Marvel fans need to stop their Star-Lord hate. Chris Pratt's Peter Quill has been a popular hero ever since his debut in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, but after Avengers: Infinity War he's become hated and reviled by Marvel fans. Although the heroes assembled on Titan launched a desperate trap for Thanos, a single moment of emotional weakness meant Star-Lord blew their plan. As a result, many fans argue that he is directly responsible for Thanos's victory at the end of the film.
It's a powerful argument, and it does make sense. The heroes actually look to be within a hair's breadth of getting the Infinity Gauntlet away from the Mad Titan, and they'd likely have succeeded had Peter Quill not lost his temper and broken Mantis's control over Thanos. The Guardians of the Galaxy have become far too blase when the fate of the universe is at stake, and Quill isn't really used to there being a consequence to his emotional reactions. When the dust settles, Star-Lord is left reeling, unable to understand the reality that the good guys have just lost.
But is it really fair to blame Star-Lord for Thanos's triumph? Or are fans oversimplifying the narrative, removing the human element from it?
- This Page: Marvel's Defense of Star-Lord
- Page 2: Star-Lord Isn't To Blame For Infinity War
Infinity War's Star-Lord Problem
The reality is that Star-Lord blew it. Avengers: Infinity War narrative is uncompromising about that; he knows what's at stake, so much so that he was even willing to pull the trigger on Gamora back on Knowhere. Doctor Strange has glimpsed millions of alternate futures, and revealed that there's only one where the "ultimate outcome" isn't Thanos triumphant. Star-Lord himself has come up with the plan to defeat Thanos, one that he's convinced will work; get the Infinity Gauntlet away from the Mad Titan, defeating him when he can no longer call upon the power of the Infinity Stones. Smart teamwork allows each member of the group to play to their strengths; and then Mantis reveals that Thanos has killed Gamora.
In that moment, all the stakes are forgotten, and the scale of the threat becomes meaningless to Peter Quill. The bottom has just fallen out of his world, and he loses all semblance of self-control. Furious and heartbroken, Quill attacks Thanos, striking him - and unwittingly breaking Mantis's hold on him. Making matters even more tragic, that was the very second the other heroes were about to pull off the Infinity Gauntlet. if Star-Lord had maintained control for just a few more seconds, he may have actually had his chance of revenge.
No wonder viewers are critical of Star-Lord. The two-time savior of the galaxy has acted as Thanos's enabler, granting him a moment of lucidity that allows him to escape Mantis's control, and ultimately precipitating the deaths of half the life in the universe.
Actors and Creators are Defending Star-Lord
The Russo brothers, directors of Avengers: Infinity War, don't really seem to have expected the backlash against poor Peter Quill. As Joe Russo pointed out, this is a character who is defined by loss; he lost his mother at a young age, and he was forced to kill his own father. Now here he is, having just become comfortable with his life, suddenly facing loss yet again. Star-Lord is an emotional man, and "made a very emotional choice."
For Anthony Russo, the truth is even more complicated. He pointed to a parallel between Star-Lord and Thor, two characters who came maddeningly close to defeating Thanos. Both failed, and for the same reason; because they let their emotions get the better of them. To Anthony Russo, there's a deliberate parallel between Star-Lord's intervention and Thor's split-second decision not to go for a headshot at the end of the film. "Thor sort of got lost in his emotions in a similar way as Star-Lord," he explained, "and could also have been responsible for Thanos."
Chris Pratt takes a similar view. "I think he reacted in a way that’s very human," he pointed out, "and I think the humanity of the Guardians of the Galaxy is what sets them apart from other superheroes. I think if we did it a hundred times I wouldn’t change a thing." That's a bold claim indeed, given the heavy criticism Star-Lord has come under for his role in Infinity War.
Page 2 of 2: Why Star-Lord Isn't To Blame For Infinity War
Star-Lord Was Acting In-Character
The reality is that, however foolish Star-Lord's actions may have been in Avengers: Infinity War, they were perfectly in character. There's simply no way a man like Star-Lord could possibly react any differently in that specific situation. It's important to understand two factors that play an important part in Star-Lord's personality.
The first is Peter Quill's repeated experience of loss. Star-Lord lost his mother at an early age, but - crucially - he never fully processed those feelings of grief. It's true that many counselors recommend taking a sort of "grief vacation" after suffering a loss, but part of that is to allow yourself space to process your emotions in order to then return to everyday life. Within moments of his mother's death, Peter Quill was kidnapped by aliens and plunged into a fantastical world that bore no resemblance to life on Earth. He was able to avoid the painful truth that he had lost his mother, clinging on to everything he possibly could in order to feel as though she was still with him. And then, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the reality of his mother's death collided with the cosmic space-pirate lifestyle he had shaped for himself. He learned that Ego was his father - and that Ego had killed his mother. To describe this as a psychological trauma would be a considerable understatement. But notice that, even in the aftermath of Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 2, Peter Quill still hasn't ever gone back to Earth.
There's a sense in which Peter Quill is still a child, still avoiding dealing with pain and grief. He's lost himself in a role, leader of a band of space-mercenaries/superheroes. He's living a child's fantasy, escaping the pain of his mother's death. But now, in Avengers: Infinity War, death has intruded in his fantasy once more. And this time around, there's no going back; the reality of Gamora's death would be absolutely inescapable. If he goes to Earth, he is faced with his mother's death; if he continues to live in space, he'll forever be confronted with Gamora's. Peter Quill lacks the emotional maturity to deal with this.
The whole issue is complicated by the fact that Gamora asked Peter to kill her - and he failed. In the original script, the Russos imagined Star-Lord being unable to do it. Both James Gunn and Chris Pratt petitioned for a change to the script, for Star-Lord to actually be able to pull the trigger on the woman he loves. They were right to do so; this is a moment that marks Peter Quill as a true hero. Unfortunately for the galaxy, Thanos had already acquired the Reality Stone, and all Peter's gun did was emit a stream of bubbles. Now imagine the complex emotions Star-Lord is feeling: guilt, for being unable to fulfill his promise to Gamora; an utter, complete loss of control, in that the most painful decision of his life had been rendered meaningless. Remember that he has no way of knowing just how Gamora died. He's heard tales of Thanos's brutality, and learning that the Mad Titan has killed her causes all these complex emotions to flare. Star-Lord wants revenge. He wants to lash out in pain. He wants to make Thanos suffer, to be the cause of Thanos's suffering, to make him feel the raw edge of pain that feels like a knife in his own gut. And so Peter Quill loses it.
It's easy to vilify Star-Lord, but the reality is that his actions are both perfectly in-character, and perfectly understandable. For fans to blame him for Avengers: Infinity War is to say he shouldn't really be a character at all.
Star-Lord's Freak-Out May Be Necessary - Or Inevitable
It's also important to remember that Doctor Strange had used the Time Stone to peer into millions of future timelines, and had only identified one "ultimate outcome" where the heroes won. Crucially, Star-Lord's plan - to take the Infinity Gauntlet away from Thanos - was not it. There are two possible reasons for that. The first is that there may simply not have been a single timeline in which Peter Quill did not freak out. His reactions are perfectly in-character, after all. It was only possible to restrain Thanos by using Mantis, but the moment she came in contact with the Mad Titan, Mantis would inevitably reveal Gamora's death.
The second problem, though, is that Thanos is no lightweight even when he doesn't bear the power of the Infinity Gauntlet. As such, it's one thing to tear the Infinity Gauntlet away from him; it's another to keep it away from him. Had the heroes succeeded in pulling the Gauntlet off his hand, Thanos would simply have pursued them relentlessly. Remember that, in the MCU, Thanos only taps into the power of the Infinity Stones when he clenches his fist. That means that all those scenes where he's taking hits but his hand is open actually indicate just how tough, just how resilient, Thanos really is. Even without the Infinity Gauntlet, there's no guarantee that Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and half of the Guardians of the Galaxy could defeat him. And if they fell, he'd simply get the Infinity Gauntlet back. The reality is that Star-Lord's plan was never going to work. Doctor Strange knew that; he tried it anyway, perhaps hoping he was wrong, but swiftly learned that his vision had been true.
All this means that Star-Lord really shouldn't be blamed for the horrific end of Avengers: Infinity War. Peter Quill simply acted perfectly in-character, and did exactly what Doctor Strange had foreseen him doing. The heroes' defeat on Titan was inevitable. Only one being is truly responsible for what followed; Thanos, the Mad Titan himself.