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Avengers: Endgame arrived in theaters back in April, forever changing the MCU in the process. The Russo Brothers' massive blockbuster was a wild ride through the shared universe's timeline, and not everyone made it out to fight another day. Most notably we said goodbye to Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow-- although the latter Avenger will return for her upcoming solo movie/prequel. Iron Man had perhaps the most devastating ending, as he died as a result of snapping Thanos and his forces out of existence for good. But it turns out that the effects of wielding the Infinity Stones could have been much grosser.
There was a great deal of visual effects involved in Avengers: Endgame, especially in its epic final battle scene. VFX supervisor Matt Aitken recently opened up about the process of crafting the story, particularly Tony's physical injuries from wielding The Stones. He recently revealed one very gory version of that scene, that likely would have upset people in the audience. As he put it,
Those were the last shots that were delivered, and the key to all that was about finding a balance between seeing that Tony is suffering this incredible damage from exposure to the power of the stones... but also allowing him his moment. We couldn't make it to gory because it would detract from his performance, and that was very important. So we had the flesh on his face bubbling with the energy; it was way too gory. That didn't fit. That last day or two that we were working on it, I think this is less than two weeks to go until the premiere, I was about finding that balance.
Well, that's one way of sending Tony Stark (and Robert Downey Jr.) off. While that's an ending that would have likely excited horror fans and some hardcore comic fans, it also might have been too violent of imagery for the moment.
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Matt Aitken's comments to our own Events Editor Eric Eisenberg during a sit down with the Avengers: Endgame VFX supervisors show how many options were presented throughout the course of Avengers: Endgame's development and writing. Since the movie arrived in April, we've learned about plenty of ideas that were scrapped on the road to theaters. And that includes a far more violent and disturbing ending to Tony's career as Iron Man.
While this scraped idea for Tony is a tad violent, it certainly makes sense. The power of the Infinity Stones is no joke, and we saw how badly they hurt massively powerful characters like Hulk and Thanos. A normal human isn't strong enough to wield the stones, let alone snapping his fingers and using them in such a major way.
Ultimately the radiation killed Tony, and he did suffer some burns on the side of his face – though there's nothing quite as serious as intensely bubbling skin. I'm not sure the emotional scenes with Pepper, Rhodey, and Peter Parker would have had the same emotional toll if the audience was distracted by Iron Man's cheek melting.