The friction between Tony Stark and Stephen Strange is one of the key reasons why the tragedy of Avengers: Infinity War and the time-warping redemption of Avengers: Endgame have such a tremendous emotional payoff. From the first moment the two type-As meet in Infinity War, there’re instant sparks — so when the protector of the Time Stone arrives with backup for Endgame’s final showdown against Thanos, watching Stark and Strange forget their differences to take point together is all the more satisfying.
Well, if Doctor Strange was already hard to get along with in the movies we actually got, we’ve gotta wonder just how much more difficult his playhouse full of mystic toys could have made life for the rest of the Avengers if they’d tried to rip off the Time Stone in Endgame, instead of having Bruce Banner calmly talk his way into a permission slip from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).
As writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus recently explained, just such a scene was written and ready to go in an early Endgame draft — but, sadly, it didn’t make the final cut, since it simply didn’t fit into the larger story.
Speaking with Canada.com, the writers said they used most of the material they wrote for Endgame. But having Strange’s sanctum full of magic artifacts play havoc with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes simply took the time heist story too far into the weeds. So viewers instead ended up with the scene where Banner and the Ancient One discuss branching timelines, and the hidden reason why Strange might have given the Time Stone to Thanos.
“At one point, we had a different way of getting to the Time Stone which involved some characters breaking into (Doctor Strange’s) Sanctum Sanctorum and being pursued by all the weird stuff that happens to be trapped inside there,” Markus said. “It was totally off story and unnecessary and it got cut, but it was fun to write.”
The writers didn’t say which Avengers were written into the cut Endgame scene, but anyone who’s seen Thor: Ragnarok has glimpsed at least a preview of what such a setup might look like. Thor ends up at Strange’s address early in Ragnarok, and stays befuddled through his entire visit by Strange’s self-willed cape, an endless beer mug that magically refills, and Strange’s power to shape-shift Thor’s hammer into the form of a lowly umbrella.
Markus also said that Tony's farewell sequence in Endgame wasn't a Marvel-mandated requirement. "We weren’t there to just kill characters off. We were told, ‘If the story demands it, you can take people off the board. But if there’s a good story to be told and no one dies, go ahead and tell that one too,'" he explained.
"In Endgame, we were trying to finish arcs, and for Iron Man/Tony Stark to give up his life and sacrifice himself for the good of the universe seemed like a really good narrative closure for the billionaire playboy who had been learning over the course of several films (to be a better person)."
Maybe Marvel will one day put together a B-roll where all the ideas that never made their way into the MCU at last get their chance at being acted out. Hey, if that’s not in the original actors’ gazillion-figure contracts, we might even know a cosplaying fan or two who’d gladly act out all these fun cut scenes on the cheap. In the meantime, at least we have the entire third phase of the MCU to rewatch and reflect on while we wait for what Marvel has in store — including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which conjures its way into theaters on May 7 of 2021.