Every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has built toward the epic events of Avengers: Endgame, featuring a final standoff between Earth's Mightiest Heroes and the Mad Titan known as Thanos. And while the character finally got the justice he deserved by the end of the film, there was a scenario where he inflicted a lot more damage on the characters.
At an Avengers: Endgame screening event conducted by Empire Magazine, producer Kevin Feige indicated that there was a version of the story where Thanos had completely taken over the year 2023, and that when the Avengers returned to their timeline they'd find the Mad Titan waiting for them on a mountain of skulls.
One idea saw the Avengers return from the #TimeHeist to find that Thanos had already overtaken 2023 Earth – with the big purple guy sitting on a throne of skulls (!!!) waiting for them #EmpireMeetsFeige— Empire Magazine (@empiremagazine) August 8, 2019
Marvel Studios already teased Thanos victory in Avengers: Age of Ultron, in the vision that haunts Tony Stark's waking life after Scarlet Witch infects his head with visions. In that scene, Iron Man sees the fallen bodies of his comrades as a Chitauri swarm heads toward Earth.
The superhero production house reigned in their impulses, apparently, by deciding not to include the skulls of dead people fashioned into a makeshift throne. They also cut out a scene of Captain America's severed head being used as a novelty item by the Mad Titan.
Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely decided to alter the structure of the film's plot, instead focusing on playing up the challenge of Thanos in the timeline instead of having him murder beloved characters.
The writers explained that they had to balance "fan service" with storytelling, which was difficult for a story that served as the culmination of the the entire franchise thus far.
“On a separate subject, I started to lose my barometer on what was just fan service and what was good for the character," McFeely explained to the New York Times. "Because I think it’s good for the characters. But we also just gave you what you wanted. Is that good? I don’t know. But I’ll tell you, it’s satisfying. He’s postponed a life in order to fulfill his duty. That’s why I didn’t think we were ever going to kill him. Because that’s not the arc. The arc is, I finally get to put my shield down because I’ve earned that.”
Added Markus, “A hero without sacrifice, you’re not going to get the miles out of that person that you need to for these movies. That’s what makes them a hero, it’s not the powers.”
They also had to deal with how they handled Thanos, and it took a lot of brainstorming before they decided to kill the character in the film's opening act.
"So at one point in the room, everyone's getting real frustrated saying, 'What is the story here?' And I think Trinh Tran, our executive producer just said, 'God I really wish we could just kill him.' And we all went, 'Wait a second. Could you? What does that mean?'" And it sent us down this whole road, where we solve the issue in the first, what, 12 minutes? I don't know when this happens," said McFeely.
Avengers: Endgame is now streaming on Digital HD and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on August 13th.