Back in June of last year, I got a chance to visit the set of Avengers: Infinity War at Atlanta’s Pinewood Studios. This is the fifth part in a series of articles from that trip. You can also read the previous interviews with Chadwick Boseman and Mark Ruffalo, Anthony and Joe Russo, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, and Danai Gurira.
That’s the one word co-writer Stephen McFeely would use to describe Avengers: Infinity War. Simply, “epic.”
McFeely and his co-writer Christopher Markus are the keepers of some of the biggest secrets in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After writing Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: Civil War, the duo’s latest project (technically two projects, as they are also writing the untitled fourth Avengers film) is their most daunting yet.
“This is about the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” said Markus. “This is about everyone getting together, or trying their hardest to get together, to fight a guy named Thanos.”
“We’ve been teasing Thanos for many movies in 30-second clips,” McFeely said, “so hopefully all the lead up will allow us to really go to town and make him a villain that requires this epic level of storytelling.”
There’s that word again.
Marvel fans everywhere have been anticipating the arrival of Thanos – waiting to see the full scope of his power. In Infinity War, it will be on full display.
Markus described Thanos as, “an amoral philosopher. We wanted to have a villain with understandable motivations and emotions. Thanos has family. Thanos has two daughters that we know of. Thanos has 8 million backstories in the comics, but they’re all kind of sad.”
The challenge for Thanos is to not only make him a good villain, but to also make sure he is interesting as a character. Being able to draw off previous Marvel villains helped shape who Thanos is in this movie.
McFeely pointed out that his two favorite villains in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe are Loki and Kilgrave, “because they’re creepy and awful, but really care in a strange way.”
“Thanos will get the benefit of both of those things… He has his daughters that he clearly has to deal with, and James [Gunn, writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy] did a nice job of setting the table for us, but we’re certainly going to run with that. And screen time. This is not an origin story. Very often, in the screenwriting [process], we’re trying to get a character up and off the ground and so the bad guy tends to be a foil for the development of the hero and that’s not the case here. If anything, it’s the opposite. Our heroes are foils for the villain, whose story we need to tell at large … In many ways, it’s Thanos’ movie.”
“Hopefully,” Markus said, “You’ll come away from this the same way you do in the comics. He started off as a rogue villain but he’s his own thing now. Where you go, ‘I can’t say he was wrong.’”
As we discussed with the Russo Brothers, bringing together so many characters and worlds is a complicated process.
“‘Strange alchemy,’” McFeely said. “It’s a Joe Russo term. What is it when you put the two characters together, even in a fairly normal traditional situation? But since we’ve invested in those characters and known them, we sort of delighted in the idea of those two people [together]. So, we always chased ‘delight’ – and terror.”
Markus agreed. “We had a wall of characters and at a certain point you just go: ‘That’s funny and that’s funny. What’s a story that could get those two [characters] together?’”
“One of the reasons that first Avengers movie was so popular and so exciting,” McFeely said, “is you were taking four franchises and smashing them into each other. Hopefully we have the same kind of magic here. One of the challenges we’ve had is, how do you make sure this is not 25 people moving from one scene to another scene to another scene? So you’ve got four or five different stories weaved together and then come together and then break apart. So, you get all these different pairings and groupings of four and five and six.”
And when it comes to those on-screen pairings, both said that they feel audiences will be surprised by the characters that are teaming up.
When it comes to the story of Infinity War, little is known. When we last saw the Avengers in Civil War, they had broken apart and went their own ways. Both writers felt it was necessary to still feel the lingering emotions from that movie.
Markus explained, “We didn’t want to devalue Civil War by having a phone call saying, ‘Let’s all get back together because there’s an even worse guy.’ So we dragged that a long way through it so that we are valuing the resentments we’ve built up between these characters.”
“They’re ill-prepared to handle this,” McFeely added.
“And it shows,” Markus said.
The Avengers seem like they may be in over their heads. The only way to find out is by seeing Avengers: Infinity War when it hits theaters on April 27. Check back on Friday for more from our visit to the Infinity War set!