Avengers: Infinity War Defines Love that Lasts Forever

Infinity War concept art by Ryan Meinerding.

WARNING: Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War ahead!

Avengers: Infinity War contrasts what cannot last with what endures forever. The main issues at stake are, after all, “infinity” stones. It’s intriguing that, despite their names, these stones command forces that are finite in scope within our universe: power, space, time, reality, soul, and mind. The one notable force that has no infinity stone is love—and perhaps, given the paradoxical nature of the other stones, this is intentional.

Thanks to the film’s enormous cast, there are an unusually large number of relationships hanging in the balance as Thanos stalks across the universe in search of the stones. And the explored relationships aren’t all on the heroes’ side; I was surprised to discover that part of Thanos’s motivation is his own twisted concept of love.

Selfish Love

Throughout the film, Thanos’s self-serving “love” is juxtaposed with the legitimate love demonstrated by the Avengers and the Guardians. First, there’s Thanos’s attitude towards the universe: according to Gamora, “he only ever had one goal: to wipe out half the universe.” Thanos believes it’s his job to maintain “balance.” He doesn’t see his actions as the destruction of billions of lives; he believes he’s giving the remaining billions the chance to experience better existences.

In the film, just like in life, sometimes we wonder if love is worth it.

Infinity War also highlights a much more personal relationship for Thanos: his status as a father to Gamora, whom he adopted after destroying half the population of her planet. Of all his “children,” Gamora is Thanos’s favourite, even though she hates everything about him. In order to obtain the soul stone, Thanos has to sacrifice what he loves most. Gamora taunts him, believing that there is nothing he loves, and therefore nothing he can sacrifice. However, Thanos begins to cry, then casts her into the sacrificial pit, gaining the soul stone by giving up his favourite child.

His reaction suggests that Thanos really loved Gamora—but his “love” was actually a warped emotion, no better than his desire for an infinity stone. Gamora was a tool he could command, a weapon that was valued for its obedience and its power to aid his destruction of the universe. Once a better weapon came along, and Gamora stood in the way of obtaining it, Thanos made the trade—and considered himself justified in doing so.

Sacrificial Love

In contrast to Thanos, the Avengers and the Guardians believe that love involves valuing individuals, instead of viewing the universe’s inhabitants as numbers on a scale. The heroes refuse to trade a life, even when doing so could save billions of others. Unlike their enemy, they know they don’t have the right to play God. They don’t try to decide who lives or dies; they do their best to save everyone—even when there’s a risk that their best won’t be good enough.

Again and again, the heroes choose to value every life instead of playing with the odds. Gamora asks Star-Lord to kill her to prevent Thanos from finding the soul stone, but he rebels against the idea. On Earth, Vision offers to sacrifice himself so that the mind stone he carries can be destroyed, but the Avengers refuse. Not only do the heroes reject Thanos’s methods for bringing “salvation” to the universe, but the real love in their individual relationships repeatedly reveals the falsity of Thanos’s ideals.

One of the best contrasts to Thanos is the father/son relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker. The broken look on Tony’s face when Peter dissolves into dust says it all. Unlike Thanos, who tortures his daughter Nebula to get information, Tony does everything he can to keep Peter out of harm’s way. Thanos causes pain for his children when it advances his cause, but Tony is devastated by losing Peter because he truly loves him.

The heroes refuse to trade a life, even when doing so could save billions of others.

Similarly, Loki shows tear-jerking affection for Thor by giving up the Tesseract so Thanos will stop torturing his brother. Loki dies trying to protect Thor, showing that his love for his brother was ultimately more important to him than the Tesseract’s power or even his own life.

Yet no relationship stands a greater test than the love between Wanda Maximoff and Vision. Wanda is the only one who can destroy the mind stone Vision carries, and in the end, she gives in to Vision’s pleading and does so. She knows that if she doesn’t, Thanos will take it by force.

It seems like Wanda’s decision follows Thanos’s ideology by trading Vision’s life for the greater good. But for Wanda, destroying the stone is all about Vision, the man she loves. When Thanos shows up on earth and tears through the heroes’ army, she and Vision both realize that Vision’s death is inevitable. If he dies by Wanda’s hand, not only will the stone stay beyond Thanos’s reach, but Vision can die peacefully—as he tells Wanda, “You could never hurt me. All I feel is you.” Wanda makes her heartbreaking decision, not just to save the world, but to spare the man she loves as much pain as possible, and she sacrifices her own heart to do it.

The Cost of Real Love

Ultimately, all the relationships in Infinity War lead to a single question, asked by an illusion of child Gamora: “What did it cost?” These relationships involve loss and sacrifice. In the film, just like in life, sometimes we wonder if love is worth it. The message of this movie is that the cost of love is high. Is it a cost worth paying?

The answer depends on what kind of love it is. Thanos’s love involves sacrificing the people he cares about for his own sake. His love is a lie, an excuse for using people any way he wants. The only person he truly loves is himself, because that’s who he makes sacrifices for. But the love of the Avengers and Guardians involves sacrificing themselves for the people they care about. Their love is legitimate because it isn’t selfish; the heroes take the cost on themselves to spare those they love.

As Thanos wreaks destruction and the world disintegrates around our heroes, everything is stripped away—except for the relationships they have treasured. These relationships aren’t based on finite foundations of selfish ambition; they’re rooted in the heroes’ decisions to value each other as an individuals and friends, no matter the personal sacrifice required. Ultimately, Infinity War shows that the only force that lasts forever, after the dust settles and the Titan has snapped his fingers, is real, selfless love.

Caitlin Eha

Caitlin Eha

Staff Writer at Area of Effect magazine
A published writer and aspiring novelist, Caitlin can usually be found with her head in the clouds and her heart in a faraway land. When she isn’t devouring a new favourite book or feverishly writing one of her own, she enjoys archery, cosplaying, jewelry making, and time with her Lord.
Caitlin Eha