The Protectors Of The MCU Have Died
While the "bigger universe" Nick Fury said Tony Stark was becoming a part of in Iron Man's post-credits scene took a while to emerge, it's become clear there are major cosmic forces that dwarf the Avengers even now. The timeline of the MCU goes all the way back to the start of existence, and across the eighteen movies we've met numerous legendary figures of immense power. However, many of the big guns have begun to drop.
First, in Doctor Strange we saw the death of the Ancient One. For millennia, she'd ruled the Sorcerers and overseen all realities, yet in (what is presumed to be) 2016 she was killed by former student Kaecillius, leaving behind a new, much-younger Sorcerer Supreme, one who wasn't calling on the powers of the Dark Dimension. Dormammu was also out of the picture thanks to Stephen Strange's efforts (incidentally using the Time Stone).
Technically earlier in continuity but in terms of release after came Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which introduced Ego as the last Celestial. The range and powers each MCU Celestial had is a mystery, but between Ego and Knowhere's, we can get a strong idea; even if they couldn't contain the power of a single Infinity Stone, they weren't to be trifled with. And now they're gone. Of course, it's possible Ego was being self-aggrandizing in an attempt to big him up to son, Star-Lord, but it seems likely the destruction of the living planet ended this line; while Peter Quill did develop Celestial powers, it's made clear he'll lose them after his father's death.
And, finally, we have Odin and Asgard. Things had already been precarious for the past few years thanks to Loki's fake-Odin rule, but in Thor: Ragnarok it all came literally crashing down; Odin ended his life and Asgard was destroyed shortly after by his sons releasing Surtur to stop Hela. The All-Father is dead, replaced by the only recently-proven Thor, and the realm they protected is gone.
In short, over the past two years, Marvel has been carefully removing all of its ancient, all-powerful beings from the equation, often passing down the mantle to unstable descendants. If you add in Captain America: Civil War dividing the Avengers and Black Panther opening Wakanda up to the world under T'Challa's new rule, pretty much all of Phase 3 was pretty much tearing down the past, leaving massive wounds a Mad Titan could exploit; Thanos is attacking now because he finally can.
Thanos Will Take On The Descendants
Now, whether this was intentional on Marvel's part is open to debate, but what isn't is that it's happened. Whether Infinity War namechecks these priors events as motivating Thanos or not, it's a pretty cohesive theory - not least because it deepens the story at hand.
This doesn't just explain why Thanos is attacking now, it makes Infinity War look like a much more thematically-purposed fight. The opposition is almost exclusively the descendants, either those taking on mantles that are new to them or, in the case of Iron Man and Captain America, moving on from their past. Children, students, new figures; the Avengers 3 lineup is all linked through the lost mentor trope. Infinity War makes sense to take place now, and its villain's defeat feels all the more necessary.
If Thanos has indeed waited for the great powers in the universe to pass on before attacked, he's implicitly underestimating their successors - and in doingsetting himself up for defeat. In the comics, Thanos' defeat came at the hands of Nebula, and the latest Avengers: Infinity War trailer pointed towards his past with adopted daughter Gamora would be likewise essential, but it's likely going to be a full team effort.
As the Other said to him in The Avengers, "to challenge them is to court death". He should have listened.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018