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Major spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame. Don't read on if you haven't seen it!
After a long year of waiting, Avengers: Endgame finally hit theaters this past weekend. The 22nd Marvel blockbuster has been breaking records left and right at the box office, and packed more surprises and plot twists than the rabid fandom could have anticipated. Tons of narrative threads were wrapped up, and the OG members of The Avengers were given special care for some of their final outings in the MCU.
Avengers: Endgame obviously went through a few drafts, and it turns out that the contents of the massive blockbuster could have been quite different. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely handled the script to both Infinity War and Endgame, and recently revealed some of the ways the story changed throughout its development. For instance, the heroes didn't originally travel back to The Avengers' Battle of New York, as McFeely explained:
In the first draft, we didn’t go back to the [original] Avengers movie. We went back to Asgard. But there’s a moment in the MCU, if you’re paying very close attention, where the Aether is there and the Tesseract is in the vault. 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.
Avengers: Endgame's time heist is massive and extremely ambitious, as the Avengers revisit some of the MCU's most iconic moments. The biggest part of that mission is in the Battle of New York, as three of the Infinity Stones were in the city during that first epic battle. It's hard to imagine the heist going off without visiting New York, although Stephen McFeely revealed they were originally were going to leave The Avengers out of the travel itinerary. Luckily, the duo of writers ultimately changed their mind.
The Avengers has a very important role in the story in the heist, and features a ton of surprising cameos. In addition to being the place where the surviving heroes could accrue a variety of Infinity Stones, the flashback to New York featured appearances by Crossbones, and fellow Captain America: Winter Soldier characters Alexander Pierce and Agent Jasper Sitwell. None of this would have been possible if Endgame's writers decided to avoid The Battle of New York.
Heimdall related FOMO aside, it sounds like Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely made the right call regarding how the journey through time would function in the story. This isn't exclusive to the Battle of New York, as moments in the Thor and Guardian of the Galaxy franchises also became more important. Of course, there are many Idris Elba fans out there who would have loved to see Heimdall briefly return to the world of the living in Endgame.
In their same conversation with the New York Times, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely revealed the challenges of the time heist's other settings, and different iterations that were crafted. As the duo of writers said:
MARKUS: Thor had long scenes with Natalie Portman. And Morag [the planet where Peter Quill finds the Orb] was hugely complicated.
McFEELY: It was underwater! That was clever but it was just too big a set piece. 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.
Avengers: Endgame's time heist was not only tricky for the surviving heroes, but also for the writers who had to plan out the easter egg-filled act of the film. Figuring out just how the Avengers would travel back and acquire the Infinity Stones was a major task for Marcus and McFeely. While some of the teams had long sequences like the Battle of New York, Nebula and War Machine's acquisition of the Power Stone was hilariously easy. At least, until Thanos showed up and made a mess of things.
While the original version of Endgame featured a longer scene with Natalie Portman's Jane, it was ultimately Thor's mother Frigga who had the biggest impact during the Thor: The Dark World revisit. Instead, Jane was brought back through old footage of Portman, as the Oscar winning actress has left her Marvel role behind.
Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely's struggle with the Avengers: Endgame time heist was partly because they didn't want to pander to the audience or go over the top with fan service. Quite a few misguided plot devices were considered in this process, as the duo attempted to craft a time traveling story that left out the Battle of New York. As they put it:
MARKUS: There were entirely other trips taken. They went to the Triskelion at one point to get the [Tesseract], and then somebody was going to get into a car and drive to Doctor Strange’s house.
McFEELY: Just saying it out loud, it’s like, what are we doing?
MARKUS: It was when we were trying to avoid going to Avengers because it seemed pander-y.
If you thought that Avengers: Endgame was dizzying in theaters, imagine what it was like to create the complicated story. The writing process ultimately worked out quite well for Markus and McFeely, as their work is being universally celebrated by both critics and moviegoers alike. They somehow pulled off the impossible with Infinity War and Endgame, crating a pair of blockbusters that balanced action with character-driven plot.
Avengers: Endgame managed to largely keep its secrets, and Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely packed in endless surprises and long awaited payoffs throughout the Russo Brothers' massive final movie. It was the true finale of the Infinity Saga, and there's no telling what's coming next for the MCU.
Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now. Be sure to check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.