Avengers: Infinity War brings together plots from across the MCU, but has actually created a plot hole in Guardians of the Galaxy. The Russo brothers were always going to have some trouble keeping all the continuity together; after all, this blockbuster epic is the culmination of 18 separate movies, and features a whole host of superheroes. Something was always going to slip through the net.
Marvel did their best to ensure this didn't happen. James Gunn was heavily involved in Infinity War, even writing dialogue for the Guardians so as to ensure they stayed in-character. But Gunn has always believed storytelling comes before continuity; he's even indicated he's considering deliberately breaking MCU canon in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
In this case, it's hard to tell whether or not the continuity error - which involves Gamora and her ancestry - is a deliberate one or an accident, an oversight due to Marvel juggling too many characters and concepts at once. Whatever the truth may be, though, it's actually quite a major continuity problem.
Gamora's Backstory Has Changed
According to Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora is the last of her race, the Zehoberi people. Her entire world was slaughtered by Thanos, leaving her the only survivor. In fact, she claims to have watched Thanos kill her parents right before her eyes before "adopting" her as his weapon. It was a horrific origin story, certainly explaining Gamora's burning desire for revenge against her so-called "father." Crucially, though, this origin was put in place before Marvel had really decided Thanos's MCU motivation.
In the MCU, unlike the comics, Thanos believes explosive population growth threatens to outstrip the universe's resources. The only way to save life, from his point-of-view, is to slaughter half the life in the universe. As a result, Thanos has led his forces on an insane crusade across the cosmos, slaughtering half of every race they encounter. A flashback sequence showed Thanos's armies doing this on Gamora's homeworld, with his Chitauri dividing the population into two groups. One half were mercilessly cut down. According to Thanos, the survivors then grouped together and created a veritable paradise. He counts Zehoberi as an example that proves him right.
There's simply no way to reconcile these two origin stories. The first account is of an indiscriminate act of genocide, of an entire race wiped out of existence; the second is still an horrific atrocity, but at least the Zehoberi survived.
Why Did Marvel Do This?
Some continuity errors happen by accident. In other cases, though, writers deliberately choose to ignore past narratives in order to tell the best possible story. Given how highly protective of the Guardians James Gunn is, there's no way he failed to realize Gamora's history was being rewritten, and so this seems to be a deliberate choice on Marvel's part.
But while that is a shame from a cohesion level, the change does make sense. Back when Marvel released Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, they hadn't fleshed out the Mad Titan's motives at all. They may have even assumed their version of Thanos would align with the one from the comics, a monstrous being driven to earn the favor of Lady Death. Certainly Thanos' only prior appearance, in the post-credits scene of The Avengers, had teased that. But Marvel ultimately rewrote Thanos's motives, meaning an actual act of genocide would be slightly out of character. Meanwhile, hooking Thanos's self-justification in to Gamora's own backstory gave the film far more emotional resonance.
Marvel Studios like to play the long game - Kevin Feige recently admitted he's discussed films all the way up to 2025. But that doesn't mean every little detail is planned out years in advance. As a result, sometimes writers and directors actually have to change the canon; and in this case, doing so saved an entire race from extinction.
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- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019