Avengers: Endgame was, as expected, an ‘every superhero except the kitchen sink’ kind of affair. Having gathered the leading cape-wearers from all corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – the Wakandans, the Avengers, the Guardians and the rest – the production team had a tough job on their hands cramming them all into an epic three-hour time slot.
For most movies, 182 minutes would be considered overkill. But when you’re drawing 11 years, 22 films and one almighty finger snap to a conclusion, the editing process is an artform in its own right.
The team made drastic changes to the arcs of numerous characters in a bid to fit everyone into the frame. They whittled Endgame and Infinity War down to their runtime from a gargantuan 900 hours' footage – it’s no wonder the films’ editors Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt described the process as going from “insanity” to “absolutely hellish”.
Since Endgame’s release, directing duo Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have all spoken about various moments that fell to the cutting-room floor, some of them plot points that could have changed the structure of the film entirely.
In case you missed anything, here are the most significant cuts made to the Avengers’ final assembly. Be warned, things are about to get spoilery…
In a recent interview on the Slate podcast The Gist, the Russo brothers revealed that, in an early draft of the film, instead of running the superhero organisation, Black Widow was focused on taking care of children left orphaned by Thanos’ Snap.
“I believe at one point really early in development, Black Widow was actually leading the organisation in DC that was in charge of orphans, basically,” revealed Anthony. “That was what she was heading up five years later.”
Although this would have made for a profound moment, one that sits in line with Natasha’s character, it ultimately proved too large an idea for the production team to wrangle.
Thor’s Big Lebowski
Out of all the characters crammed into Endgame’s final cut, it was Thor who underwent the most dramatic transformation. Perhaps taking too much of a liberty with Chris Hemsworth’s comedic appeal, we were shocked to see that the five-year time jump hadn’t been too kind to the formerly fighting fit Thunder God, taking him down a path of depression, alcoholism and obesity.
Iron Man calls him "Big Lebowski", and the comparisons to Jeff Bridges' The Dude are frighteningly accurate – but it nearly didn’t turn out this way. In fact, writers Markus and McFeely revealed Thor nearly took on the role of vengeful killer in place of Hawkeye.
“Clint becomes a murdering maniac,” Marcus told the New York Times. “When we were spitballing for Endgame, we started with, Thor’s on a mission of vengeance. And then we were like, he was on a mission of vengeance in the last movie. This is all this guy ever does! And fails, all the time. Let’s drive him into a wall and see what happens.”
Eventually it all worked out for Thor, who was given the chance to say a proper goodbye to his mother in one of the more touching scenes, before saying farewell to Asgard to join the Guardians for some adventures across the universe.
"There's a funny beat," Anthony told Entertainment Weekly. "If you remember at the end of the film where Thor is saying goodbye to Valkyrie, he's basically turning over Asgard to her…
"He had this beat where Valkyrie... she puts her arm on his shoulder. And [Thor] sort of starts to lean in for a kiss, and she goes, 'What are you doing?'. And he goes, 'Oh, I thought that the touch–', and she's like, 'It's a goodbye tap I'm giving you'. It was a really funny beat, but we cut it."
Joe added: "It was cute. It was mostly improvised by the two [actors]. It was very funny."
It might have been funny but unfortunately it had to be edited out to make way for more integral scenes. We’ll have to leave this amusing aside to our imagination for the time being.
3000 is Not Enough
Although she was supposed to star as a teenage version of Tony Stark's daughter Morgan after he was transported to the metaphysical world post-snap, Langford was nowhere to be seen, with the girl Stark loves “3000” being played instead by younger actress Lexi Rabe.
Although they initially planned to have Tony meeting the grown-up Morgan when he was transported to the metaphysical world, the Russo brothers revealed that this meet-up just didn’t sit well with test audiences.
Speaking on the HappySadConfused podcast, Anthony said: "What we realised about it was we didn't feel an emotional association with the adult version of his daughter. So it wasn't ringing to us and resonating with us on an emotional level."
In separate interviews, both the editing team and the directing duo revealed just how many different options were considered for the time-heist segment of the movie. As we now know, it winds up taking us back to NYC to get the Tesseract right when the Battle of New York is taking place from the first Avengers movie.
However, things could have been very different. "The script had us showing up right when Tony flies through the Leviathan and blows it up from the inside," Ford told Business Insider. "But when we screened it for audiences in test screenings we realised it took a few minutes for them to acclimate themselves. It wasn't landing the way we wanted. So we tried other versions."
Another sequence proposed the entry point to be the moment where Hulk grabs Loki and smashes him back and forth on the ground. Meanwhile, Marcus and McFeely described a wealth of ideas that were thrown around, including having Iron Man appear in Asgard.
But a decision had to be made about what point they go back in time that audiences would instantly recognise. Although they worried the New York battle would be too “pander-y”, eventually they realised this was the perfect moment, one that viewers would instantly recognise.
“Eventually, Joe Russo went, why are we going to this movie when we can go to Avengers? Let’s make it work,” said McFeely.
Out of the Trenches
Endgame’s climactic battle is a sequence that will go down in cinematic history, pitting over a decade’s worth of MCU superheroes against Thanos’ massive army. Although the scene itself ran for a whopping 45 minutes, Markus explained how they wrote and shot an even longer battle with its own three-act structure.
Due to time constraints, the team had to perform a little nip and tuck on a few unnecessary moments, including one where the superheroes take shelter to hash things out.
“It didn’t play well, but we had a scene in a trench where, for reasons, the battle got paused for about three minutes and now there’s 18 people all going, ‘What are we going to do?’ ‘I’m going to do this.’ ‘I’m going to do this.’ Just bouncing around this completely fake, fraudulent scene,” admitted McFeely.
“When you have that many people, it invariably is, one line, one line, one line. And that’s not a natural conversation.” Pausing mid-battle for a three-minute quibble is not ideal when you’ve got Thanos and his mega-army trying to destroy the entire universe – probably a good thing they left this one out.
Bonus: Smart Hulk
Not so much cut as it was shuffled along – according to the writers, the scene in which we’re introduced to the new and improved Bruce Banner (aka Smart Hulk) was supposed to feature long before the events of Endgame.
“There was a time when Banner became Smart Hulk in the first movie,” explained Markus. “It was a lot of fun, but it came at the wrong moment. It was an up, right when everyone else was down.”
Apparently the writers initially wrote Smart Hulk’s introduction for the lab where we would’ve witnessed the transformation unfold, but eventually they decided it best to have him eating breakfast in a diner alongside a very confused Scott Lang. As Markus put it, “The whole thing rides on Rudd going, ‘I’m so confused.’”
Avengers: Endgame is out now.
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