Avengers: Infinity War is a massive movie – that’s just a fact. A decade after Robert Downey Jr first suited up as Iron Man, the intersecting Marvel Cinematic Universe now boasts 18 movies, half a dozen spin-off TV series, a merchandising empire and billions of dollars in profits.
This new film has to tie all that together, bring every single hero back into the fold and – perhaps most impossibly of all – actually tell a good story that will make fans eager to return for the sequel in 2019.
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So with that in mind, we recently spoke with the film’s directors Joe and Anthony Russo to find out how they distilled years of superhero build-up into a single film, and why certain characters may end up getting short shrift…
The most difficult part? Just getting started
When asked what the biggest challenge was facing them when they took on the project, the brothers didn’t hesitate.
“Day One, starting it!” Anthony Russo said, with the pair explaining that the sheer number of actors in the film meant that they had to stick to an incredibly strict schedule in pre-production.
“It was a sprint to the start date, because we have all these actors and we’re not going to move the schedule around because they’re all going to disappear. Everybody’s got a lot of work to do,” Joe Russo explained.
“So it was really focusing intently on the script to make sure it was where we needed it to be.”
When it came to including Easter eggs, pop culture references and comic-book callbacks into Infinity War, the duo were aided by a production team who had already lived and breathed all things Marvel.
“There are Easter Eggs, there’s always that,” Joe Russo said. “You know, it’s part of the layering process.
“Everybody on the crew was really away of Marvel mythology, and they’re complicit in layering in Easter Eggs.”
However, it’s not just Marvel aficionados who’ll be rewarded for their eagle eyes, as Joe went on to hint.
“I would say also that Arrested Development fans should keep their eyes open,” he teased.
By contrast, the pair were more tight-lipped when it came to Marvel’s trademark use of teasers for upcoming movies, which usually play during or after the credits.
The pair declined to confirm how many post-credits scenes would feature (the record is five in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2), saying that to even hint might spoil elements of the film for fans.
“It’s hard to comment on that, because we don’t want to speak to the experience too specifically,” Anthony Russo said.
“I can’t say,” his brother Joe added.
“We wrote a letter begging the fans not to spoil the movie for each other, so we don’t want to spoil it for them.”
However, when pressed, Joe did suggest that the direct sequel to Infinity War released next spring – the as-yet unnamed Avengers 4 – made the process of choosing post-credits scenes a bit trickier. It’s unheard of for a Marvel film to have a sequel out so quickly – so how best to tease it while also letting people digest the ending of Infinity War?
“You know, it’s certainly something you consider,” Joe said gnomically.
One of the other mysteries surrounding Infinity War involves a couple of characters who seem to have been cut from the action, most prominently Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye (who, as a founding Avenger, might have been expected to turn up) and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man.
However, the Russos have previously said that the pair’s absence from promotional materials doesn’t mean they’ve been cut from the film entirely, and suggested to RadioTimes.com that any characters without much to do in Infinity War might play a more prominent role in the 2019 sequel.
“I mean, listen,” Joe Russo began. “We sat down and we found a way to work everybody in – but we have two movies that we’re working with.
“So we figured out a way to bring everybody that we wanted to bring into the storytelling, I think in ways that felt satisfying to us. We’re happy with who we got to work with.”
When it comes to Ant-Man’s absence, the pair suggested it would be best explained in his upcoming solo film, which trailers have shown to revolve around his capture by authorities after 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
“Civil War has a big impact on everything to follow it,” Joe Russo explained.
“In that movie there are characters who are on the wrong side of the government, the US government.
“And so the audience will get to see how everyone responded to being on the wrong side, and what decisions they made to allow them to move forward in their lives.”
In Ant-Man’s case, it seems those decisions keep him out of the fighting in Avengers: Infinity War.
What to expect from Avengers: Infinity War
What three words would best describe Avengers: Infinity War for viewers heading to the cinemas this week?
Joe Russo: “Intense”
Anthony Russo: “Terrifying!”
Joe Russo: “And…and fun.”
With that triumvirate of teasing, the Russos left us to our relentless nervous theorising. Still, it’s not long now until we discover exactly what they’ve been hiding from us all this time…
Avengers: Infinity War will be released in UK cinemas on Thursday 26th April