from misguided ideologues with usernames like xXJOHNGALT420Xx.
Plus, the Infinity Gauntlet can kind of do anything, right? Why not make a million new planets and stick half the universe's population on there? Checkmate, Thanos.
Brad Nelson: Fiction. I'm going to try to keep this as short as I can. Thanos is just wrong all the way down to his hypothesis that overpopulation is a serious issue that can cause extinction. This is a commonly used narrative that's backed by the Malthusian trap which states that excess population would stop growing due to shortage of food supply leading to starvation. While it's true that population can grow exponentially while food supplies grow arithmetically.
For example, you have a group of rabbits eating from a field of grass. They're going to produce enough rabbits until there's no more grass to eat causing them to starve. Then because there's less rabbits the grass grows back which lets the rabbits grow back. The rabbits continue to go up and over the carrying capacity of the field of grass. Humans don't work this way though. We've seen a population decrease in the First World even though we have increasing resources. It takes a civilization reproducing at a minimum of 2.1 per generation to sustain their current population, yet that is not what we're experiencing here in America.
Thanos' preventative actions to stave off suffering can also be argued to be misguided even if his understanding of how overpopulation works was correct. Thanos believes it to be more humane to painlessly extract a person from existence than it is to allow them to experience potential pain and suffering. In this case that would involve starvation, disease, and many other horrible things that come with famine. He makes the choice for all of existence and wipes out half of it to save the rest.
First of all, how can he be omniscient enough to know every planet is in need of this "service?" Surely overpopulation isn't an epidemic throughout the cosmos. Maybe, to him, it will eventually be, but that would be oddly careless of his character if he was in fact acting as a virtuous being. It's just all too sinister when you consider that he has taken the choice away from people.
It also doesn't make any damn sense. Population growth is exponential and would only take roughly 30 years for Earth to repopulate after Thanos' finger snap. Who knows what other species are capable of! Does that mean he stops looking at sunrises long enough to do it all over again?
Mark Nestico: Fact. Thanos in the movies is significantly different than Thanos in the comic books, but a single thread remains: Pragmatism. Being a pragmatist in the Marvel Universe is a superpower in its own right, and even though it sounds troubling, Thanos always has had the interests of the Universe at heart. In the film he expressed to Gamora that her planet was on the verge of collapse before he arrived, and now, years after his genocide of half the planet, it is flush with life, peace, and security. Thanos in Infinity War isn't trying to impress the woman he loves, Mistress Death, so his motives are seemingly more simplistic to deduce. The universe has a finite amount of resources, and over however millennia populations expand, those resources will continue to get swallowed up, leading to eventual extinction. This is observable and entirely possible, and Thanos is only trying to prevent that. Although, to be fair, he could have just snapped his fingers and wished for infinite resources…but what fun would that be?
Emma Handy: Fiction. In spite of poor methodology, Killmonger's final goal was to unite humans on a global scale.
Thanos wants to kill people because his people died.
Firstly, Thanos's problem isn't even a solution. It's a band-aid. He snaps his fingers, wipes out half of life on Earth (in the universe, but for the sake of this example, we'll stick to the life forms with which we're familiar), and then what? Do people stop reproducing? A quick google search tells me that we have 7 billion people on the planet, and we reached 3.5 billion in the mid-sixties. Is Thanos just gonna wipe out half of Earth's population every half-century? That hardly seems realistic. [Yeah, let's break out the unrealistic card at this point. - Danny, clueless editor]
Most species will eventually repopulate to their current numbers, and then we're right back where he started.
Secondly, and risking a political slant in this discussion, there seems to be more of a resource distribution problem on Earth than there is an overpopulation problem. There are more houses than homeless; more food thrown away than there are hungry people.
Thanos doesn't want to help people; he wants to kill people.
5. Hawkeye is actually the most powerful Avenger and his arrow wielding prowess would have solved all the problems everyone was having with Thanos.
Chas Andres: Fact. I think Katniss Everdeen proved that arrows are still cool, and Thanos might not have been able to snap his fingers, if, say HE NO LONGER HAD EYEBALLS. Eh? Eh?
In all seriousness, I do think that Hawkeye's presence was missing from the team. He was pretty clearly writer/director Joss Whedon's self-insert character in the first two Avengers films, so I'm not surprised that nobody invited him to the club, but I think he would have had a way of looking at the situation that was somehow both empathetic and considerate of the bigger picture. I don't think any of Hawkeye's arrows would have made much of a difference once Thor showed up and started casting Chain Lightning on that army of dogs or whatever, but he might have been able to get the gang to see what had to be done with Vision much earlier on. Instead, we had Captain America treating the whole thing like a tactical mission where difficult sacrifices were completely off the table. There's nobody I'd rather want in my foxhole than Captain America, but you can kind of see here why he was never promoted to General America.
Brad Nelson: Fiction. I really wanted to go down the path of answering fact so I could then say he gets all his powers from his wife. I've been in love with Linda Cardellini ever since Freaks and Geeks. She was my first celebrity crush, and there's just no getting away from that. Of course I'd root for the lucky guy that got to marry her!
That's if any of it was believable. Every time Hawkeye or The Falcon are on screen I just assume they're going to die. I get Black Widow as she's like our planet's best assassin, and even War Machine since he's in an Iron Man suit, but then that opens Pandora's box. Why aren't all of these "just human" characters not fully protected in an Iron Man suit. I mean, even Spiderman is in one now proving that you can have individuality and common sense at the same time and still tell a great story.
Like seriously, there's bad guys out there that are tearing holes into Thor and Hulk's skin yet we really believe Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Falcon wouldn't just get obliterated in one of these encounters. Humans are not that durable. I mean for crying out loud my cat just jumped onto my lap, and one of her claws "got me." I'm currently bleeding a small amount while writing words on a computer. Black Widow fights aliens whose only existence is killing people. This is just wildly irresponsible!
Hawkeye never misses...at disappointing me as a character. Go back to fudging your golf scores.
Mark Nestico: Fiction. Hawkeye is an incredible physical specimen, but this comes down to the Batman "how much prep time does he have?" In a vacuum, Clint Barton would be murdered in a handful of seconds. Hawkeye is usually put up against similar foes- Trick Shot, Taskmaster, Bullseye…guys that are peak human conditioning as well as master strategists and weapon handlers, and sure- in a few semi-canon instances Hawkeye has bested Iron Man or She-Hulk; in the end he's also been demolished by much, much weaker foes than Thanos. Thanos without the Gauntlet has been able to hold his own against Hulk, Galactus, Dr. Doom, and more. The power gap here is too freakish. While he'd put up a valiant struggle, Hawkeye simply doesn't belong in the discussion of people who can potentially defeat Thanos. He doesn't even belong in the discussion of people who should be nominated to carry Thanos' jock strap. Just remember: with prep time Hawkeye can probably shoot out an eye. With prep time Thanos has become a god or omnipotent on several occasions. Hello and Good Luck, Clint!
Emma Handy: Fiction. Tough.
Hawkeye was first introduced during the first Avengers, where he is immediately captured and forced to attack droves of unnamed people. In the time since he's never actually done anything relevant to a character with a name.
So, on one hand, he hasn't done anything useful ever, so why would he start now? On the other, it feels like he's just about due for some semblance of relevance.
I think it'd be too big of a twist. So false.