Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter listens to the commentary for the very last Marvel film ever, Avengers: Endgame!
Odds are you’ve seen Avengers: Endgame, maybe even more than once, but have you listened to it? Can you call yourself a fan if you haven’t? Of course, you can, but to clarify, I’m talking specifically about the commentary track — all three hours of it. Don’t worry, though, as I’ve gone ahead and listened to it for you.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for…
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Commentators: Anthony & Joe Russo (directors), Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (writers)
1. Hawkeye/Clint Barton’s (Jeremy Renner) daughter is played by Ava Russo, Joe’s daughter. His daughter Leah appears in the later diner scene asking Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) for his autograph.
2. The opening scene with Hawkeye’s family disappearing was originally intended to appear at the end of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), but they felt his sudden appearance was “too disorienting.” Here, though, it works to re-establish the emotion.
3. Steve Winwood’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” is the needle-drop over the opening Marvel credits, and they chose it both as a way to distinguish this as end of an era but also to speak directly to the idea of Marvel as a giant pop culture factory.
4. One reason behind the five-year-jump is that “it allows all those characters to get really close to being ‘quote-unquote’ complete people.”
5. It’s meant to be understood that Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) arrival outside the spaceship carrying Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) occurs after she’s visited Earth, spoke to the remaining Avengers, and then followed a homing beacon emanating from the ship. This reveal wasn’t part of earlier cuts, and instead, they had her first appearance as she brings the ship to Avengers headquarters.
6. This was filmed before Captain Marvel (2019).
7. The Russos praise the writers for crafting dialogue that continually feels true to the character speaking it. “If you find yourself having your character say something anybody in the room could have said then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.”
8. One of their favorite shots in the film is seeing Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) go to space for the first time.
9. They had been debating how to handle the Thanos side of the story this time around as he’s “comically powerful” and has already beat them silly once. “What is a two-hour movie where you’re playing cat and mouse with that guy?” The comics work past this by essentially having Thanos “tie one hand behind his back,” but they didn’t want to go that route here. The answer came from producer Trinh Tran who said one day, “Kind of really wish we could just kill him.” That opened their eyes and ultimately allowed for a different and unexpected film.
10. The “Five Years Later” text is followed by a cooler, grimmer color timing meant to highlight the grief of five years gone.
11. The intention behind the self-help group meeting is to show that the snap has affected everyone, not just heroes.
12. The hero of the entire film and of the “Infinity Saga” is Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).
13. They allow themselves coincidences in Act I, but “coincidences late in the movie are lazy.” So yes, they’re okay with the rat helping release Lang from the Quantum Realm.
14. The scene where Lang reunites with his daughter leaves all of them misty eyed no matter how many times they watch it, and they credit Rudd’s performance and improvised line “You’re so big.”
15. They point to a scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) — Rogers telling Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) that he can’t trust her if she stays in a morally gray existence — as being key to her character and arc. Here he suggests giving up and moving forward, but she convinces him to instead stay the heroic course and find an answer. She discovers her own willingness to self-sacrifice in order to restore a “family.”
16. The end of Infinity War left them trying to write their way out of a corner, and while they considered time travel as the answer they also knew that was “the stupidest idea” they could possibly have. The Ant-Man films argued otherwise, though, as they offer up the seeds of a time machine, and ultimately it won them over as time travel allowed for multiple scenes highlighting the emotion of loss, reunion, and redemption.
17. “Bringing people back from five years ago is a messy proposition any way you look at it,” and that applies both to the logistics of the Marvel Universe and the logistics of human reality. What if someone disappeared while in a plane, do they return thousands of feet up in the sky? They don’t answer this, but of course the answer is yes meaning that we really should have gotten a deleted scene of bodies falling from the sky at the end of the movie.
18. The Smart Hulk appearance originally occurred in Wakanda during Infinity War which had him rip out of the armor suit and beat the crap out of Cull Obsidian. They canned it because “the movie could not handle this weird success.” The film needed to stay focused on losses, so they cut the sequences out of Infinity War even as they were editing Endgame. A handful of preview audiences saw it before the scene was cut and apparently didn’t love the tonal confusion.
19. They find value in serialized storytelling with scenes like Stark giving Rogers his shield as part of his apology and their renewed friendship. “If you make choices that take years to resolve the audience feels that because they too have waited years for this to resolve.”
20. Some online have clearly been unhappy with Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) descent into depression and weight gain, but the filmmakers love it. They praise his performance as it’s difficult to portray pathos and humor simultaneously, but they also think it’s a fantastic balance of comedy and sadness that work to build emotion. “What’s great about this character is we commit to it, and he doesn’t change by the end of the film.”
21. Of course Ridley Scott’s Black Rain (1989) was a visual influence on the Tokyo-set introduction of Hawkeye as assassin.
22. Natasha pulling Clint out of his murderous spiral is payback for his having saved her from her own life as an assassin.
23. The Quantum Realm suits, the grey/black/red ones, are completely CG. That’s nuts.
24. They were thrilled once they hit on the idea of revisiting past films through the “time heist” because it offered opportunities to talk about and comment on them directly. “This is a good example, Thor: The Dark World (2013) has a kind of confusing back story…”
25. One sequence cut from the second act took place while the team is watching the Battle of New York. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) makes a crack asking Rogers “how long did you fight these guys?!” Rogers replies that it took a couple hours and Rocket gives him grief for not immediately blowing up the mother ship.
26. “Have you guys thought about whether or not Cap runs into Red Skull when he’s returning the Soul Stone?” At this point the two writers seem to disagree as to whether Red Skull has been released from his bonds and therefore not there anymore. If there’s no Soul Stone, there’s no guardian right?
27. The jokes about “America’s ass” were apparently the most controversial in the film. “It was hotly debated.”