Avengers: Endgame was the biggest event movie in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - and the directors and screenwriters are now opening up to explain the plot and explore its implications. Back in October 2014, Marvel Studios announced that their Phase 3 plans would culminate in a two-part Avengers epic. By May 2015, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely had been recruited as writers, and a year later Marvel chose to bring on board Joe and Anthony Russo as directors.
Avengers: Endgame was an unprecedented challenge for Marvel Studios. The film was intended to bring a satisfying conclusion to the first three phases of the MCU, and while it starred the OG Avengers, it had to feature stand-out moments for all the other MCU stars as well. Markus and McFeely hit upon a time travel plot that doesn't have any relation to the comics at all, but that allowed them to celebrate the last 11 years of Marvel blockbusters by revisiting the events of films like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel was careful to keep as many elements a secret as possible, and only one actor even read the complete script.
Avengers: Endgame has been a phenomenal success, received by viewers as a love-letter to the MCU. Within just two weeks, the film's global box office has exceeded $2.2 billion, putting it behind only Avatar. Naturally, the scriptwriters and directors are currently doing the rounds, and they're answering a lot of the fans' key questions. Here are the highlights.
15. How Does the Time Travel Work in Avengers: Endgame?
Avengers: Endgame plays heavily on concepts of time travel, with the Avengers visiting key moments in the MCU's history in order to retrieve Infinity Stones and bring them to the present. Unfortunately, time travel is always something of a problematic concept for any film or TV franchise, largely because the science is entirely theoretical. With only a handful of notable exceptions, sci-fi films tend to set up their rules, and then break them liberally. Avengers: Endgame is no different, as has been demonstrated by the fact the film's scriptwriters and directors seem to disagree over just what those rules are. Joe Russo gave his most comprehensive explanation in a Q&A (via QQ):
"If you go back to the past, you simply create a new reality. The characters in this movie created new timelines when they went back to the past, but it had no effect to the prime universe. What happened in the past 22 movies was still canon."
That's why War Machine can interrupt the opening scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy by knocking out Star-Lord, because his presence there has created a whole new timeline. It's the Thanos from this new timeline who pursues the Avengers forward in time, and is then killed, explaining why the prime timeline's Thanos still happened. By the same logic, Steve Rogers has created a new timeline by going back to be with Peggy Carter. At the end of Avengers: Endgame, he somehow makes the jump from this timeline back to the prime one in order to give Sam the shield.
Unfortunately though, Avengers: Endgame writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have a different interpretation. As Markus explained:
"We are not experts on time travel, but the Ancient One specifically states that when you take an Infinity Stone out of a timeline it creates a new timeline. So Steve going back and just being there would not create a new timeline. So I reject the "Steve is in an alternate reality" theory.
I do believe that there is simply a period in world history from about '48 to now where there are two Steve Rogers. And anyway, for a large chunk of that one of them is frozen in ice. So it's not like they'd be running into each other."
It's possible a future movie will explain the MCU's model of time travel a little more. Until then, it's up to the viewer to interpret this either way.
14. Did Marvel Consider Any Other Time Travel Missions?
Earlier drafts of the script saw the Avengers travel back in time on slightly different missions, because Marvel didn't originally want to revisit the Battle of New York from The Avengers at all. They feared it would feel like fan-service, and tried to find a way around it. "There’s a moment in the MCU, if you’re paying very close attention, where the Aether is [on Asgard] and the Tesseract is in the vault," Markus explained. "In that iteration, we were interested in Tony going to Asgard. He had a stealth suit, so he was invisible, and he fought Heimdall, who could see him." As part of this mission, Thor was even supposed to come face-to-face with his past self, an idea that was passed on to Captain America instead in the final draft.
Retrieving the Power Stone proved to be something of a challenge as well. It had been hidden on the planet Morag, a barren wasteland ravaged by runaway global warming, and the waters only recede to reveal the Temple of the Power Stone once every 300 years. Early drafts had the Avengers arrive while the Power Stone was still underwater. "That was clever but it was just too big a set piece," McFeely observed. "What that didn’t do is allow for Thanos and his daughters to get on the trail at the right moment. So we went back to when Peter Quill was there. And we realized that when you can punch Quill in the face, it’s hilarious. I still think it’s hilarious."
13. Why Did Marvel Kill Thanos At The Beginning of Avengers: Endgame?
According to McFeely, the plot of Avengers: Endgame only began to come together when Marvel settled on the idea of killing Thanos in the first act. "The guy has the ultimate weapon," he explained to the New York Times. "[Thanos] can see it coming. It’s ridiculous. We were just banging our heads for weeks, and at some point, [the executive producer] Trinh Tran went, 'Can’t we just kill him?' And we all went, 'What happens if you just kill him? Why would you kill him? Why would he let you kill him?'" As Markus noted, this simply reinforced Thanos' twisted Messianic mission; he had accomplished everything he had set out to do.
12. How Did Thanos Bring His Army to the Present?
In a shocking twist, the Thanos of 2014 successfully pursues the Avengers forward in time to launch a devastating attack on the Avengers Compound. Given time travel has never been explored in the MCU until Avengers: Endgame, some fans have wondered just how he pulled it off. But according to Joe Russo (via QQ), it wasn't too tricky. "There is a guy called Maw in his army, he was a great wizard," he pointed out. "Thanos himself was a brilliant genius as well. Those two easily reverse engineered and mass produced Pym Particles."
11. Is the Whole World Five Years Older After Avengers: Endgame?
The events of Avengers: Endgame have radically transformed the shape of the MCU. Half the world's population was erased from existence for a five-year period, and now they've been restored. "Those people whom was lucky to survive the snap are 5 years older than the people who just got back," Joe Russo explained (via QQ). "The reason Spider Man saw his friend again in high school at the end was simply because his friend was unfortunately also dusted like Spider Man was. Of course, there are people in his grade whom didn't die and they are probably already in colleges by now." All the people who were dusted experienced their five-year absence as though it lasted just a moment; the only one who was conscious of the passage of time was Doctor Strange, and that purely because he'd foreseen it.
10. How Was Captain America Worthy to Lift Mjolnir?
One crowd-pleasing moment in Avengers: Endgame saw Steve Rogers wield Mjolnir against Thanos. But how was Captain America worthy to pick up Mjolnir? According to the Russo brothers, he always was worthy, even back in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where the hammer shifted a little at Captain America's grip. As Anthony Russo explained, "Cap’s sense of character and humility and, out of deference to Thor’s ego, Cap in that moment realizing he can move the hammer, decides not to." He's right; that would be perfectly in character. Interestingly, Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon would have agreed. When asked why Cap wasn't worthy at San Diego Comic-Con 2015, he gave a simple response; "Is he not?"
9. What Inspired Thor's Arc in Avengers: Endgame?
Thor's arc in Avengers: Endgame - which basically saw him give up on life, becoming an overweight alcoholic - was an unexpected twist, cleverly hidden from the film's marketing. According to the Russo brothers, the idea naturally flowed out of the realization of everything the God of Thunder had lost. "Of course, on one level, it’s very sad, but on another level, there’s humor to be found there," Anthony Russo explained in an interview with Men's Health. "Because, where do you go when a character is that low? The only place to go is humor, because you can’t drive them down any more with pathos."
They told Chris Hemsworth about their plans when he got in touch shortly after filming Thor: Ragnarok, appealing to the Russos not to lose the more comedic Thor he'd discovered during that production. Amusingly, in the end, some of the humor in Avengers: Endgame came from improv performances; although the crew were jokingly calling Hemsworth "Lebowski" off-camera, it was Robert Downey Jr. who spontaneously brought that gag into the film. By the end of the movie, the Russos concluded that this new Thor felt like a natural fit for the Guardians of the Galaxy. "He just felt like he was in a very Guardians place, in the sense that he was this, sort-of, misfit," Joe Russo revealed. "It just seemed like… well, where does a lost soul like that go? That’s basically what the Guardians are — a collection of lost souls."
8. Why Did Black Widow Have to Die?
Viewers always expected Avengers: Endgame to be the OG Avengers' swan song, and there were fears for both Captain America and Iron Man. But nobody had really anticipated Black Widow's death, not least because Marvel is finally pushing ahead with a Black Widow movie. Interestingly, it seems the scriptwriters went through a few different versions, with some featuring Hawkeye sacrificing himself rather than Black Widow. Several women on the crew objected, insisting that Black Widow should be the one to demonstrate her heroism and sacrificial love for Clint and his family by insisting on dying on Vormir.
The decision has had something of a mixed reception, but Markus thinks they made the right call.
"I understand she was a beloved character and none of us want our heroes to die, but that is the natural end of her journey, and it is the sort of apotheosis of who she is becoming. She started out as a very dark character. Even before the movies begin, she’s a spy, she’s an assassin. She has red in her ledger and to take her all the way to that sacrifice point is where her character is headed. And to not let her do that seemed a disservice to her as a hero."
7. Why Didn't Black Widow Get A Funeral?
One of the biggest criticisms of Avengers: Endgame was the fact that Black Widow didn't get a funeral scene, while Tony Stark's funeral was so significant. "That’s partly because Tony’s this massive public figure and she’s been a cipher the whole time," Markus insisted. "It wasn’t necessarily honest to the character to give her a funeral." Furthermore, Joe Russo has implied he thinks the issue is being overstated. "Did you forget when the heroes where mourning for her after when they returned from past?"
6. Did Marvel Ever Consider A Happy Ending For Tony Stark?
Marvel didn't consider any alternate endings for Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame. As far as Markus was concerned, the script already gave Tony his ultimate happy ending. "That’s the life he’s been striving for," he noted. "Are he and Pepper going to get together? Yes. They got married, they had a kid, it was great. It’s a good death. It doesn’t feel like a tragedy. It feels like a heroic, finished life." Likewise, Captain America's final fate was decided from the first draft as well.
Curiously, Iron Man's final line was a last-minute addition to the script. Tony's snap was originally silent, but during editing the Russos realized it didn't feel right; this was a character known for his quips, and he was going without having the last word. Editor Jeff Ford came up with the idea of Tony saying "I am Iron Man," but at first it looked as though it was going to prove problematic; Robert Downey Jr. wasn't comfortable with the line, feeling it would be too emotional. It was only when Downey had dinner with Joe Russo and Avengers: Endgame producer Joel Silver that he was persuaded to go with it; Silver is an old friend of Downey's, and his enthusiasm won the actor over.
5. Where Does Morgan Stark's "I Love You 3,000" Line Come From?
Tony Stark's daughter Morgan may have only had a small role in Avengers: Endgame, but she won hearts with her beautifully sweet "I love you 3,000" line. According to Markus and McFeely, that was originally a little different. "The line went, 'I love you tons. I love you tons,'" McFeely noted. However, Robert Downey Jr.'s own kids apparently say "I love you 3,000" to him, and so Downey suggested a change to the script.
4. Was Professor Hulk Always Going To Happen in Avengers: Endgame?
It turns out the Professor Hulk twist was initially intended to happen during the Battle of Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War, explaining tie-in merchandise that was presumably signed off based on those early drafts. But Marvel felt it didn't quite work; in emotional terms, it was an up-beat moment at a time when the film was moving towards its apocalyptic ending. That left Markus and McFeely facing a difficult issue, because they needed Bruce Banner to have become Professor Hulk by the next film. They decided to hand-waive it away as part of the five-year time jump. "The whole thing rides on Rudd going, 'I’m so confused,'" Markus noted.
3. Why Does Captain Marvel Get Such a Small Role?
Captain Marvel may be one of the MCU's heavy-hitters, but she didn't get much screen-time in Avengers: Endgame. That's simply because Marvel was facing massive logistical issues when it came to producing Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which meant the character's role and portrayal hadn't been locked down before Avengers: Endgame started production. As McFeely explained to the New York Times, "We shot [Brie Larson] before she shot her movie. She’s saying lines for a character 20 years after her origin story, which no one’s written yet. It’s just nuts." In any case, though, he concluded that it wouldn't have been wise to give Carol Danvers too prominent of a role. "That’s not the story we’re trying to tell," he pointed out. "It’s the original Avengers dealing with loss and coming to a conclusion, and she’s the new, fresh blood."
2. Did Doctor Strange See Timelines Where Ant-Man Didn't Escape the Quantum Realm?
According to Joe Russo, Doctor Strange really did glimpse a future in which Scott Lang never escaped the Quantum Realm. "Yes, the mouse saved the universe," he quipped. "Among the many realities in those 14 millions possible futures Doctor Strange foresaw, the mouse failed to press button and thus the heroes failed in those futures."
1. What Happened When Captain America Met the Red Skull?
Avengers: Endgame comes to a close with Steve Rogers going on a last quest, traveling back to the past in order to return the Infinity Stones and cauterize the new timelines the Avengers created. The film doesn't show this mission, which has left viewers wondering just what happened when Captain America arrived on Vormir and learned that the guardian of the Soul Stone was none other than the Red Skull. Joe Russo imagined that the unexpected reunion would be a peaceful one.
"Red Skull would probably put the soul stone back to its location, and wait for the next unfortunate stone seeker to make sacrifice. Cap and Red Skull probably won't fight. It's because it's his mission to return the stone to its original place. The Red Skull is also no longer the same Red Skull from FA. He is more like a ghost, you could almost say he's a completely different entity now. He only exists to guard the stone, his past conscious may or may not exist anymore."
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019