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Robert Downey Jr. right before Tony Stark snap I am Iron Man Avengers: Endgame

Who lives? Who dies? That is the power of a screenwriter. Avengers: Endgame writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have been pulling back the veil in the wake of the MCU movie's record-breaking release. Now that the movie is on Disney+ -- including a new scene -- fans are watching it again and studying every detail.

Most fans knew going into Avengers 4 that actors Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans were planning to end their Marvel contracts with Endgame. But it wasn't clear how their stories would end, or even if they would end.

Avengers: Endgame writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were asked why it was important that the story had a definitive end -- that Tony Stark died vs Steve Rogers getting to go have a full life with Peggy Carter?

Here's how Christopher Markus answered Vanity Fair's question:

Because it legitimizes the whole thing. If you just keep going until it peters out or you lose interest, it kind of decays backwards, making [people] think less of everything that came before. To have the opportunity to very deliberately tie all those threads together and have it add up to something and have it end, that’s what stories are about. That’s how you judge whether something was great or not. If at the end of The Great Gatsby, they got into a car and drove off and then we wondered what was going to happen next? We wouldn’t have remembered that.

Stephen McFeely got more specific on Steve and Tony's very different story arcs culminating in Avengers: Endgame:

We realized over the course of the movies that Cap and Tony were on crossing arcs. Cap, who had started as completely selfless and was jumping on grenades willy-nilly, was becoming more self-interested. Not to say selfish, but if you watch Civil War, particularly, he’s making decisions based on what he wants, even if it breaks up the Avengers. And Tony started as the brash billionaire playboy, and the stakes are growing for him, the responsibilities growing for him. We realized at one point, late in 2015, that for Steve to be his best self, he was going to have to get a life, and for Tony to be his best self, he might have to lose his.

Well put. Tony Stark initiated the MCU with Iron Man in 2008. Watching him learn how to be selfless, ending with his sacrifice the save the universe -- it was a beautiful thing to behold. Heartbreaking, but beautiful and very much earned.

Captain America was the character many fans expected to have a heroic death in Avengers: Endgame. A few months ago, co-director Joe Russo explained why killing Cap would've been a step too far:

Once you kill a beloved character like [Tony], you've got to have hope at the end of the movie in some regard, and the only person to give you that hope is the other co-lead. Had we killed both the leads, I feel like people would have been walking out into traffic after the film. The intention is not to destroy people, it's to hopefully tell a complex and dimensionalised story in a way, that makes them feel a varied range of emotion.

I don't know if Marvel fans would've walked out into traffic if Steve Rogers died ... although, maybe. There were some huge emotional responses after Avengers: Endgame came out. Black Widow was the other major OG Avenger death of the film, and the Endgame writers recently revealed one regret about how that played out.

Choosing to give Tony Stark/Iron Man that Avengers: Endgame story arc allowed Robert Downey Jr. to do some of his best acting in the MCU. Joe Russo made an impassioned argument for why RDJ deserves an Oscar for his performance. We'll have to wait and see if RDJ is nominated, or just loved 3000 forever by loyal fans.

Joe and Anthony Russo on Avengers: Endgame Spoilers and More

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