The Last Website on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need

Avengers: Infinity War Beat Sheet

By on April 25, 2019 in Beat Sheets, Golden Fleece with 7 Comments

aveng-infinwar-logo-800x417Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo

Genre: Golden Fleece

Over the course of 10 years, Marvel Studios developed the storylines of many of its heroes, bringing them together in a monumental face off against one of their most powerful villains. When Infinity War was released, many filmgoers were shocked at the ending, believing that it culminated in a cliffhanger, ascribing it to being part one in a two-part story. However, the Russo brothers insisted that Infinity War is not the first of two parts, but that it is a standalone film with a complete story.

In Variety’s review of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Debruge writes, “If ‘Infinity War’ built inexorably to an ‘inevitable’ conclusion (as Thanos arrogantly describes his victory), that was made possible by the filmmakers’ daring choice of positioning their villain as a deeply unconventional protagonist: It was Thanos who undertook the ‘hero’s journey’ of that film, wildly outnumbered by the Avengers in his quest to amass the Infinity Stones.”

Thanos, the Mad Titan, and protagonist of Infinity War.

Thanos, the Mad Titan and protagonist of Infinity War.

With Thanos (Josh Brolin) as the hero of the story, it’s easy to see how Infinity War hits all the beats. The following beat sheet looks at the story specifically through this lens, focusing on Thanos’s journey in the story… with the Avengers as the enemies.

Opening Image: In the depths of space, Thanos attacks and boards the Asgardian ship.

Theme Stated: Thanos explains his reasoning, saying, “Dread it, run from it… destiny arrives all the same.” This is the thematic premise: will Thanos be able to do whatever is necessary to fulfill his destiny?

Set-Up: Having already obtained the Power Stone, Thanos takes the Tesseract containing the Space Stone from Loki. Ebony Maw declares that no other being has ever held more than one Infinity Stone, and Thanos is determined to possess them all. He knows that he alone can save the universe from devouring itself of resources. The current state of the universe is one of stasis=death. Among the other things that need fixing are that two of the Infinity Stones are still on Earth, with the location of the Soul Stone unknown.

Catalyst: Heimdall sends Hulk to Earth to give Thanos’s enemies an advance warning of his arrival, putting his plans in jeopardy.

Debate: Will Thanos be able to get the Stones before his enemies stop him? Thanos sends his team, the Black Order, to Earth to obtain the Time Stone and the Mind Stone. His ultimate goal on the road is the prize of gaining all six Infinity Stones. What is at stake if he does not get them? In the past, he has attempted to have other powerful beings obtain them for him, but those attempts have ended in failure. He dispatches Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight to get the Mind Stone from Vision, while Cull Obsidian and Ebony Maw vie for the Time Stone in New York.

Break into Two: Thanos sets out to obtain the Reality Stone from the Collector on Knowhere.

Gamora is the B Story character.

Gamora is the B Story character.

B Story: In a flashback, Thanos meets Gamora as a child. He takes her aside and consoles her while explaining the necessity of having balance, something only he recognizes the importance of. It is Thanos’s relationship with Gamora that will demonstrate the lengths he will go to achieve his destiny.

Fun and Games: The promise of the premise reveals what happens as Thanos seeks the Stones. On Knowhere, Thanos is attacked by the Guardians of the Galaxy, who attempt to stop him from collecting the Reality Stone from the Collector, only to discover that he already has it. Thanos takes Gamora with him, understanding that she is the only one who knows where the Soul Stone is.

Midpoint: Thanos attempts to reason with Gamora, explaining why his ambitions are benevolent. When he finally gets Gamora to admit that she is lying to him about her knowledge of the Soul Stone’s location, A and B Stories cross in a false victory as she tells him it is on Vormir. With raised stakes, a time clock appears as Thanos must obtain the Stones before his enemies destroy them.

Bad Guys Close In: As soon as Thanos and Gamora arrive on Vormir, Thanos’s internal bad guys surface when he learns he must trade what he loves most to obtain the Soul Stone. With tears in his eyes, he sacrifices Gamora, doing so for the good of the universe. Meanwhile, the external bad guys try to destroy the Mind Stone. On Titan, Thanos details his plan of mercy, explaining how “the hardest choices require the strongest will.” He is ambushed and put into a trance state, helpless.

All Is Lost: As his enemies attempt to steal the gauntlet and the Stones he has earned, Thanos is powerless to resist. All Is Lost for him as he realizes that if they succeed, his plan will fail. Worse, the whiff of death reminds him that Gamora’s sacrifice will have been for nothing. In anguish, he mourns.

During his Dark Night of the Soul, Thanos must defend himself against the onslaught of his adversaries.

During his Dark Night of the Soul, Thanos must defend himself against the onslaught of his adversaries.

Dark Night of the Soul: After being struck by his Star-Lord, Thanos is freed from the trance. Filled with renewed strength, Thanos defends himself. When his enemies realize they cannot stop him, they trade him the Time Stone in exchange for sparing their lives; as A and B Stories meet, Thanos is determined to finish what he started at any cost.

Break into Three: Now, possessing all but one Stone, Thanos heads to Wakanda, and to victory.

Finale: Thanos, a team of one, executes the plan to get the Mind Stone. In a high tower surprise, Wanda Maximoff destroys it, killing Vision in the process. Thanos digs, deep down, saying, “I understand, better than anyone. Today I lost more than you could know. But now is no time to mourn. Now is no time at all.” Executing the new plan, he uses the Time Stone to reverse the event, grabbing the final stone and putting it into his gauntlet.

As his enemy drives an axe into his chest, Thanos summons his last ounce of strength, using the combined power of the Infinity Stones to achieve his goal. Snapping his fingers, he finds himself before young Gamora, who asks what it cost him to fulfill his destiny. He replies with one word: “Everything.”

Thanos enjoys a moment of tranquility in the Final Image.

Thanos enjoys a moment of tranquility in the Final Image.

Final Image: Thanos sits as he watches the sun rise on a grateful universe, smiling as he enjoys the peace and balance he has brought.


Share this page:FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email
Cory Milles

About the Author

About the Author: Cory Milles has been teaching writing for over a decade. In his spare time, he writes Young Adult novels that seek to capture the power of story to transform his readers. When he’s not writing, teaching, or listening to his collection of movie scores, he can usually be found reading more on the craft of writing. He is an editor of Save the Cat!® Goes to the Indies and the author of the Young Adult novels New Miller's Grove, Legacy, Paradox and Redemption and is featured in the book LOST Thought: Leading Thinkers Discuss LOST. .

There Are 7 Comments

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Forrest Knutson says:

    “Oh no you didn’t!” The perfect twist (villain is the hero) and Blake’s Beats SNAP right into place! Thank you, Cory Milles, for this brilliant breakdown!!

  2. Lisa says:

    It IS a twist, looking at the film from Thanos’ viewpoint, and realizing that, yes, HE is the protagonist in this film!
    I think that there are several moments in this story where you kind of LIKE Thanos, and see the potential for good in him. His tenderness (at first) for his adopted daughter is actually appealing, and you do root for him. Not to destroy everything, but to change himself.
    Than you, Mr Milles, for this beatsheet,

  3. Cory Milles Cory Milles says:

    Thanks, Lisa and Forrest, for the comments! Yes, the writers definitely do a good job creating a sympathetic protagonist with Thanos. They could have easily made him a villain and written the story through the eyes of one of the Avengers, but they created a powerful film by allowing the audience to identify with his motives. And you’re right; at times, the audience definitely likes him… he seems to have the right motive, but the wrong execution of solving the problem. It’s a fantastic movie on many levels, going above and beyond a simple “popcorn flick”. And of course, make sure to see ENDGAME!

  4. David says:

    Thanks Cory. The Avengers films have used the Golden Fleece genre before and works well. In this film the TEAM switches from the Avengers to Thanos, and we follow him on the ROAD, his quest to find the PRIZE, The Infinite Stones. Its arguable that he has changed in the process, learning the high cost he has to pay, in sacrificing Gamora and the damage he causes to himself.

  5. Ben Johnson says:

    Awesome POV Cory. Swapping things around like this really expands story. I’ve always held the belief that the antagonist is always the protagonist in his own mind.

    • Cory Milles Cory Milles says:

      Hi, Ben! Glad you liked the breakdown of the beats! The film seems to end on a cliffhanger, but only if you view it through the eyes of the Avengers as the heroes. But the Russo brothers have insisted that the story is a standalone, and that can easily be seen when Thanos is viewed as the protagonist. And you’re right; the best villains are the ones who think they’re the heroes in their minds, that they’re doing what is best for everyone. It’s fun to apply this idea to other stories; some have suggested that if you look at the film The Dark Knight, the Joker is the protagonist, and Batman is the antagonist trying to stop him.

  6. Tim Aucoin says:

    Here’s my attempt at the structure of Endgame. I don’t use the Save the Cat method but it’s similar.


Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *