The culmination of over ten years of hard work and 19 films, Avengers: Infinity War is massive in nearly every way, from its 2 billion dollar Box Office to its larger than life villain, Thanos.
|Me rolling into Taco Bell|
For such ambitious storytelling with dozens of characters fighting for screen time, a movie like Infinity War usually wouldn't work (I’m looking at you, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), but it does and one major reason why is the use of Character Goals to create conflict.
Infinity War’s overarching conflict is actually quite simple. Powerful super-villain wishes to kill half population of the universe and our beloved heroes must unite to stop him. Thanos’s effort to collect the Infinity Stones to practice population control provides the main thrust of the plot, but in general terms, this kind of conflict has been done before (in the previous Avengers movies for example). Yet, Infinity War never feels repetitive or stale. And this is where character goals come in.
With dozens of characters appearing in this one movie, there isn’t much time for character development. In fact, very few characters besides Thanos and Thor have any development at all. And the filmmakers know that, so they build tension by giving every major character a goal inside the larger goal of stopping Thanos. These goals are stated openly by the characters and are often in opposition to the goals of at least one other character. Here is a breakdown of a few of the most important:
All of these conflicts are resolved as the plot unfolds (some more dramatically than others), but there are enough to keep the characters interesting and sustain tension as the film builds toward the climatic final struggle against Thanos.
One could argue that Infinity War works because it builds on stories and characters already developed in previous films or because the filmmakers developed the heck out of Thanos*. Those are solid arguments, but I believe it’s the use of character goals to create conflict that propels Infinity War from a good film to a great one.
*There’s a sayin' that in order to write an antagonist well, an author must understand that the antagonist sees themselves as the hero of his or her own story. The filmmakers of Infinity War took that to heart.