Over the weekend we spoke to Avengers: Infinity War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Marvel is being so secretive about the film, they didn’t even show it to media before these interviews. (Though, that will all change tonight, so beware Twitter spoilers soon.) So unless Markus and McFeely are serious that Infinity War ends with a recreation of the ending to the final episode of M*A*S*H, only it’s Thanos in a helicopter with his name printed on the side of it flying off, then you have little to worry about spoiler-wise ahead.
This is Markus and McFeely’s fifth Marvel movie (they wrote all the previous Captain America films) but their first Avengers movie. Ahead, they give us the breakdown of how all this works, including what they can get away with and how it works going back and forth with Marvel when it comes to what characters may perish in the next two movies (they also wrote next year’s Avengers movie) and what characters need to stick around. Also, they explain why Thanos makes a great character and why they made him the protagonist of Infinity War. And they explain why next year’s Avengers movie is no longer called Infinity War Part II.
Thanos has been teased for six years now. Did he wind up being a hard character to write for?
Christopher Markus: Well, he’s an important character to write for. But, line to line he’s pretty fun – because he’s very smart and very sort of philosophical about things. And, so, you’re not held down to simple plot. He’s probably the smartest guy in the MCU and that has been a great pleasure.
I’m guessing we won’t see him fly a helicopter with his name on it?
Markus: How else would he know what helicopter to drive?
And then the police take him away.
Stephen McFeely: It’s a long con.
So in this movie will we will see him fly a helicopter with his name on it?
Markus: How else would he get around? Look, he can’t get in a car.
McFeely: Did you see the Andre the Giant documentary?
McFeely: It’s terrible that he had to go to the bathroom in a bucket on cross-country flights!
So Thanos has a similar situation?
McFeely: Thanos has a bucket.
So, you thought you had your work cut out for you in Civil War with all the characters, now it’s maybe double. How hard is that?
McFeely: It just dictates a different structure – a different type of storytelling. In Civil War, we were watching a family fall apart and people take sides in the family squabble. This is more one character imposing his will on many other ones and they all have to respond to him. We sort of wrote him as the protagonist of the movie and everyone has to react to him. So it just means the storytelling is different and character’s roles are slightly different.
Does that make you nervous? There are a lot of characters people know in this movie, but here’s one people don’t know well and he’s the protagonist…
McFeely: Well that’s why he gets all the screentime because we needed to get people to know him.
Markus: And it’s fresher that way. We get to do the big intro to this character, as opposed to episode three of The Avengers where all the characters you already know do another thing. But this really has a focus that is beyond – that’s why it’s not called Avengers 3.
Because of your history with Captain America, I would assume you’d latch on to him…
McFeely: Well, I think we get accused a lot of being Cap homers and certainly we are quite attached to him.
But you wrote Captain America movies, that would make sense?
McFeely: [Laughs.] I know. But with Civil War, anyone who is a Tony fanatic thinks that we ruined Tony to make Steve look like a choir boy and I would say Steve does not look like a choir boy in that movie.
Markus: The fact is, we have great confidence in Chris Evans’ performance and in Cap’s character, so it was fun to put him in a place where he’s fine, but then go off and play with the other characters.
So how does this work with the script? Is it you can do what you want but are told like five things have to happen? Or can you write anything and say, “What do you think?”
McFeely: It’s the “What do you think?” They don’t let us do anything we want, but the only thing we started with was Thanos, stones, and an ambition: a big epic and try to get in as many people that’s reasonable that the story would allow or demand. And we came up with 60 pages of manifesto saying here’s all the ways we could go. Here’s the crazy town version, here’s the easy version, here’s all this stuff. So then Marvel got with us and started circling stuff saying, “This is really intriguing, let’s follow that.” As we get further along in the MCU, I think it’s okay to say Chris and I have earned a lot more trust with every movie. We can’t do anything, but we can push the envelope.
So what’s the crazy town version?
McFeely: Wait for the Blu-ray.
Markus: There were pretty trippy things happening that we pulled back from. And when I think trippy, I think Jim Starlin. Our source material was bonkers.
So if you said, “We know people love Black Panther and the movie made a lot of money, but for our story he needs to die,” they’d listen to you?
Markus: Well, we can suggest anything. And if we have a good enough argument for it they will entertain it, but there are certain things that are just like, “What, are you stupid?”
McFeely: And these two movies are the end of something and the beginning of something else, so we are going to say goodbye to people. We’re not just going to say goodbye to “seventh Asgardian on the left.”
Do you get hints on what characters Marvel would like to see move on?
McFeely: Well, it’s a group effort. So we all sit around and are like, okay, this would be a wonderful conclusion to this person’s arc. And Marvel has to go, well, do we think economically that’s a good conclusion to this person’s arc? And that certainly will play into it, but there’s a reason why they’re here because they don’t run scared. And they are not afraid to do the right thing story-wise even if some bean counter says, “You could squeeze more money if you kept going.” They have a lot of confidence that there are a lot of questions and if you execute them well, people will come to watch them.
So when did you find out Avengers 4 wasn’t Infinity War Part II anymore?
McFeely: The easy answer is that there were certain movies before that were based on well-loved or popular books and turned those movies into two parts. If you know the books you know where they split it down the middle. Maybe that’s arbitrary and maybe that’s not, but it certainly means you have to go to the movie twice. With our source material, like we always do, we borrow stuff so we’re not doing a straight adaptation of Infinity War. We didn’t do it with Winter Soldier and we didn’t do it with Civil War. We didn’t want people to get the impression we took something and cut it in half at a random moment. These are two very different movies and only lightly, loosely based on the source material. It’s much more based on the inevitable push of the MCU as a whole.
You know, this isn’t an easy interview having not seen the movie yet. I feel like I’m just asking, “So tell me how it ends,” over and over.
Markus: “Tell me who dies!”
[The publicist says I have time for one more question.]
Okay, so how does it end?
Markus: [Laughs.] So, the helicopter with his name on it pulls away and Tony spells out “Goodbye” in rocks as Thanos pulls away in his helicopter.
McFeely: And then Thanos is led off in handcuffs.
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