While death has a tendency to be temporary in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both of Avengers: Endgame's major kills have remained permanent three years later. Aside from the Black Widow prequel movie released in 2021, both Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff and Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark have stayed in the grave since they met their ends on Vormir and Avengers Compound, respectively. While analyzing Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor's three on one fight against Thanos from Endgame, directors Joe and Anthony Russo said they were tapping into the same unpredictability of outcome that the film's predecessor accomplished.
"That's the stakes of the movie, right? We knew the audience felt that way. We were acutely aware coming off of Infinity War that we put them in a position where they felt like nobody was safe," Joe told Happy Sad Confused. "And there was a lot of rumors swirling about who was going to die."
Losing two OGs by Endgame's credits certified the film as one of the franchise's most consequential installments, but if Marvel President Kevin Feige had his way, the casualties would have tripled.
"Kevin did actually pitch at one point taking all the OGs off the board," Joe continued. "We thought it was way too aggressive and that the audience wouldn't be able to process it, and that in fact picking one or two characters to make sacrifices throughout the movie might give you moments throughout the film where the action could stop and you could have emotional catharsis and then continue with the narrative, and then add more emotional catharsis."
"That was also very early days. It wasn't like there was a script or anything that had that in it," Anthony added.
This concept runs parallel to another dark idea that the fourquel toyed with. The Russos revealed in July 2019 that the big three's battle against the Mad Titan opened with Thanos throwing the decapitated head of Captain Americaat the Avengers' feet. This would have been a result of that Thanos, from 2014, killing the Star-Spangled Man from his timeline before arriving in 2023.
"We had most of the script working except for the third act, because Anthony and I were clinging to this concept that we wanted Thanos to walk up to the Avengers and throw Captain America's head on the ground," Joe Russo added. "We couldn't give up on it, and finally we said, 'All right, what if we don't do that, can we find another way into the third act?' And that's when it turned into what it is now."
While Feige's idea was less grim by comparison, it did come from a place of inspiration. According to the directing duo, Feige's vision for the culminating chapter of The Infinity Saga was akin to how Pixar ended its first trilogy.
"Kevin early on had pitched that it was like Toy Story 3 where they should all jump into a fire to save the universe," Joe said.
But again, none of these ideas ever made it into print.
"This was all at a conceptual level," Anthony noted.0comments
Avengers: Endgame went on to be the highest-grossing film of all time, holding that title for over one year before Avatar would reclaim its top spot upon a re-release. Since his final chapter as Iron Man, Downey has made one feature film appearance, starring as the title role in 2020's Dolittle. RDJ's next premier role comes in next summer's Oppenheimer, his first collaboration with acclaimed director Christopher Nolan.
Endgame is currently streaming on Disney+.