Avengers: Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely had particular difficulty scripting a scene showing the Avengers plotting their “time heist,” which meant recounting where the six Infinity Stones were located in the MCU’s past.
“Well, usually it’s the drier scenes, because we need the audience to understand what we’re doing. We tend to call them ‘let me get this straight’ scenes, where in the bad version someone starts off by going, ‘Wait, so let me get this straight — there are six stones?’” Markus says in Backstory Magazine when asked to name the toughest scene to write.
“And the whole sequence of figuring out the time heist, where the stones are, trying to remind people of which movies they were in so they’d know what we were doing when we went back to them — that got reshuffled and rewritten and edited a lot. We definitely began to wonder, ‘Is this just an extreme exercise in patting ourselves on the back?’ We have fictional characters making inside jokes about other movies we wrote. Is this entertaining anybody but me?’”
Some of those inside jokes — including an exchange between Captain America (Chris Evans) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) about the Tesseract, and another where Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) cracks wise about the Avengers’ difficulties battling the Chitauri in The Avengers — were left on the cutting room floor and only surfaced as part of Endgame’s collection of deleted scenes.
Other scenes that underwent significant changes include a 2012-set meeting between Smart Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), and a key scene between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) on Vormir.
“We rewrote every scene over the course of three years. I’m trying to think... Ancient One and Hulk on the roof went through a bunch of iterations,” added McFeely.
“How much information did anybody want? We took several cracks at Clint and Natasha on the cliff and, as Chris probably said, several cracks at when Thanos figures it out. How much is he ahead of the audience, or how much is the audience ahead of him?”
Because early test screenings left audiences confused by the MCU’s take on time travel, scenes simplifying Endgame’s rules of quantum-based time travel were added.
“We do these very secret screenings of the films early on with folks who work at Disney, and we started getting a lot of feedback, ‘With Nebula, [when she] kills herself, she would disappear.’ And sort of all the traditional tropes of Back to the Future,” Joe Russo said during a Q&A hosted on Periscope.
“We said, ‘No, we kind of explained it with in two sentences right here.’ Everybody’s like, ‘I’m not getting what you’re talking about.’ So we actually had to go back and create those scenes with Smart Hulk, Scott Lang, and Rhodey, where they’re talking through [time travel].”
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