Note: This article contains spoilers for “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Toward the end of “Avengers: Infinity War,” we see Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) fighting Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon) in Wakanda. They’re surrounded by Thanos’s alien army, but Wanda seems isolated. Proxima points out that Wanda is all by herself, but as she goes in for the kill, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) appears, along with Okoye (Danai Gurira).
“She’s not alone,” Natasha announces before she and Okoye help Wanda fight. Eventually, Wanda uses her magic to stop Proxima from killing Natasha by flinging the alien into one of the giant tanks rolling around.
The brief scene determines Proxima’s fate, but it’s also noteworthy for its complete lack of men.
After all, “Infinity War” is a big ol’ testosterone fest. The humor in the film often relies on men competing to appear dominant, aiming to impress women or taking charge of plans. But certain scenes in “Infinity War” prove that Marvel is really trying to treat its female characters properly.
The fight scene between Proxima, Wanda, Natasha and Okoye has the same backdrop as “Black Panther,” which was praised for its depiction of women. In Wakanda, the Dora Milaje are fierce warriors, and their general, Okoye, puts her duty to protect her country and King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) first.
T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), also plays an important role in “Infinity War.” She is the only one with the ability to extract the Mind Stone from Vision (Paul Bettany) without destroying him, something even acclaimed scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) cannot do.
In the past, Marvel has faltered by limiting its female characters’ screen time or burdening them with relationships that don’t make much sense. Before “Age of Ultron” made the chemistry between Natasha and Bruce incredibly clear, she was briefly positioned as a love interest of Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and then Steve.
In “Infinity War,” Natasha is shown as herself: A strong, complex character on her own. Hopefully it’s something we’ll get to see more of in her stand-alone film.
It is debatable whether Wanda’s relationship with Vision hinders her story line. It makes most of her “Infinity War” scenes about his well-being, but her feelings for him actually make the film’s climax all the more powerful. As Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) bold arrival in Wakanda emphasizes, the Avengers have varying levels of strength. Wanda ranks high on the list, and she, similar to Shuri, is the only one who can accomplish the task of destroying the Mind Stone. It makes perfect sense that she defeats Proxima.
Olsen does take issue with her character’s appearance, as she recently told Elle magazine. Her ideal Scarlet Witch costume would “just not be a cleavage corset,” she said. “I like corsets, but I’d like it to be higher. Everyone has these things that cover them — Tessa Thompson does, Scarlett does. I would like to cover up a bit.”
Thompson’s character was mysteriously absent from “Infinity War.” Valkyrie, a former warrior, boldly speaks her mind and defies what we often expect of female characters with her heavy drinking habits. “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi called her the “female Han Solo” of his film, which ends with her on the same ship as Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston). She is nowhere to be seen in “Infinity War,” so she either died with the other Asgardians or survived off-screen.