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How Avengers: Infinity War Almost Turned Out Completely Different

Avengers: Infinity War could have been a very different film had screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely followed some of their early story directions. The pair - who wrote all three entries of the Captain America trilogy - were signed on to write the script for the two-part Infinity War in May 2015, drawing inspiration from Jim Starlin's classic Infinity Gauntlet comic. Of course, typical of Marvel, the adaptation is a loose one, with a lot of big changes to make it fit in the MCU.

Over the three-year development of Avengers: Infinity War, directed by the Russo brothers, a lot changed in the story. The overarching narrative always appears to have been same, with events building towards the "snap" - a cosmic event that the scriptwriters were determined to adapt for the big screen. But the details changed, and entire character arcs were adapted, adjusted, and sometimes even abandoned. It's possible some plots were even moved to next year's Avengers 4, although naturally Marvel is keeping quiet about that.

Related: Every Reveal From The Avengers: Infinity War Directors' Commentary

Little by little, the writers, directors, and concept artists are opening up about different ideas that they considered using, and scenes that almost made it into the script. Here are the biggest differences... that we know of. It's worth noting that Marvel is yet to release an official Art of Avengers: Infinity War book that gives audiences a behind-the-scenes look at the development and a chance to examine the different concepts experimented with during pre-production; this has been pushed back to October, possibly to keep the lid on smaller Avengers 4 spoilers. However, that doesn't mean there haven't been so big reveals already.

Massive Backstory Would Have Really Made It Thanos' Movie

Comic book writer Jim Starlin was welcomed on the set of Avengers: Infinity War many times. According to Starlin, Marvel filmed 30 minutes of Thanos's backstory, but left it on the editing-room floor. Starlin hoped this footage would be released in some sort of director's cut, although that currently seems unlikely. This comment explains why, during on-set visits a year before the movie's release, McFeely described Avengers: Infinity War as "Thanos's origin movie." That's what it was, at the time; but it's not what it became.

Starlin's comments have been confirmed by the film's VFX supervisor, Matt Aitken. "Originally there had early on been... a longer flashback to the original Titan," he explained. This more in-depth look at Thanos's history would have revealed that he was a mutant among his own people, just as in the comics. Presumably, the flashbacks would then have moved on, to show the catastrophe that befell Titan.

These sequences are the most exciting of all the ones cut from Avengers: Infinity War. As tremendous as the final film may be, one of its strongest criticisms is that it often operates on a principle of "tell, not show"; Thanos's motives and backstory are explained in lengthy monologues, with creative use of the Reality Stone acting as a backdrop. Meanwhile, the Black Order are essentially just flunkies, rather than fully-fleshed-out characters in their own right. Flashbacks revealing how they came to side with Thanos would have changed that.

Related: Avengers: Infinity War Skips A Lot of Important Stuff

But, as disappointing as it is to realize what we could have had, it's also easy to understand why the Russos chose to abandon these flashbacks. Avengers: Infinity War depends on a relentless sense of momentum, with the narrative advancing ceaselessly towards the moment when Thanos snaps his fingers. Lengthy flashbacks - especially 30 minutes of them - would have cost the film its momentum.

Thanos' Rampage & Its Impact

In addition to more backstory, Avengers: Infinity War almost showed more of Thanos' quest for the Infinity Stones and its impact on the people he left behind, addressing a common complaint against the film's hero focus and further tipping the film's balance towards the villain.

First was the attack on Xandar. When Avengers: Infinity War begins, Thanos has already devastated Xandar and acquired his first Infinity Stone, the Power Stone. However, in early scripts the scene was present in all its glory, some with Gamora watching the decimation. This was cut due to its overall repetition, although parts of the finalized opening were also shortened; the attack on the Asgardian ship was more brutal and would have more clearly shown Thanos wiping out half of Thor's people. Finally, concept art has also shown an attempted evacuation of Knowhere - with Thanos blasting the escaping vessels out of the sky.

Each of these would have given a tangible scale to Thanos' threat when he still has less than half of the Infinity Stones. Avengers: Infinity War as released still does this with his easy handling of Thor, Loki and Hulk, of course, but the number of innocents would have shifted his threat early on.

Related: New Infinity War Theory Suggests How Loki May Have Survived

The "Snap" Almost Happened In Avengers 4

Avengers: Infinity War's cliffhanger ending is the movie's ace: the villain wins, half the heroes die, cut to black. It's the lowest point imaginable for the heroes that wraps up the main themes explored in Thanos' arc here while also implicitly setting up Avengers 4. However, the snap was originally going to be saved for the sequel. It sounds like early Avengers: Infinity War scripts still ended with Thanos triumphant, successfully acquiring the last of the Infinity Stones, but he didn't use them until Avengers 4.

This would have fundamentally altered the mood coming out of Infinity War. Thanos still won, sure, and it looks like the eventual outcome of the snap would have been the same - the core Avengers and a couple of Guardians survive - but the end note would be considerably less downbeat and the two movies more intrinsically linked as a Part 1 and Part 2. In fact, it was for that reason - making the movies distinct - that led Markus and McFeely to move the snap to the end of Avengers 3.

Page 2 of 2: How Avengers Arcs Changed

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Key Release Dates
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Untitled Avengers Movie (2019) release date: May 03, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
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How Avengers: Infinity War Almost Turned Out Completely Different