'Avengers: Endgame': Dark Elves Were Almost In Thanos's Army; Howard The Duck Was In The Script From The Beginning [Interview]

Of all the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, 2013's Thor: The Dark World holds the lowest percentage on Rotten Tomatoes (it's currently at 66%). So it was surprising to see that film play such a significant role in Avengers: Endgame, and according to the visual effects supervisor who oversaw Endgame's final battle, there was almost another callback to The Dark World in the form of dark elves serving in Thanos's army.

That ended up not happening in the end, but read on for a breakdown of the villains who did fight for Thanos, as well as one other character who made it into that huge final confrontation – but only for an incredibly brief moment.

I recently interviewed Matt Aitken, the visual effects supervisor for Weta Digital, the company that created the visual effects for Endgame's final battle, and he recounted the forces who were fighting alongside Thanos and his children (aka The Black Order) during the film's massive final battle.

Thanos's Army

So Thanos's army, we see the Chitauri, we see the Outriders, I think there were some other forces that we hadn't really seen before. Can you tell me about them, and if they had any names that the Russo brothers or the screenwriters gave to you guys?

Yeah, so there's the Sakaarans, and I think we see them first in Guardians 1, on Morag. They're kind of the ground troops who were trying to stop Quill when he grabs the Power Stone and escapes from Morag. So they're there. We've got the Outriders. The majority of the Outriders this time have actually got two legs and six arms, so they're actually eight-limbed creatures. There were a few of those in the Battle of Wakanda in Infinity War in the ILM sequences there, but in terms of upping the ante, most of them were the eight-limbed variety for Endgame. There's the Chitauri and their chariots, of course, from the Battle of New York from The Avengers. At one point, there were going to be – potentially dark elves were going to show up, they didn't make an appearance.

But the guys who are new are particularly the Chitauri gorillas. We see the Chitauri leading them out by chains and then they set them free. These are not quite King Kong sized, but yeah, giant gorilla-ish, alien gorilla creatures who are a formidable force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. We got 2D concept art for those guys, worked them up in CG – we've done one or two gorilla creatures in the past, so we've got a little bit of experience there – and they were great fun to do. Great fun to fight with, and then great fun to kill off.

You mentioned the dark elves. Were there any other big moments like that which you were sad to see get cut?

The dark elves were mentioned, but we never got as far as rigging them or making them for the battle.

Howard the Duck

You may have heard about Howard the Duck's blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo in the film, and Aitken told me just how long he's actually in the film and how Howard's presence has been a part of the movie for years.

"[Howard] was actually mentioned in the very first draft of a screenplay that I ever got to read for Endgame, which did change a lot. That was 2016 I think, was when I first got to read a very rough early draft. He was mentioned in the end battle in that early draft, so I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, Howard the Duck's going to be in the end battle!' If Howard the Duck is in there, that means everybody's going to be in there, right?

"He ended up not featuring in the end battle, but very late in the day – and I think it might have come from Kevin Feige, actually – we got the note that if there was a chance to get Howard the Duck in. There was this one little gap when the Ravagers were coming out of Contraxia where there was room to drop him in, and he wouldn't be too obvious, which is good. It was the way they wanted to play it. It would involve us essentially building and rigging and shading and prepping a hero digital character for one tiny little beat. I've counted, he's actually in eighteen frames of the film. So it's not like a huge presence. That's a lot of work for a small amount of time. But we were so delighted to be able to do that, and what we heard that when we sent the shot through and it was reviewed in the screening room at Marvel with the filmmakers, they were all clapping and cheering to see Howard."


For much more about how that final battle came together, I encourage you to read my full conversation with Aitken here.

Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now.