It’s the most emotionally intense, violent, and curse-ridden film of the Marvel cinematic universe so far… and everyone’s buying a ticket to see it.
Avengers: Infinity War goes places other superhero films don’t. Embedded among the snarky jabs and insider humor, the film explores provocative questions about faith. It often feels like we’re watching an epic sci-fin spin on the Old Testament—an onramp into End Times imagery and implications. Under assault by a larger-than-life villain named Thanos, humans and aliens alike wonder if they have what it takes to save their loved ones, let alone the universe.
So many of your teenagers have already seen this film—here are some savvy conversation-starters that will help you bridge the film’s themes to gospel themes…
Meta-Narrative: For the past ten years, Marvel has released a succession of hero stories that stand alone, but all point toward a larger narrative. End-credits scenes in these films alway tease story arcs that point to the role that character was about to play in a bigger end-game battle. Along the way, the heroes band together to form the Avengers, dedicating themselves to serve a fragile world under attack, “so when they needed us, we could fight the battles that they never could.”
The Bible reveals a meta-narrative about our life as well—it’s a story that has many heroic figures, all of them pointing to or preparing for the One who stand in the way of a “killing, stealing, and destroying” enemy and save our lives. “He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9–10). Christ came “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4)—all that took place before that moment culminates in Him and all that happens after His ministry on earth reflects Him.
- Conversation Questions: All of the previous Marvel films pave the way for this epic story of a final clash between good vs. evil—what comparisons can you draw to the way the stories and purpose of the Old Testament point to the stories and purpose of the New Testament? In what ways has the “small story” of your life contributed to the heroic mission of Jesus in the world—the “big story” of his commitment to redeem and restore us into relationship with God?
Community: Life for the Avengers now isn’t what it once was. Tony Stark tells Bruce Banner he isn’t on “speaking terms” with Captain America, and the team “broke up.” Banner bluntly responds that the fate of the universe demands that everyone set aside their differences to form a larger community capable of combating Thanos.
Let’s be honest—it’s not easy to encourage teenagers to step up for the Kingdom of God when they’re already struggling to keep their heads above water. They deal with real hurts that can sideline them into a spiral of insecurities, depression, and self-harm. But there is wisdom in urging them toward a great challenge as the context for their healing and restoration. Paul’s encouragement to the Jesus-followers in Ephesus is also a battle cry: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10). Our work and mission is to give them something tangible they can do to advance God’s Kingdom on earth.
- Conversation Questions: When you think about the challenges the Avengers face at the beginning of the movie, relative to their relationships with each other, what advice would you give them? What ultimately brings them together, and how does that compare to the way Jesus urges us to reconcile our differences with each other? In your own story, how have you managed to get past hurts and disagreements with your friends?
Grit: Iron Man interrupts an invading alien who’s giving a pious speech by saying: “You can’t park here, buddy. Earth is closed today. Take your tractor beam and skedaddle.”
Later, Thor reflects on the devastating losses he’s experienced, while still embracing a hopeful determination to stop Thanos. Even though the odds are against him, he offers, “If I’m wrong, what more can I lose?” Multiple characters reflect a gritty determination to persevere—a driving belief that even though all hope seems lost, a bigger hope remains. We find it when we pursue it together, in community.
Jesus, in Matthew 16:18, asserts that the powers of Hell will not prevail against the Church. Although Satan wins his share of skirmishes along the way, the close community of the people of God has access to the full armor of God (Ephesians 6), and that means our mission is proactive, not reactive. Teenagers need to know that loss and hurt will happen, but that spiritual grit produces endurance, character, confidence and hope.
- Conversation Questions: In your experience, what is the “cure” for hopelessness? What is the difference between hope and optimism? How have you found a hope in Jesus that is not dependent on your circumstances?
Sacrifice: Thanos is pursuing six “infinity stones” in order to gain ultimate power. In three instances, he gains a stone when one person gives it up to save the life of another person.
Spider-Man embodies selfless sacrifice when he risks everything to join a battle that is clearly beyond his scope: “You can’t be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man if there’s no neighborhood.” Other characters also enter into a battle they are likely to lose, declaring that a dire end to their life “will be the noblest of endings.”
We’re given a choice every day—to be self-centered or selfless. The Trinity devised and carried out the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf—sending Jesus into the world “not to condemn it, but to save it” (John 3:17).
- Conversation Questions: In what ways has self-sacrifice drawn you closer to Jesus? How have you experienced Jesus sacrificing for you, and what impact has it had on your life? Why is self-sacrifice so crucial in living the Christian life?
Fixing the Universe: Thanos’ logic is flawless to him—to fix all of creation’s problems, kill half of the people in the universe with a single thought. He tells Iron Man: “You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.” Thanos is offering a Genesis 3 sales pitch to Iron Man—the serpent inviting Adam and Eve into an “elevated” sphere, where they will eat from the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil.” Thanos argues: “When I’m done, half of humanity will still exist. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be… I call that mercy… I finally rest, and watch the sun rise on a grateful universe.”
Meanwhile, Jesus comes to earth to plant a strategy “so that none should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). Perhaps Thanos appears “right” in the short-term implications of his long-term plan, but the intense emotional and spiritual loss of his actions can’t be ignored. Some might argue that the Old Testament also depicts a God who allows the death of people for the sake of a greater plan, but it’s never without Him first giving them a choice. Hell is not a declaration that God does not love us. Hell is a declaration that God will not force us to love Him.
- Conversation Questions: Thanos’ logic has “made sense” to dictators and demagogues throughout history—what are the chief flaws in this way of thinking? What are the differences between Thanos’ determination to “balance” the world and Jesus’ determination to “redeem” the world? If Jesus and Thanos could have a conversation, what might they say to each other?
Everyone Matters: In a critical rallying cry, Black Panther proclaims: “Today we don’t fight for any life… we fight for ALL of them.” Tony Stark reflects this determination on the street when a random person crashes into a street fixture and, in the midst of his larger mission, he stops to make sure the person is okay. It’s a reminder that every life is important and worth fighting for.
This is a no-brainer analogy, isn’t it? And yet somehow we treat the people around us as if they were random “extras” whose needs are overlooked. What does it mean to be fully present to the people who move into and out of our lives?
- Conversation Questions: Who is someone in your life that you sense, right now, has been overlooked? What is Jesus asking you to do on that person’s behalf?
Death Happens: People die in this movie. For some, it’s on a battlefield. For others, it’s a slow fade. By the time the credits roll (and even afterward), some of your favorites are gone. Even in a superhero movie, no one is safe from expiration.
I believe this is actually helpful for audiences, understanding that younger ages may especially struggle with it. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 7:2, says, “You learn more at a funeral than at a feast. After all, that’s where we’ll end up. We might discover something from it.” While Thanos sees death as a solution, we understand it to be a temporary problem—one that Jesus solves through eternal life in Him.
- Conversation Questions: When Spider-Man fades away at the end, he seems to be the only person who senses it coming (maybe due to his “Spidey-Sense”). In what ways is our perspective about death as followers of Jesus similar to, or different from, the conventional perspective about it? If everyone had a few moments before they died, and knew it was coming, how would that impact our view of death ? How does your relationship with Jesus impact how you view death?
It’s worth noting—teenagers have grown up with this Marvel series of films. Many of them won’t just be “watching a movie,” but “catching up with friends-who-happen-to-be-heroes.” The impact upon some will be significant, while others will simply hit the their emotional “pause” button at the movie’s end so they don’t have to feel anything until the sequel next year.
My guess is that this film will leave its viewers in dissonance—on purpose. And that’s where we live, too—living out our lives in the “kingdom of this world,” while advancing the values and truths of our real home, the “Kingdom of God.” We feel the tension between these two realities. Our “endgame” is less about the temporary hopes we have, and more about the permanent hopes that drive us.
What gospel-hinting themes have I missed? I’d love your perspective…