Heroic fiction operates by three core tropes, of which the first two are:
- the Heroes almost never die no matter what the danger
- if a Hero dies, it is a Heroic and/or meaningful death
Mightily wove they the web of fate
These tropes make for an incredibly unbalanced reality.
If you step off a cliff, you’re dead. But T’Challa is quite literally thrown off a cliff and survives. Normal people have fates that hang in the balance, but heroes and superheroes are protected, with authorial thumbs very firmly pressing down on one side of the balance, ensuring that the heroes survive, no matter how improbably.
Douglas Adams, in his usual form, commented on this. No matter the peril heroes face, the fates will always intervene, to the point where the heroes can be thrown into empty outer space and survive. In the case of Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent, by a spaceship powered by improbability, which is a pretty good metaphor for a heroic story. In the case of Thor, by the Guardians of the Galaxy.
And note that when the same ejection into outer space happens to the Thanos minion equivalent of Magneto (the super telekinetic who apparently goes by the rather unfortunate name of Ebony Maw), no such rescue is forthcoming.
And there the golden threads they wove
Thor himself comments on the fact that for 1500 years the fates have decreed that he should survive any and all battles.
These tropes make for an incredibly unbalanced reality. And so what the authors have done in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) is take their thumbs off the scales of fate. All that accumulated debt to the fates of 10 years and 18 movies worth of improbable rescues and survivals is paid back in one giant Marvel-Cinematic-Universe-balancing movie of death.
The third rule
The third rule of the heroic universe surely also applies:
- no Heroic death is permanent
So I think we can anticipate (as I have speculated in Infinity War Part 2) that much of Part 1 will be undone.
Seen in this light, I think Infinity War has done an interesting exploration of balance in a heroic universe.
Note: first and second section headings reference the Norns, the Norse fates