Avengers: Infinity War could have been a very different film had screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely followed some of their early story directions. The pair – who wrote all three entries of the Captain America trilogy – were signed on to write the script for the two-part Infinity War in May 2015, drawing inspiration from Jim Starlin’s classic Infinity Gauntlet comic. Of course, typical of Marvel, the adaptation is a loose one, with a lot of big changes to make it fit in the MCU.
Over the three-year development of Avengers: Infinity War, directed by the Russo brothers, a lot changed in the story. The overarching narrative always appears to have been same, with events building towards the “snap” – a cosmic event that the scriptwriters were determined to adapt for the big screen. But the details changed, and entire character arcs were adapted, adjusted, and sometimes even abandoned. It’s possible some plots were even moved to next year’s Avengers 4, although naturally Marvel is keeping quiet about that.
Little by little, the writers, directors, and concept artists are opening up about different ideas that they considered using, and scenes that almost made it into the script. Here are the biggest differences… that we know of. It’s worth noting that Marvel is yet to release an official Art of Avengers: Infinity War book that gives audiences a behind-the-scenes look at the development and a chance to examine the different concepts experimented with during pre-production; this has been pushed back to October, possibly to keep the lid on smaller Avengers 4 spoilers. However, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been so big reveals already.
- This Page: Thanos’ Story Was Almost Bigger, Scarier, And Had A Different Ending
- Page 2: Different Arcs and Team-Ups For Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Falcon and Hulk
Massive Backstory Would Have Really Made It Thanos’ Movie
Comic book writer Jim Starlin was welcomed on the set of Avengers: Infinity War many times. According to Starlin, Marvel filmed 30 minutes of Thanos’s backstory, but left it on the editing-room floor. Starlin hoped this footage would be released in some sort of director’s cut, although that currently seems unlikely. This comment explains why, during on-set visits a year before the movie’s release, McFeely described Avengers: Infinity War as “Thanos’s origin movie.” That’s what it was, at the time; but it’s not what it became.
Starlin’s comments have been confirmed by the film’s VFX supervisor, Matt Aitken. “Originally there had early on been… a longer flashback to the original Titan,” he explained. This more in-depth look at Thanos’s history would have revealed that he was a mutant among his own people, just as in the comics. Presumably, the flashbacks would then have moved on, to show the catastrophe that befell Titan.
These sequences are the most exciting of all the ones cut from Avengers: Infinity War. As tremendous as the final film may be, one of its strongest criticisms is that it often operates on a principle of “tell, not show“; Thanos’s motives and backstory are explained in lengthy monologues, with creative use of the Reality Stone acting as a backdrop. Meanwhile, the Black Order are essentially just flunkies, rather than fully-fleshed-out characters in their own right. Flashbacks revealing how they came to side with Thanos would have changed that.
But, as disappointing as it is to realize what we could have had, it’s also easy to understand why the Russos chose to abandon these flashbacks. Avengers: Infinity War depends on a relentless sense of momentum, with the narrative advancing ceaselessly towards the moment when Thanos snaps his fingers. Lengthy flashbacks – especially 30 minutes of them – would have cost the film its momentum.
Thanos’ Rampage & Its Impact
In addition to more backstory, Avengers: Infinity War almost showed more of Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Stones and its impact on the people he left behind, addressing a common complaint against the film’s hero focus and further tipping the film’s balance towards the villain.
First was the attack on Xandar. When Avengers: Infinity War begins, Thanos has already devastated Xandar and acquired his first Infinity Stone, the Power Stone. However, in early scripts the scene was present in all its glory, some with Gamora watching the decimation. This was cut due to its overall repetition, although parts of the finalized opening were also shortened; the attack on the Asgardian ship was more brutal and would have more clearly shown Thanos wiping out half of Thor’s people. Finally, concept art has also shown an attempted evacuation of Knowhere – with Thanos blasting the escaping vessels out of the sky.
Each of these would have given a tangible scale to Thanos’ threat when he still has less than half of the Infinity Stones. Avengers: Infinity War as released still does this with his easy handling of Thor, Loki and Hulk, of course, but the number of innocents would have shifted his threat early on.
The “Snap” Almost Happened In Avengers 4
Avengers: Infinity War‘s cliffhanger ending is the movie’s ace: the villain wins, half the heroes die, cut to black. It’s the lowest point imaginable for the heroes that wraps up the main themes explored in Thanos’ arc here while also implicitly setting up Avengers 4. However, the snap was originally going to be saved for the sequel. It sounds like early Avengers: Infinity War scripts still ended with Thanos triumphant, successfully acquiring the last of the Infinity Stones, but he didn’t use them until Avengers 4.
This would have fundamentally altered the mood coming out of Infinity War. Thanos still won, sure, and it looks like the eventual outcome of the snap would have been the same – the core Avengers and a couple of Guardians survive – but the end note would be considerably less downbeat and the two movies more intrinsically linked as a Part 1 and Part 2. In fact, it was for that reason – making the movies distinct – that led Markus and McFeely to move the snap to the end of Avengers 3.
Page 2 of 2: How Avengers Arcs Changed
Thor’s Axe Quest Went Through Many Iterations
Thor was long described as the main Avenger in Infinity War, getting the most screentime and the most focused arc. However, the specifics of that journey – which in the finished film saw him reignite a galactic forge – evolved a lot. Some versions of the quest saw the God of Thunder battle a giant dragon, while in others he visited the ghost of his deceased grandfather, Bor. Joe Russo compared Thor’s journey to the trials of Hercules, twelve labors the Demigod performed in order to gain the blessing of immortality.
While these would have altered the tone of Thor’s journey, in the bigger scope of Avengers: Infinity War any of these versions – which were dropped before shooting – would have presumably fit a similar role in the narrative and thus not dramatically changed the flow and structure. Indeed, in the end, they’d all have wound up with Thor in the same place – wielding Stormbreaking in a last and tragically unsuccessful attack upon the Mad Titan.
Captain America’s Role Could Have Been Very Different
Captain America had a much smaller role in Avengers: Infinity War than previous Avengers films, and while that’s going to be addressed in Avengers 4, he almost a different story in Avengers: Infinity War too.
One early version of the script saw Steve Rogers and Tony Stark (who spend all of Infinity War apart), reunite when the former arrives at the Avengers Compound. This, presumably, came before Iron Man was decided to go into space and thus speaks to a very different arc for Stark, and by the writers’ own admission caused major balance issues for the film due to the scale of Steve and Tony’s falling out in Captain America: Civil War. Depending on where Avengers 4 picks up, some aspects of this could be worked in.
Other drafts flipped Steve Rogers role, having him absent until the final act Battle of Wakanda. Similar to Thor’s triumphant entrance, Captain America would save Vision from Corvus Glaive at the last minute, giving his a surprise, heroic entrance. Given how strong a screen presence Chris Evans was in Avengers: Infinity War, essentially forming the glue of the Earth-based Avengers, moving his introduction much earlier to Edinburgh was definitely a strong move.
Both of these ideas came from early on in the scripting process, so it’s difficult to say how these would have affected the film’s overarching plot. At the least, it would have left Steve as a much more absent figure.
Falcon Almost Went to Space Instead of Spider-Man
While the split between Titan and Wakanda appears to have been an early narrative decision, the exact participants in each area wasn’t exactly; Markus and McFeely experimented with a whole range of different potential team-ups, trying to see which ones worked. As such, in one version of the Avengers: Infinity War script, it wasn’t Spider-Man who went to space with Iron Man and Doctor Strange – it was Falcon.
An alliance between Iron Man and Falcon would be an entertaining one, given the depth of bad blood between the two after Captain America: Civil War, and would adjust the dynamic across Titan; Tony’s fatherly role would be lessened without Peter Park. Of course, the writers ultimately decided that the team-up between Iron Man and Falcon simply lacked the weight of emotion they needed.
Hulk Actually Hulks Out
The most-discussed character coming out of Avengers: Infinity War was Hulk, and not all of it was positive. The character’s role was a confounding one, with Bruce Banner struggling to bring out his green alter-ego for the entire runtime (this despite trailers showing the Hulk participating in the Battle of Wakanda).
This wasn’t always the case. It appears that, originally, Hulk would have emerged from the Hulkbuster armor during the climactic battle with Cull Obsidian, evidenced by now-inaccurate merchandise and teased by director Joe Russo, who says they held back Hulk to better grow Banner. While this was the culmination of just one arc and a change made late in the day, it would have altered the power balance of the final battle going up against Thanos – not that it would have helped.