Avengers Endgame’s “happy ending” script provides the audience with complete indulgence, a minimal amount of loss suffered by individual characters, dreams fulfilled by all survivors, revenge upon the enemy, and yet another escape from facing the consequences of our actions. It’s what almost everyone wanted to see (except me) while simultaneously being a testament to the self-absorbed, self-righteous state of mind of the modern human.
For example, in both ‘Endgame’ and it’s predecessor ‘Infinity War’ the script and dialogue repeatedly refer to losing 50% of all life. Yet not in a single scene in either of the movies in which we witness characters turning to dust do we see ANYTHING else turn to dust. This includes scenes where characters are in the depths of the jungles of Wakanda, city parks, yards, or entire landscapes such as Agent Barton’s (Hawkeye) estate.
I tried to dismiss this thought as perhaps the writers had actually meant only human life, not all life, but they repeatedly and specifically used the phrase “all living creatures”. If that were the case, to drive home the devastation of what Thanos had done, I thought they might show at least one non-human perishing, such as a deer turning into dust or maybe just one tree amongst the many trees setting the backdrop where we see humans disappear.
Was this an oversight by the writers? Did it not occur to them that when Thanos’s mission was accomplished some of the vegetation surrounding our heroes would certainly fall into the randomly selected 50%? Surely at least one tree or blade of grass would be included in the “random” selection of living creatures.
Or is it even worse? Is this a reminder that our species is so focused on ourselves that non-human living creatures didn’t even register as a blip in the consciousness of the screenwriters?
That’s how most of us approach the planet in our daily rat race devoted to “getting ours while we can”, sacrificing anything in our path in the process. Chop down another forest. Mine another mountain. Level the grasslands to build another strip mall. The mall isn’t necessary but it sure is convenient and why not, there was no loss to life right? Nope. Not as far as we can see. Not as far as we are concerned. Not to a species that doesn’t see any life other than itself. Jobs, the economy, growth, progress, etc. Any one of those is an excuse used to extinguish other life as we expand.
Captain America does make the slightest reference to other life when he says that he “spotted whales on the way in, there are less ships in the water is cleaner.” But this doesn’t mean the whales are recovering from what Thanos did, it means the whales finally have a chance to recover from what we do currently. Black widow responds by giving him a look and a response that amount to, “How dare you think of anything except our personal loss? “
Which brings me to the next overhanging theme of the film. We, under the impression that we are such a special, important species, believe that none of us should ever suffer loss, that every human death is a tragedy, no matter how worthless that particular deceased biped might have been. But for every other living creature on the planet we quite comfortably declare death as a part of life...”that’s nature.” Furthermore, the scenes shown following Thanos’s’ ‘snap’ made it seem as though the planet was reduced to a ghost town rather than the reality that 4 billion of us, still far too many than should ever exist, remained.
I’m not sure people grasp the rate at which we are multiplying...consider that even if Thanos had successfully killed 50% of humans (roughly 4 billion people) he’d have to come back in only 50 years to cut us down to 4 billion again. He must not have done his homework because it turns out destroying the Infinity stones after accomplishing his initial goal seems to have been a premature celebration.
A planet of 1,000 people, 20 million, 8 billion, 15 billion...it doesn’t seem to matter how many of us there are, we all desperately hold on to an ideal that each of us is important. I admit that it doesn’t feel good to think we aren’t important, but it doesn’t change the harsh truth. Our pursuit of shallow existences leaves us feeling hollow at the end of the road, no matter how impressive your collection of selfies in exotic locations may be by the end. A more meaningful life was available, something closer to an actual purpose was yours for the taking, but instead you were another human chasing the almighty dollar at the expense of the survival of the entire planet. The only thing that can change that is us. But change is difficult and since we’re in a position of power we don’t have to change. Just like a spoiled child that won’t put down the candy even while suffering a stomach ache.
Thanos is the disciplinary parent we need, but don’t want.
Now that I’ve offended you and your sense of importance you’re probably ready to pose the challenge of whether I’d be willing to sacrifice my own life. The answer is yes, with the guarantee of a planet free from the horrific dictatorship of humanity. My only regret would be not to see it myself.
Last night an old travel buddy called me up trying to talk me into going on a trip with him. As he described his goals for the trip I immediately knew my answer would be no, although I didn’t have the heart to tell him immediately.
This caused me to reflect on a “guy trip” to South America with several friends back in 2011. It so happened I was in the early stages of emerging from my hard-core party phase and feeling the call of nature again. As they listed the cities they wanted to visit and party in I found myself conflicted with a desire to instead disappear into the spectacular forests and possibly witness the unique wildlife of those areas. Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted the other part too, but it was occurring to me that traveling all the way to South America to partake in man-made things was somewhat foolish considering the mind-blowing natural treasures exclusive to that part of the globe.
Today I woke up to see posts about the Notre Dame fire and quite a bit of sentiment reflecting my own feelings; ‘why were we so concerned and devastated about a building while we simultaneously have made peace with the destruction of earth’s temples? I turned off the social media before I could see counter-posts from Trumpsters calling people who defend nature “terrorists and Satan worshipers.”
I’ve been to Notre Dame and yes, it’s a cool building rich with history. But treasuring something for its histrionic value is becoming an increasingly hollow sentiment as I watch my species destroy some of the most amazing things our imaginations could even come up with in order to build more buildings...and more buildings and more and more and more of the same. Or make way for cattle grazing. Currently I’m not sure which is worse, grazing fields or building development. Both equal death for EVERYTHING that previously existed in those areas. These forests are homes to creatures which, when we see them documented on television, cause us to mutter, “My God, I never knew anything so amazing existed.” Followed shortly thereafter with actions that say “In the name of God we shall destroy these creatures and their homes.”
Every year it gets a little harder for me to feel sad about the loss of any human relics, being as that the species that built those structures seems dedicated to the death of the planet. As far as religion goes, yes, Notre Damn is a cathedral...a cathedral full of tourists. My experience with Europeans is that they are a lot more realistic about their relationship with God, while self-declared Christians in the United States support one of the most unGodly men in the history of men, a man who promotes the destruction of God’s creations and the persecution of certain humans in the pursuit of more money.
So yeah, I think I can live without seeing more monuments to the human race...I’m not exactly filled with pride or awe regarding our accomplishments. Back in 2011, as bad as things were, I thought I’d be dead before I saw certain species go extinct, but instead of our kind making improvements, the rate of destruction has accelerated and documentaries will be the only reminders of the treasures we chose to destroy.
Debra Canabal of Epic Diving in the WSV hoodie. Get yours!
About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.