Exclusive: Markus & McFeely talk writing Avengers: Infinity War!
Marvel Studios gave ComingSoon.net the opportunity to have an exclusive chat with Avengers: Infinity War screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, who also previously penned the MCU movies Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and Thor: The Dark World. In addition, they’ve also written next year’s Avengers 4 as well. Check out our interview with Markus & McFeely below as we discuss which one movie to pre-game with before Infinity War, why they didn’t include Thanos’ comic book love interest Death, and an aspect of the previous movies that made their job a lot harder!
An unprecedented cinematic journey ten years in the making and spanning the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment – the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.
Confirmed cast members for Avengers: Infinity War include Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olson, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Don Cheadle, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Pom Klementieff, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, Sean Gunn, Tom Holland, Paul Rudd, and Josh Brolin.
Anthony and Joe Russo directed the film, which is produced by Kevin Feige. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.
Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War is opening in theaters on April 27. Then, the Avengers assemble again for the still-untitled fourth film, set for May 3, 2019.
ComingSoon.net: So I’ve talked to random people in the last few months who want to see “Infinity War” but they’ll say, “Oh, I’ve never seen the ‘Guardians’ movies” or “I don’t think I saw the second ‘Avengers.'” How did you cater to audiences who may not have done all their homework before coming into “Infinity War”?
Christopher Markus: That’s a good question. It’s an epic story regardless of if you’ve seen any of them. At this point you’d think most people have seen something, but we assume not everyone has seen everything. That would be kind crazy of us to assume that. Even if you’ve never seen a “Guardians” film, you get their point of view and their personalities pretty quickly. They’re other than The Avengers, they feel like a contrast. But if you’ve never seen “Black Panther,” when we get to Wakanda you may not be as thrilled as people who have seen “Black Panther” and are excited to be back.
Stephen McFeely: That being said, I can’t count the number of times people have said, “I loved that movie!” “Did you see the other ones?” “No!” “Did you understand it?” “No! But I loved it.” There is some barrier in the human mind between enjoying and understanding. You can’t do one without the other.
CS: A lot of people are marathoning every Marvel movie before they go see this, but if someone didn’t have time to do that what is the one MCU movie you would recommend pre-gaming with before seeing “Infinity War”?
Markus: Just one? And that’s the only one you went in with that you know, or the only one you refresh yourself on?
CS: To refresh.
Markus: Boy. If you’ve seen them all but you need to look at one again. You can’t go wrong with “The Avengers,” I guess. That’ll help you a bunch.
McFeely: Can I recommend one we wrote? That we get residuals on? “Civil War”!
Markus: That’s right, “Civil War” is a pretty good one too.
CS: I think audiences always feel a little cheated if dead characters can be brought back to life or events can be altered through deus-ex-machina-style magic. When you’re dealing with a MacGuffin like Infinity Stones, which can literally alter time and space, how do you lay down the ground rules of what they can and can’t do so that it feels like there’s real stakes?
Markus: That is a really good question. We were completely cognizant of that. One of our missions was to have real stakes, real consequences and if God forbid somebody dies they were dead. We know what you mean, and we don’t want to BS through some of the more emotional moments and then take emotional moments back.
McFeely: Sometimes you invent rules. Sometimes you have to be careful you’re not giving anyone ultimate power too quickly. Stories need stakes, and you can’t always tie your hands behind your back.
CS: Well when figuring out who you could and couldn’t bump off in “Infinity War,” was it only whose contract was about to expire that figured into the decisions?
McFeely: (laughs) No no no! Again, this is a group decision. Chris and I sorta start the ball rolling and we say, “Listen, if you go down this path this is the natural conclusion to this character’s arc. This is a possible conclusion to their arc, etc.” Marvel will weigh in and say, “That sounds great. That’s a good story point,” or “We have other plans for this person” or “That seems too harsh” or what have you.
Markus: We always do it if the story needs you to do it. Never to, “Hey! This movie needs gravitas, let’s kill somebody,” or “Let’s take away their powers.” It’s always because the story got to that point and the only way to honestly resolve the situation is to do X.
CS: Like here’s a hypothetical: Let’s say, for example, you decided the best and only way to end a scene in “Avengers 4” was to write, “T’Challa heroically sacrifices himself to save our heroes. He dies. Fade Out.” And then the box office numbers come in for “Black Panther”… is there any world where Disney let’s you guys do something like that?
Markus: You never know. Shuri makes the suits, right? (laughs)
CS: I love the humor in your writing, not just in the Marvel films but in “Pain and Gain” as well. The MCU has an overabundance of quippy smart-alecky heroes, so how do you keep a movie with Tony Stark, Stephen Strange and Peter Quill from reaching critical mass of snarkitude?
Markus: Thanos helps, right? I’d have to chart the movie, but in general people with more investment maybe are a little less quippy. If you remember in “Civil War,” the people who stole the airport fight were Spider-Man and Ant-Man. That’s because they had a little less invested in that family brawl. As the movie starts it might be a little funnier because the full weight of what’s happening hasn’t dawned on people, but as characters come together, as stakes become clear… It’s a really intense movie. It’s fun, it’s epic, but it’s intense. My hope is that you get the full range of human emotions and less quips. It’s suffering and delight.
CS: What was something that happened over the last ten years in the movies where you were like, “man, I really wish they hadn’t done that” because it made your lives so much harder on “Avengers”?
McFeely: There were things where you had to consider, if Thanos is on the hunt for stones… He had actually given Loki the one he had as a gamble to get two stones, didn’t get either. He didn’t have to do much to resolve that, but it implies a certain lack of focus on his part. (laughs)
CS: What was something specific about Thanos that you discovered while writing him that elevated him beyond just a typical megalomaniacal villain to someone worthy of being a lead character?
Markus: Because he’s not the antagonist, he’s the protagonist. I sound a little glib when I say that, but that’s absolutely how we wrote it. He’s the star of his own movie, he’s forcing the issue in this movie. He probably has the most lines and the most screentime. He is just getting his hold on the universe, and our Avengers are the only ones who can stop him. He was the one who was the most interesting to write for in that regard.
CS: Was there ever discussion of bringing in Thanos’ main squeeze, Death?
McFeely: At the very beginning, just because it’s such a focal point of the comics, we talked about it, but I think pretty quickly… it is not something that brings you closer to his motivation. It’s not something where the average moviegoer says, “Now I can kinda empathize with him because he’s in love with Death!” But I think we took that passion that he has… he really is in love with Death in the comics! He’s a lovelorn, kinda sad little fella. We wanted to maintain that level of emotion on his part, just redirected.
CS: My favorite moment in “Civil War” was when Tony tells Cap that he doesn’t deserve the shield, “My father made that shield.” In that one moment you feel the resonance of so many of the other movies, and it really feels like a moment that was built up to. Which characters can we expect to see real bell-ringing moments of resonance from in these next two “Avengers” movies?
Markus: Bell-ringing resonance? Hmm.
McFeely: I mean, Tony has one.
Markus: I kinda have to take the 5th on that one. I have answers but it would be ruining things if I answer. It’s a good question, I apologize.
McFeely: The audience! I hope the audience has a lot of bell-ringing.
CS: Its always fun to notice little easter eggs in these films, like The Human Torch in “First Avenger.” Are there any of those things that were layered into the films that you hope will get a payoff one day but maybe haven’t yet?
Markus: Well we’ve been lately in charge of the payoff machine, so between these two movies we’ll be paying off a lot and we’re honored to do it. It’s pretty cool.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)