One Of The Most Profound Scenes From The Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is filled with many exciting action sequences.  The franchise is also filled with numerous sequences of drama and emotional depth.  The strength of many of the MCU movies is the delicate balance of bombast and subtlety. When done well there is a proper mix of over the top action and thought provoking drama. 

One of the most profound scenes in the whole of the MCU is extremely brief, yet it holds an incredible amount of importance for the entire franchise. The scene occurs in Avengers: Endgame (2019).  Some may believe the scene to be Tony Stark snapping his finger and eliminating Thanos and his massive armies.  That scene is one of the most important, emotional and memorable scenes in the franchise.  However, it is not the scene that I am referring to.  That brief scene, lasting less than fifteen seconds, occurs just before Iron Man obtains the Infinity Stones and snaps his finger.  The weight of this brief scene may have been overlooked by some. 

In the midst of a massive battle that is slowing shifting to the advantage of Thanos there is a brief and vital exchange. Doctor Strange looks at Iron Man and slowly lifts one finger to signal the number one. No words are spoken, but a clear mission is read on each man’s face.  Doctor Strange is clearly attempting to contain a strong emotional response to the current and dire situation.    Iron Man immediately understands the meaning of the gesture and knows what he must do.  Thanos is on the verge of what looks to be a sure victory, yet again.  After Thanos places the last Infinity Stone into a gauntlet, Iron Man makes what looks to be a futile attempt to stop him.  After a brief struggle over the gauntlet Thanos effortlessly bats Iron Man away.  In anticipation of victory Thanos states, “I am inevitable”.  He snaps his finger, in a gesture that we know will lead to massive destruction and the Avengers defeat.  To the great surprise of Thanos, and those watching, nothing happens.  We then see the Infinity Stones embedded in Iron Man’s armored glove. During their brief struggle he was able to cunningly transfer the Infinity Stones to his armored glove.   His response to Thanos’ boost will forever elicit cheers from fans. He states,  “And I….am……… Iron Man.”, as he snaps his finger.  This leads to the demise of Thanos, his armies and ultimately Iron Man himself.  Shortly after the great victory, before anyone can truly celebrate, Tony Stark succumbs to the massive trauma inflicted on his already battered body.  He dies in the ultimate heroic sacrifice to save not only the Earth, but the whole universe. 

This bittersweet victory was set up by a sequence in Avengers: Infinity War (2018).  After a series of encounters with Thanos and his henchmen leaves Earth’s mightiest heroes overwhelmingly defeated, Doctor Strange steps in.  Utilizing his mystic abilities and the power of the Time Stone he looks into the future.  He   examines every possible scenario and outcome of a battle to defeat  Thanos, fourteen million six hundred and five to be exact.  Tony Stark asks, “How many did we win.”  The response from Doctor Strange is far from what is expected.  A deeply serious look falls across his face as he looks into Tony’s eyes. After a long pause he meekly whispers, “One”.

Following this conversation a small group of Avengers and Guardians Of The Galaxy devise a plan against Thanos. The plan initially gives the group the upper hand.  However, emotions run high and the plan quickly falls apart.  Thanos, with little effort, defeats most of the group, leaving only Iron Man to continue to fight.  Iron Man gives it his all, but Thanos is relentless as he nearly kills him. In an unexpected move Doctor Strange implores Thanos to spare Tony Stark’s life.  In exchange he will give him the Time Stone.   Much to Stark’s surprise Doctor Strange gives Thanos the Time Stone without a fight.  Thanos, a step closer to his ultimate plan, quickly exits the scene.   In disbelief, a battered and bloody Stark asks, “Why would you do that?”  Doctor Strange calmly states, “We’re in the endgame now.”    It is only later in Avengers: Endgame that we discover why Dr. Stranger made this bewildering decision.    

Jump ahead to the climatic battle at the end of Avengers: Endgame.  Iron Man, recalling the prior exchange with Doctor Strange, asks if the current battle is the one winning scenario against Thanos.  Doctor Strange states, “If I tell you what happens it won’t happen.”  The fight continues and Iron Man ultimately dies in the one winning scenario against Thanos. 

One can only imagine the weight carried by Doctor Strange.  He has seen the Avengers defeated over fourteen million times.  It is not made clear if he only saw glimpses of each scenario, or if he went through every one in real time.  Either way, seeing all of those losing battles would be more than enough to mentally defeat most.  Yet he persevered through each defeat to ultimately arrive at the one winning battle.  That battle would require Iron Man to play a very specific part and ultimately lose his life. 

Although it did not make sense in the moment, giving Thanos the Time Stone was necessary for the survival of Tony Stark.  Doctor Strange knew in that moment that Stark had to live so that he could die later.   In that moment Doctor Strange knew when and how Tony was going to die.  In that moment he knew that victory over Thanos could only be achieved in one way.  Doctor Strange had to give Thanos exactly what he wanted.  The only way to defeat Thanos meant  allowing him to destroy half the population of the universe.  This catastrophic event would radically change countless lives across the universe.   Given that information other individuals, with the best of intentions, may have attempted to stop this from happening. They may have made attempts  to find another way. 

Having seen every possible situation Doctor Strange knew he could not change Stark’s fate. Having seen the fate of the universe, Doctor Strange knew that he had to keep this incredible secret to himself.   It was made clear early on that Stark and Strange did not like each other.  Their relationship, although brief, was quite cantankerous.  These two highly intelligent and powerful men frankly did not get along with one another.  That said, Strange displays a great deal of unspoken compassion towards Stark once he knows his ultimate fate. As he turns to Iron Man on the battle field they lock eyes.  With a trembling hand he raises his one finger.  The look on Doctor Strange’s face conveys so much of what he has been holding on to. As well as what he feels in that moment knowing Tony Stark’s fate and the fate of the universe.  What an incredibly profound moment in time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.      

Troy T.

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