Where were you when the Avengers died?
It’s the kind of question that people in the Marvel Cinematic Universe might ask themselves, when referring to the events that occured in Infinity War. Of all the heroes who joined or fought with the Avengers, only the original six remain, along with War Machine and Rocket Raccoon.
Thanos’ snap at the end of Infinity War is the kind of event where there is no turning back from. The storytellers involved with the film, including directors Anthony and Joe Russo and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, were dedicated to create an event-style tentpole film that brought big changes to the slate.
“The thing that’s nice about the Marvel universe is that it’s long-form storytelling,” Joe Russo said to Business Insider. “It’s not predictive. You can challenge the audience.”
Shooting something like Infinity War brought scheduling conflicts the likes of which weren’t heard of. “Infinity War was the hardest to schedule, as you might imagine,” said Kevin Feige, when asked which MCU movie was the hardest to shoot. “With all of these actors…all of whom are A-Listers, all of whom star in their own movies, getting everybody together in the same place on the same day, was a challenge. Once they got there it was awesome, it was great, everybody was thrilled to be there.”
When asked how they cracked the story for Infinity War, the Russos offered insightful answers.
“The moment I felt like we had cracked the movie creatively, was when we started to think about Thanos as the lead character of the movie,” said Anthony Russo to Screenrant.
“And I think that there was a tipping point there for all, for Joe and I and Markus and McFeely where the movie all of a sudden started to feel like we knew we had a great angle into the story. We knew that was a fresh way, perspective to tell the story, but also felt organic and right to what the story was because Thanos is the only figure that unites all of these wild disparate corners of the MCU. I mean they’re all unrelated from each other, except for the fact of Thanos and the fact he’s after these stones.
Everything just started to line up. It made sense for our plot, but it also felt creatively adventurous, and challenging, and fresh. I think that’s when the movie really started to take on the life of what it became.”
After Civil War, the Russos had the monumental task of sketching together Infinity War’s plot and narrative. When talking about what templates they used to structure Infinity War, Joe Russo talked about drawing inspiration from classic heist movies. “We knew we wanted to activate the story because we have a lot of characters and we needed to compress things in order to cover as much ground as you progress.
So we started thinking about heist movies, we started to think about Out of Sight. Two Days in the Valley, movies where there is sort of an electric chain of events. And the villain is always one step ahead of the heroes and they’re trying to catch up and there’s sort of a chain reaction, which leads to like an interconnected universe of characters being drawn in and that served as our vehicle into the story, into this film.”
Although characters from the Defenders series were considered, the Russo decided to exclude them because it became too much of a challenge to balance the storylines, and make a clear sense of what was happening both on your TVs and in theaters. Infinity War was already a long movie, juggling a cast drawn from an impressive number of films; more screentime might have meant that worse pacing.
More recently, Anthony Russo talked about the challenges of directing a movie as big as Avengers: Endgame, since it was a direct follow up to Infinity War. “When Joe and I got hired to direct “Winter Soldier,” that movie was many multiples larger than anything we’d ever done before as filmmakers. But the way we work as filmmakers is we have to satisfy ourselves first and foremost.
If we’re making a movie that excites us, that’s the best we can do. We can’t predict if people are going to like it, we just know whether we like it. That’s how we’ve made every one of our Marvel movies and it’s how we’re making this one. For all of the anticipation and anxiety about it, nothing serves Joe and I better than staying focused on the story we’re trying to tell and telling it the best way we can.”
The original plan was to shoot both Infinity War and Endgame back to back, but the Russos decided against it.
Both films were very different, and required different touches from the filmmakers; the crew also could take a breather instead of working non-stop from pre-production to post-production on two very long films.
Originally, there were other plans for the ending. The Russos ultimately stuck with the snap, because they felt that was the most fitting way to end Infinity War. I remember how it initially felt: the shock and disbelief eventually giving way to grief, and then wonderment at how they were going to top this in the next film.
Russos have publicly stated that they are done with superhero films after Endgame. When asked about whether they would change their mind because of Marvel acquired the Fantastic Four and X-men due to the 20th Century Fox merger, Joe Russo remained firm about his decision. “Not until they are ready to make Secret War,” he teased, referring to the blockbuster comics storyline that rebooted Marvel’s comics slate in 2015.
“It’s amazing to see all these new characters coming in, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how Kevin engineers the future involving all these characters. And as a fan, I am as excited as you guys are.”
It’s hard to say what the MCU will be like after Endgame. Yes, Spider-man: Far From Home is coming, as is a solo Black Widow movie, but that’s basically it. It’s a stark departure from how Marvel has operated in the last decade, announcing six to eight movies in advance, once the Avengers came out. But for now, we have Endgame to look forward to, and that’s enough to deal with on its own. It’s unlikely that Endgame will be as solid from start to finish as Infinity War was. Still, given Marvel’s track record, there’s a high chance that the movie will still deliver.
I won’t go into all the theories about time travel and alternate universes when it comes to Endgame. Ultimately, Endgame is something that should be experienced in the theaters- in 3D and IMAX, if possible. Please don’t spoil the movie for others in case you have seen it already: the MCU is easily this generation’s Star Wars franchise, and we all deserve to enjoy it in peace. We just need a new phrase of our own that’s as good as “May the Force be With You” I guess!