Avengers: Infinity War stuffed the Earth’s mightiest heroes into a movie with the rest of the galaxy’s mightiest heroes, the galaxy’s scariest villains, and some heroes that were sort of middlingly mighty and just doing their best. There was a lot going on that the filmmakers had to make interesting and full of motion, something that didn’t just look like two dozen costumed crusaders running from room to room. They needed to make the characters fit together in certain combinations, but before that, they needed to nail down who the characters were going to be and how their personalities would interact.
Speaking with Vulture, Infinity War screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely talked about how they split up the characters and the one character they needed to revise after his most recent film. Sure, there’s the go-to linking of the two goateed egomaniacs Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who McFeely said are both, “the smartest guy in the room, so what happens when you’re in the room with another guy like that?” That’s a fun dynamic that allows Stark’s history with the franchise to give him more emotional depth and link him with Spider-Man. But everyone finds a common frenemy in Star-Lord.
“Like Strange and Stark, Star-Lord thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room…only he isn’t,” McFeely said. “So you’ve got these two guys bumping heads with each other,” said Markus, “but suddenly they can agree that this other guy is the real problem.” The more meta problem for the writers actually came from another entry into the MCU.
The pair had Thor’s tragic beginning to the film written, continuing his place as the MCU’s straight man. However, after Taika Waititi’s grand slam Thor: Ragnarok, which cemented Chris Hemsworth as a comic genius and the character as one with a certain strange wit, they had to go back to the drawing board. “We changed a few scenes early on because Hemsworth had just done Thor: Ragnarok and was concerned,” said McFeely. “He was like, ‘Listen, guys, I’ve been in Australia and we’re doing crazy stuff!’” Waititi was consulted, flown out, and utilized to rewrite Thor as a funnier guy this go-round, fitting with the tone established in his last solo movie.
That’s something that had to happen because these writers were working on Infinity War before Thor: Ragnarok, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther were released. They were constantly adapting their takes to retroactively fit in with these characters’ origins. James Gunn had similar levels of input to the Guardians’ activities as Waititi had with Thor, with the two directors having a personal ownership of their heroes’ sense of humor and personality. That made their grouping a natural choice.
The same with Vision and Scarlet Witch, whose romance provide the key plot element of the film. Vision’s got an Infinity Stone in his head and, well, Scarlet Witch likes him too much to kill. Their story, and that of Thanos and Gamora, are the two most emotionally-charged groupings of the pack and those that fit most closely (and naturally) to the main plot.
As for everyone else, “if it didn’t serve the Thanos plotline, we could only glancingly hit it,” said McFeely, despite the writing team’s best efforts. “We wrote scenes for a lot of things where we just felt, ‘Now is not the time,’” said Markus. “We’d love a five-hour movie where we explore Steve and Natasha and Sam Wilson on the run,” McFeely said, “but we don’t get to do that.” The lead-up to Avengers 4 will be ripe with speculation on what could and couldn’t be fit in the movie, especially considering the aftermath of Infinity War’s end. At least it’ll be easier to manage the (greatly reduced) number of characters this time around.