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SYFY WIRE Avengers: Endgame

Endgame writers dig into how 'What if?' comics inspired the latest Avengers film

By Josh Weiss
Thor in Avengers: Endgame

While it does not lack emotional moments, Avengers: Endgame has a surprising amount of comedy and levity for a film that contains some pretty tearful goodbyes to some of the most beloved comic book characters ever to grace the silver screen.

WARNING! The following contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame!

One of those lighter moments comes when Professor Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) take a little trip to New Asgard (really just a humble fishing village by the seaside) to recruit Thor (Chris Hemsworth) for their "Time Heist." Upon their arrival, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) warns them that the God of Thunder is not the deity he once was, setting up the hilarious reveal that he's now a self-pitying creature with a beer gut, overgrown hair, and a deep-seated hatred of rude Fortnite players. But hey, at least Korg (Taika Waititi) and Miek are still alive, right? ... RIGHT?!

During an in-depth chat with The New York Times, Avengers: Endgame screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, explained that Thor's Lebowski-esque existence was meant to be a tip of the hat to Marvel's famous line of speculatory comics. Those five years after Thanos (Josh Brolin) is beheaded (and all hope seemingly gone with him) were meant as a creative exercise in what happens after our MCU heroes, usually so victorious, lose, and spectacularly at that.

Thor Avengers: Endgame

"Chris and I wrote a master document while we were shooting Civil War, and one of the things we were interested in exploring is, remember the What If comics?" McFeely said. "Well, this is our what if. If you lost, Thor becomes fat. Natasha becomes a shut-in. Steve becomes depressed. Tony gets on with his life. Hulk is a superhero."

Markus followed that train of thought, saying, "Clint becomes a murdering maniac. 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. "

"He just got drunk and fat," finished McFeely.

Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame

Around the humor, however, is this sense of listlessness from the main characters. Some (like Tony Stark) have moved on and received second chances, while others (like Natasha Romanoff) cry over a peanut butter sandwich at just how futile life has become. Even Steve Rogers doesn't seem to really believe the words coming out of his mouth at "Snap" survivor support groups, where he tells folks to make the most out of this new and empty world. This atmosphere of self-pity and depression among our iconic heroes was certainly a risk for the filmmakers, but one worth taking, as it makes their ultimate victory that much sweeter two hours later.

"It felt less risky once I saw the reaction to Infinity War," added Markus. "You never know how you’re going to hit people, emotionally. We’ve been sitting with these events for years. We no longer have an emotional reaction. And then you see people crying in the theater. We’ve got to honor that or it’s going to feel like we’re just jerking them around." 

McFeely piped in on this subject, too:

"It was the part in test screenings where people were most uncomfortable. Because you are wallowing to a degree. There doesn’t seem to be any hope. In the end of Act II for most superhero movies, maybe they lose for five minutes. Here it’s for five years. That seemed important."

Of course, everyone knows that Marvel Studios is already developing an animated What If? anthology series for Disney+, with the first episode exploring what would have happened if Peggy Carter became a super-soldier instead of Steve Rogers. So, there are plenty more of these stories on the way.

Now playing in theaters everywhere, Avengers: Endgame made over $1 billion during its first weekend and is fast-approaching the record for highest-grossing movie in cinema history.