Just saw the new Marvel Avengers movie (yeah, I know I’m late. Life is kind of full) and I am having very coachy thoughts that I would like to share and discuss with some coachy friends. I actually love critical analysis but if you aren’t into the Marvel stuff, or if you haven’t watched the last two Avengers movies, no need to read on. BTW, SPOILER ALERTS ALL OVER THE PLACE!
Avengers Infinity War
Avengers Infinity War was a devastating movie. Our band of heroes find themselves with a nearly impossible task – to save the world. And (spoiler alert) by the end they are not successful. It was a movie where you could actually sympathize with the villain and think, “Well he has a point: There would be more for everyone and less strain on the planet if we just eliminate half the population overnight.” But the key to Thanos’ success is not that he had a great evil plan. The key to his success was that he was committed. No matter what it took, he was willing to risk everything to fulfill his commitment.
There are several instances of this in the film, but the most poignant is when he travels to a weird and dark planet with his daughter Gamora to retrieve the Soul Stone. He is informed that he can only receive it if he is willing to give up what he loves. A soul for a soul. And with only half a second’s hesitation he pushes his daughter off of a crazy mountain to meet her death. Now it’s easy to think that maybe he was cold hearted or didn’t love her. But then you see Gamora’s origin story and how kind he was to her, saving her even as he destroyed the rest of her planet, and then raised her as his own. He loved her, and yet for his commitment to his vision of what the world could be, was willing to sacrifice even that love.
The Avengers however, our heroes, are faced time and time again with opportunities to test their commitment.
Instead we find them in a series of perpetual breakdowns:
1. They refuse to destroy the Mind Stone (stored in Vision’s head) which would have made Thanos’ task of acquiring all 6 stones impossible. AND they waste a lot of time on a distracting side project to try to extract it without killing Vision. Like there’s a trip to Wakanda and e’rything.
BREAKDOWN – I want to shout at them “It doesn’t have to be so hard!”
2. Star Lord promises to kill Gamora (commitment in service of saving the world) if Thanos ever captures her – she knows that he will be able to find out from her the location of the Soul Stone. And when Gamora is captured, Star Lord hesitates. And then Gamora eventually leads Thanos to the stone, and ultimately to her own demise.
BREAKDOWN – he said he would kill her – he didn’t. Instead, what’s at stake is saving the whole planet.
3. The team lures Thanos to them to make an attempt at retrieving the stones he has so far acquired. They have him in a hold and it looks like they might overtake him until Nebula deduces that Thanos has killed Gamora and then a whole bunch of feelings lead to someone jumping Thanos, and the group hold breaks.
BREAKDOWN – Avengers were not coming from Essence and allowed their feelings to control their actions. Messy.
4. With the hold on him broken, Thanos captures Tony Stark and holds him hostage until Dr. Strange gives him the Time Stone.
BREAKDOWN for real for real.
Multiple Missed Opportunities
And then at the end of all of this Thanos does what he sets out to do. The audience is wrought with every misstep of our heroic team because they had multiple opportunities to preempt the results they got, but they refused to give up anything. They wouldn’t sacrifice anything in the service of their commitment. They found distractions, got caught up in feelings, broke seemingly small promises and no one wanted to give anything that they loved (the lives of friends Vision, Gamora, Stark) in service of their commitment. What a stubborn bunch of so-and-sos. And then the whole world misses out because of it.
This is why at the end of Infinity War the audience can still be satisfied. Distraught yes, but satisfied, because the most committed character created the world he envisioned. Go, Thanos!
Avengers End Game
And then, there’s Avengers End Game. We see that after losing everything, our heroes are in a much different place. They are devastated having lost so many that they love and they are willing to do ANYTHING for a second chance. If the theme in Infinity War was “Yield nothing” then the mantra in End Game is definitely “Whatever it takes”.
And suddenly The Avengers are willing to risk it all and be real heroes:
- Tony risks the family he has built to go back in time and potentially change the world in service of everyone else.
- Nat sacrifices herself to get the Soul Stone back.
- Tony and Captain America risk getting trapped in the past to get more magic time travel juice and one of the stones.
- Nebula ends up killing herself (like in a space time continuum collision way, not actual suicide).
- Tony Stark sacrifices himself in order to harness the energy of the stones to destroy Thanos and his army.
And suddenly now, on the other side of commitment our team of heroes is able to literally get their lives back, their loved ones back, recreate the world that they want.
Coach stuff to look for in Marvel Avengers:
Breakdowns, Breakthroughs, Survival Mechanism versus Essence (Watch Thor especially for this one – his breakthrough is cray at the end), powerful stands.
Moral of the Marvel Avengers: You don’t get to create the world you want without taking a powerful stand for yourself and your commitments.
Or as Brene Brown would say: There’s no courage without vulnerability
Or as I’m gonna say: Shoot your shot or sit down.