How the Avengers: Endgame Ending Changed
The writers and directors of Avengers: Endgame reveal at SDCC how Avengers: Endgame almost ended before evolving.
This article contains Avengers: Endgame spoilers.
Normally screenwriters and directors cannot command, all by themselves, Hall H. It’s a San Diego ballroom the size of an airplane hangar. Seating almost 7,000 people, San Diego Comic-Con’s biggest venue is traditionally reserved for the projects and titles that most excite fans, but when the writers are Cristopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and the directors are Joe and Anthony Russo, all of whom just made the second highest-grossing movie of all-time via Avengers: Endgame… then normal rules don’t apply.
It’s safe to say that the audience loved each pair three thousand when they came out to discuss new projects, as well as give some insight into the creative process on Avengers: Endgame, the movie that brought the curtain down on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. But what is of special interest is not just how Robert Downey Jr.’s final Marvel movie ended… but how it didn’t.
When discussing the give-and-take of the creative process, McFreely and Markus revealed several aborted ideas for the third act, including what could’ve been a very ghastly sight. For those who don’t recall, the Thanos the heroes defeat in the movie’s climax is not the same Thanos who snapped half of life out of existence. Rather he is an alternate version of Thanos from 2014 who followed the heroes back to the present day. Yet in an earlier draft of Avengers: Endgame, he was supposed to arrive in the future while carrying the decapitated head of a slaughtered Captain America!
“We were working on different ways to bring Thanos into the present day, because we had killed the present day’s Thanos,” Markus says. “And in one, we had Thanos, knowing it would take his Nebula some time to go rejigger the time machine and bring him back, went down to his present-day Earth, which would have been 2014, and wiped it out. He killed the Avengers. Then Nebula would turn on the time machine, and he would walk through with the Avenger he had killed.”
McFeely goes on to add that they also wanted to see Giant-Man’s lifeless corpse and a ruined battlefield that paid homage to Old Man Logan.
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This just goes on to show how ideas are bandied around and change as the production and narrative demands. Among the lighter questionable ideas is one where all of the Avengers “snapped” back into existence at the Avengers Compound in upstate New York as soon as Hulk put down the Infinity Gauntlet.
“You hear ‘Mr. Stark,’ and there’s Peter around the corner,” McFeely recalls. “And then we cut five minutes, and they were all eating pizza. It was terrible.”
Markus adds that by having those who were killed reappear at where they died, it narratively allowed them to deny viewers the full realization that the surviving Avengers had already achieved their main objective of bringing everyone back until the most cathartic moment.
Says Markus, “Even though they effectively solved the problem they set out to solve, it didn’t feel like we ended the movie and then started it up again to fight Thanos. It still felt like we were still working to overcoming the final goal, so we weren’t working to bring them in until we had Thanos in [there].”
Similarly, some of the best writing is done by the actors who know the characters best, such as Robert Downey Jr. who is responsible for the fact Tony Stark has no last words after uttering “I am Iron Man. He just quietly dies in Pepper’s arms.
“These actors have spent a lot of time with these characters,” McFeely begins. “So Chris and I are very happy to write, and did, all sorts of dying words for Tony Stark. Robert is not happy to say them. Robert knew this instinctively: a guy who has talked and talked and talked for many, many movies, when he doesn’t talk you are crushed. He knew that, and we didn’t feel we could turn in a page where he didn’t talk. So he says, ‘Listen, I’m going to do much, much less.’ And he was right.”
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As it turns out, however, Downey’s last day was not the scene in which he expired but rather the one where he actually does give his final line of “I am Iron Man,” a line he made immortal as the final salvo in 2008’s original Iron Man. Joe Russo confirmed as much.
Says Russo, “The ‘I am Iron Man’ moment, I think, was very emotional because it was not only such a poetic line for Robert to have as his last line, but it was his last day, and it was on the soundstage next door to the soundstage where he did his first screen test for Iron Man 12 years earlier. So it was a very emotional day for everyone.”
Given how likewise misty-eyed the Hall H crowd was to even here Tony Stark’s name invoked, we’d say it still is quite emotional for all parties involved.
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David Crow is the Film Section Editor at Den of Geek. He’s also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. Read more of his work here. You can follow him on Twitter @DCrowsNest.