**WARNING – SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME**
Avengers: Endgame brings to a close a 22-film MCU saga – and for screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus it was no mean feat.
But alhough they were under immense pressure from a vast fandom – and Marvel Studios and Disney higher ups, too – to come up with a satisfying conclusion for the film series, they more or less had free reign to do whatever they wanted with the story.
Avengers: Endgame news and reviews
It's what makes Avengers: Endgame so exciting and odd in surprising ways, like the introduction of Fat Thor and Professor Hulk.
In a new interview with the New York Times, the pair have revealed that over the course of the writing process, the story changed quite a bit, with different elements coming and going from both Infinity War and its sequel (the two were written back-to-back).
Here are the most interesting things that might have been. Warning – from here on in there are MAJOR Avengers: Endgame spoilers...
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1. Black Widow could have survived
There was a version of the script in which Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) popped his clogs in Vormir, rather than Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson). However, McFeely and Markus ultimately felt that her character’s story would come to its natural conclusion by aiding in the reversal of the snap.
In fact, they argue that this moment of self sacrifice was empowering.
“Jen Underdahl, our visual effects producer, read an outline or draft where Hawkeye goes over,” McFeely said. And she goes, ‘Don’t you take this away from her.’ I actually get emotional thinking about it.”
2. Bruce Banner might have transformed into Professor Hulk in Infinity War
By the time the five-year jump has kicked in during Avengers: Endgame, Bruce Banner has found a way to merge himself with The Hulk. Now he’s permanently large, green and surprisingly sensible, if a bit jockish.
This might have taken place way earlier, though.
“There was a time when Banner became Smart Hulk in the first movie,” Markus said. “It was a lot of fun, but it came at the wrong moment. It was an up, right when everyone else was down.”
McFeely added: "It happened in Wakanda. His arc was designed like, I’m not getting along with the Hulk, the Hulk won’t come out. And then they compromise and become Smart Hulk."
3. Thor might have had a very different story arc
The decision to make Thor, an overweight, depressed alcoholic in Endgame, has been criticised by some, but McFeely and Markus felt that they needed to give him something different to do this time around.
“When we were spitballing for Endgame, we started with, ‘Thor’s on a mission of vengeance’,” Markus said. “And then we were like, ‘he was on a mission of vengeance in the last movie. This is all this guy ever does! And fails, all the time. Let’s drive him into a wall and see what happens’.”
So… “He just got drunk and fat,” McFeely said.
4. We nearly met a new superhero
Markus and McFeely nearly introduced a lesser-known character called The Living Tribunal – a three-headed conceptual being who served as arbiter and judge for the likes of Eternity and Death – in Infinity War.
"We did try to put the Living Tribunal in the first movie," Markus said. "We wrote a scene in which he appeared during the Titan fight. And everyone was like, what?"
Ultimately, they decided it would be one layer too many on top of the current workings of the MCU. "It would indicate a whole different level of architecture to the universe and I think that was too much to just throw in," McFeely said.
However, the character is still apparently one Kevin Feige is interested in exploring...
"We would have to introduce these five characters – or whatever many," explained McFeely. "We already are assuming people have seen a lot of the movies. Are we really going to assume they have bought a subscription to Netflix and watched those shows enough so that when they see them, they’re going to go 'yay?'"
As for the X-Men, Disney's acquisition of Fox was yet to go through when the writing of these films took place – and the current cast have one more movie, Dark Phoenix, due before the franchise undergoes its expected revamp. "You can't reboot them before they're done," reasoned Markus.
5. The Avengers nearly time-travelled to a load of different places
The screenwriters said that they initially wanted to avoid going back to the first Avengers film “because it seemed pander-y”. In the first draft, they returned to Asgard at a particular time to retrieve the Tesseract and the Aether.
“In that iteration, we were interested in Tony [Stark] going to Asgard,” McFeely said. “He had a stealth suit, so he was invisible, and he fought Heimdall, who could see him." This version of events would have also demanded a lot more from Natalie Portman, who “had long scenes” with Thor.
There were other options on the table, too. “There were entirely other trips taken,” Markus said. “They went to the Triskelion at one point to get the [Tesseract], and then somebody was going to get into a car and drive to Doctor Strange’s house.
However, they ultimately decided that a return to the first Avengers was the right decision.
“Eventually, Joe Russo went, ‘why are we going to this movie when we can go to Avengers? Let’s make it work.’”
6. The “girl power” moment was almost cut
You know the one. In the big final battle, when nine female superheroes (including recently anointed Iron Woman Gwyneth Paltrow) offer to help an unbeatable superhero (Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel) transport the Infinity Gauntlet.
“There was much conversation,” McFeely said. “Is that delightful or is it pandering? We went around and around on that. Ultimately we went, we like it too much."
7. The final battle with Thanos was originally a LOT longer
Though the finished version of the movie already exceeds three hours, Markus said the the climactic final fight was nearly extended.
“We wrote and shot an even much longer battle, with its own three-act structure,” he said. “We had a scene in a trench where, for reasons, the battle got paused for about three minutes and now there’s 18 people all going, 'What are we going to do?' 'I’m going to do this.' 'I’m going to do this.' Just bouncing around this completely fake, fraudulent scene. When you have that many people, it invariably is, one line, one line, one line. And that’s not a natural conversation."
That is one we reckon we're better off without...
Avengers: Endgame is out in cinemas now