I liked this movie a lot. If you haven’t seen it, go do that. SPOILERS HERE.
Right? Okay. So leaving the theater, it occurred to me that the heroes actually had a ton of chances to stop Thanos’ plan, and the fact that they didn’t manage it is sort of astonishing. Just for fun, here’s a list of everyone who, by not being slightly smarter/more ruthless, bears direct responsibility for the death of half the universe:
- Loki could have left the Tesseract behind on Asgard to be destroyed. This is maybe half a point, since it’s not 100% clear this actually would have destroyed it. But later events imply that the stones are actually destructible, so maybe? (Side note: having the stones be indestructible would make waaaaaaay more sense.)
- Loki gives up the Tesseract to save Thor. As will become a theme, it’s not super clear where he had it or what would happen if he actually held out on Thanos, but everyone acts as though he’s actually giving Thanos something.
- Doctor Strange could have destroyed the Time gem immediately on hearing Thanos was doing stuff. They handwave that he’s sworn to defend it but you would think not giving Thanos unlimited power would take priority?
- Doctor Strange decides to bring the Time stone with, instead of leaving it somewhere slightly safer then hanging around his neck. If the spell really does prevent anyone from taking it, even when he dies, he could also have safeguarded it by dying?
- Iron Man decides to take the ship (and the Time stone) to Titan. Not taking it back to Earth is understandable, but you know what other option was available? Literally anywhere else in the universe. The one thing Thanos emphatically does not have throughout the movie is perfect knowledge of where the stones are, because he’s constantly asking people. So just like … go lose yourself somewhere? Space is big.
- Gamora goes along with the plan to go to Knowhere and … do something? It’s really not clear what the actual plan is since if Thor, Hulk, and Loki got curb-stomped by Thanos it’s pretty clear Starlord, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis aren’t going to be able to take him out. Maybe they thought they could get the stone first and run away, in which case you can add Starlord for not just turning the ship around and running away.
- Gamora for not killing herself once it was clear Thanos was there, or indeed earlier. That seems harsh but she did ask Starlord to kill her, so she was obviously aware this was a problem. She could also kill herself later, when Thanos has her in prison and apparently unsupervised.
- Gamora for giving up the location of the Soul stone to save Nebula. This one is particularly bad since she a) knows exactly how bad this is, and b) has no expectation that Thanos won’t be able to take the stone once she tells him.
- Starlord for ruining what was actually a perfectly functional plan to get the gauntlet away from Thanos that almost worked. He is just the worst.
- Scarlet Witch and Captain America in some combination for balking at Vision’s perfectly reasonable request to let him sacrifice himself for the good of the entire universe. Extra points because Cap never really answers Vision’s comparison of his WWII era sacrifice of himself to save America.
- Doctor Strange, again, for giving up the Time stone to save Iron Man. At this point he had some vision of the future to guide him, but it’s not clear what would have happened if he’d held out, similar to Loki above.
I think that’s it? Thanos was really pretty lucky that all the stones were in the hands of good people who would give them up when friends or loved ones were threatened, rather than like Magneto or Doctor Doom or somebody.
Also, note to Thanos: even with a slowly falling world birthrate, human numbers approximately doubled (from 3.8bn to 7.5bn) between 1972 and 2018. Assuming other civilized planets are similar, you’re going to be doing this again roughly every fifty years, forever. Probably more often actually, since the greater availability of resources will lead to faster growth rates. Read your Malthus, man.