The world (and internet) is still reeling from the finale of the MCU’s climactic film, one whose spoilers are so deep that if you clicked on this article, you’ve already signed away your right to complain.
Five people who aren’t complaining — or apologizing — are the directing duo behind Avengers: Infinity War (Joe and Anthony Russo), the screenwriters (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely), and Marvel president Kevin Feige. The success of the film has already proven they’ve done something unmatched in cinema history, and they’re not sorry about your feelings.
In conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Markus and McFeely talked about the film’s intense ending and their commitment to preserving the dire tone their film has struck — even if that meant hurting the fans they love most. It’s not all fun and games where everyone gets to live (even if there’s a magical stone that can reverse time — we’ll get to that); losing characters to a titan’s snap of the fingers is all about eating your cinematic vegetables.
"From the very beginning, Kevin [Feige] said, 'Don't be afraid of that move. It's OK to go there, and let's go there,'" McFeely said of the genocidal finale. That’s straight from the comic books, though the timing of this was pushed to make it really hurt during the year between Infinity War and Avengers 4. “Do you do it at the end of the movie? Do you do it at some other spot?" asked McFeely. No. You had to do the end, argued Markus. “If you had stopped it before he snapped his fingers, or with four stones, that really is just a pause button. That really is just going, 'What's he going to do?' 'Will your hero stop dangling from the cliff?' And we wanted to put a much more definitive 'Yes, this happens. Deal with it,' tone at the end of it, rather than jerk you around."
And jerked around we were not. Well, besides the jerking around that comics themselves do when they play fast and loose with the mortalities of their heroes. But as far as pulling punches in this film, it was never something the screenwriters considered. In fact, it could’ve been a lot worse, considering how they framed the movie for themselves. “This is Thanos’ hero’s journey,” said McFeely, who went on to call him “the protagonist of the movie.” No wonder he gets what he wants in the end.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo, speaking to Variety, noted that they played their part keeping the ending both surprising and affecting. In fact, they manipulated some of the marketing to misdirect fans into thinking that some of the Avengers mainstays would simply back out rather than be turned to dust. But, as Joe said, “when you try to predict what an audience wants, you’re going to make mush. When you commit to the story you want to tell, it tends to have a much more resonant impact on the audience... The audience can tell you they love chocolate ice cream, but if you give it to them every day, they’re going to get sick of it real fast. You’ve got to stay ahead of them.” Sorry, fans, but the Russos aren’t here to give you what you want.
But there’s always the potential for it to be reversed. I mean, the film spends its runtime explaining how things could be reversed with the Infinity Stones. Yet, as Anthony says, “There is a real commitment on our end to the stakes. Yes, this is a fantasy world, and yes, remarkable things can happen in a fantasy world, but—” Then Joe chimes in with “They come at an incredibly high cost.” What that cost will be and who will truly stay dead will only become apparent once Avengers 4 hits theaters next year.