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Nothing Thanos has ever done would look more deliciously evil on-screen than greeting a time-traveling Captain America by tossing him the severed head of a once-defeated foe — in this case Captain America himself — when Cap shows up out of the past to confront the Mad Titan of the future.
Yet that’s the scene we almost got in Avengers: Endgame, as directors Joe and Anthony Russo revealed at San Diego Comic-Con last month. Sadly, though, as Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently told Empire, the idea was a little too out of place time-wise — and maybe a little too gruesome — to make its way into the final cut.
Endgame’s writers originally had scripted an alternate-timeline scene in which a victorious Thanos sat atop a throne of skulls and bones in the year 2023, with Captain America’s head as one of his prize trophies. When the Avengers travel into that timeline, Thanos was to toss Cap his own head, “like a bowling ball,” as Feige put it, in a gloating moment of vile overconfidence.
But, said Feige, the scene ended up asking too much of an already-convoluted time-jumping plot. And although he thinks that kind of imagery would have perfectly highlighted Thanos’ grim, smug, win-at-all-costs ethos, the Endgame team simply couldn’t make it work without adding too much extra exposition.
“One of the ideas was, when they finish the time heist, they returned to a world [in 2023] that Thanos had already conquered, that involved all of that, the throne made of bones and skulls and had him tossing, like a bowling ball, Captain America’s severed skull head, still in the cowl, to Captain America,” he told Empire. “And it was pretty cool, but the logic to get there defeated us.”
The idea was to continue Thanos’ evil coming-out party from Avengers: Infinity War, where he finally showed why he’d been such a fearsome background manipulator all this time, after hovering like a hidden boogeyman in previous MCU movies.
“Thanos is not just a purple guy with a big chin who sits in chairs and smirks, which is basically all he had been up until Infinity War,” said Feige. “… I would keep opening the book and saying, 'But we need to do this. We need something like this. Thanos can do this.' Some of that led to things you saw in Infinity War in Knowhere, where he turns Drax into a pile of cubes. Or turns Nebula into that spiraling ribbon. Or has bubbles come out of Star-Lord's gun. His casual, sadistic use of the stones was something that we kept wanting to do.”
Feige doesn’t say that the scene (which never made it to the filming stage) was too gruesome for Endgame, a movie that, with Infinity War, took the Avengers into the MCU's darkest territory to date. But in hindsight, the idea of seeing Steve Rogers’ noggin getting thrown around like a bowling ball does seem a little jarring — even by Endgame’s bleak standards.
Did Marvel make the right call, or should Endgame have let Thanos go there? After all, he’d already murdered half the universe, and it couldn’t be any more traumatizing than watching Spidey turn to dust in Iron Man’s arms — could it? Let us know if you’d have preferred an even more head-on (ahem) Endgame confrontation between Thanos and Captain America.