Avengers Endgame

“Team-Ups and Reunions”

As the battle rages on, we see small groupings of character interactions: Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) shooting at enemies, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) meeting Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) for the first time, etc.

Stephen McFeely (Co-Writer): What we called “team-ups and reunions” was sort of the next section. That’s people who are interesting to put side by side, but more importantly, “Oh my God, you’re back! I haven’t seen you.” And we could have done that all day.

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): And did, at certain points.

Stephen McFeely (Co-Writer): We tried, and shot some.

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): What actually worked really nicely about the three-way split at the beginning [of the scene, with Hawkeye in the tunnels, War Machine and Rocket nearly drowning, and the Iron Man/Thor/Cap and Thanos fight] was that it delayed the arrival of the gauntlet onto the field. Because that’s really what gives the fight its purpose. Once Clint shows up with that, then you have a place to go. Because otherwise, they’re just fighting, and what are they going to do, kill all those aliens? You can’t!

Stephen McFeely (Co-Writer): You can’t have little cute reunions after the gauntlet’s back on the field. But once it’s there, it’s like, “What do you want me to do with this thing? We gotta do this with it. No, we can’t do that.”

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): Suddenly there are rules and a goal, and the beautiful circumstance that it all comes down to this janky van is so satisfying, and yet so stupid.

Stephen McFeely (Co-Writer): We were really pleased by that.

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): It gave it a structure and some comedy trying to get to that thing. And yet, we knew we didn’t want it to work, because we knew Tony had to go down, and go down saving everyone.

Alan Silvestri (Composer): It’s insane. The most difficult part for everyone was having it track as beats so it wasn’t just this big, amorphous clashing and banging. There’s a real storyline going on there. It’s a team effort going on there. Very kind of sports-oriented in a funny way. Like rugby. Someone’s getting tackled, they throw the ball to a teammate. “You can do it!” “I got it!” There’s some humor to that. And there’s also this incredible sense of community, that all of these diverse characters are coming together to win the game.

Stephen McFeely (Co-Writer): Peter [Parker] had [the gauntlet] in the first draft and got knocked out of the sky, and that’s when it landed on the ground, and Thanos and Cap and Tony all saw it and it went into slo-mo and they went into this rugby scrum kind of thing. We called it the flea flicker, which is not technically [accurate], but there are a lot of non-sports people in my world. But it satisfies me greatly because it creates a scaffolding to hang all these moments off of, particularly for characters who just got back. You’ll notice that most of the people doing the heavy lifting in that sequence are not the ones you’ve spent two hours with, it’s the ones who just got there, because it’s the only time they’re going to get any screen time.

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): It was a great opportunity to advance the plot, but also give everybody a beat.

Jeff Ford (Editor): Panther, Doctor Strange, Star-Lord – they have narrative demands. Obviously Star-Lord and Gamora need to have that moment. Obviously Strange and Tony need to have that moment. But again, connected to our narrative. Scarlet Witch has to have that confrontation with Thanos because of what he did. Those things are critical to do…the fight with Scarlet Witch was also longer, but it got repetitive. They were doing the same things, and the emotion is what we kept.

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): There’s something that’s not in the movie. The sort of on-comm conversation where they put together, “OK, there’s a van and we can go to it,” at one point was in a scene that we called “the trench.” It was actually kind of awesome: Giant-Man dug it either with his hand or with his foot, and they all jumped into it because we needed a brief rest. And we shot it, and it was not a good scene, because it was a pause in the middle of the action. I think there are some videos online that somebody – probably Ruffalo – took, but we had all of them in a weird foam trench in a sound stage. It was like, “This is a big fucking movie we’re making here.” Because usually you’re making little parts against a green screen and you rarely get the opportunity to amass all the people. So I remember doing that and remember kind of knowing while we were doing it that, “Eh, it’s probably not going to make it. This is the biggest amount of star power that’s going to get cut in history.” It was sort of like, “We’ve got all of them, we’ve got the set, the scene doesn’t work – shoot it anyway.”

Avengers Endgame

“Do You Remember When We Were in Space?”

Peter swings into action, saves Tony, and frantically recounts how he’s back after seemingly only having passed out for a few minutes. Tony, knowing that Peter has been gone for five years, uncharacteristically interrupts him with a hug. “What are you doing?,” Peter says. “Oh, this is nice.”

Jeff Ford (Editor): Tony seeing the picture of Peter that motivates him to do time travel. That was a late addition. He used to have an epiphany another way, and we thought, “You know, it’s really going to be Peter that’s haunting him a bit.” So once we started that track, we knew we needed a much more significant moment between the two of them.

Alan Silvestri (Composer): [The reunion] was just a great emotional moment and it was kind of like Tony was over all his mentoring in that moment, and he just wanted to hug the kid. “I’m not teaching anybody any lessons now. School’s out. I just want to hug this kid.” I think I remember we’re pretty subtle or in the background there.

Trinh Tran (Executive Producer): We knew that was going to be a tearjerker because of what happened in Infinity War. We shot that initially, and then we filmed it again during additional photography because we wanted to make sure that we captured the emotion between them. There was a different version where there were a lot more characters involved in that moment, and it just felt like it should just be the two of them.

Jeff Ford (Editor): The first time we shot it, Peter and Tony reunite and Pepper’s nearby, and Tony goes, “Uh, Peter, do you know Pepper?” “Nice to meet you!” It’s one of those crazy meet-cutes in the middle of a fight. He hugs him and they have this thing, but it felt very incidental, like they ran into each other at an airport or something. We watched it, and they were both great in the scene, but it was like a comedy scene, so it had this schtick quality to it. By the way, we did not yet know how powerful Peter disappearing was [in Infinity War] when we shot that first version. We had shot it, I think, but we hadn’t tested it, we hadn’t lived with it and actually done the [effect] of [him] going away, so when the audience had that reaction, we’re like, this reunion is different now. It’s a different thing.

Trinh Tran (Executive Producer): So we made it work where, obviously there were several factors that we had to answer: what happened to the Blipped folks? That was something that Peter Parker answered. “I felt like I blacked out for two seconds.” So we wanted to answer that question, but most importantly, we wanted the emotional reaction that Tony has when he first sees Peter. I think Robert nailed it.

Jeff Ford (Editor): I think we did five or six takes between the two, but those guys, their chemistry is so great and they’re so at ease with each other in that way, it was kind of effortless. That came together really easily. We did one loop in there, though, to explain something: Peter has a line about Doctor Strange “and then I got all dusty,” that line was something we added because a couple people were confused about where he came from. So we thought let’s put a fine point on that, so we did that one adjustment. But for the most part, it was pretty easy to cut that.

Sarah Finn (Casting Director): I’m going to start crying just thinking about it again because I think for both of those characters and for me personally, the journeys to cast them and watching them become these characters over the years has been so poignant. I don’t know if people know this, but Downey was so incredibly generous with Tom at his screen test – working with him, improvising with him, and making him feel comfortable. That screen test was magical and kind of an emotional moment, so to see that come full circle, too, and see the world get to witness that, was really fun.

Avengers Endgame

“She’s Got Help”

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) arrives, destroying Thanos’s ship and landing on the battlefield to help take the gauntlet from a battered Peter Parker. While she takes control of it, all of the remaining female heroes join her in one shot.

Matt Aitken (Visual Effects Supervisor, WETA Digital): The “women of Marvel” beat, when those women all come together and support Captain Marvel, there’s one shot at the start of that where people just keep coming into frame. It’s beautifully choreographed, the way it reveals. They were all there on that day, which is an amazing day to be on set for sure, in terms of the power of the acting presence.

Trinh Tran (Executive Producer): That was a fun day. It was ten females, all dressed in their costumes. It was a highlight when they saw each other and said, “We actually have a moment that we’re going to do in Endgame.” That was the day that I saw all the female crew members – I mean, there are so many people, I’ve never seen that many women – arrive on set just to see that moment. Because they were so proud that they were involved in it, but they were so happy that they’re able to see something like that. To sort of pay tribute to our female heroines in the MCU and give them a moment to shine was very personal to me. I had no idea that there were so many female crew members and we all took this gigantic photo together with all our our ten lead female heroines lined up in the front. It was amazing. We didn’t think it was going to be a big moment. Sure, it was personal to everybody, but to see everybody show up because it was so important to them made it such a big moment for everybody.

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): All the women – and there were a great many of them – from the crew and the offices all came and they were like, “This is fucking awesome.” And it was. It just seemed really indicative of how wide the world and universe is. The MCU is now so big that you can do these sort of mini-moments and have them packed with so many awesome people and yet it be just a sort of, “I’ve decided to do just these.” And it’s just so cool to see that many powerful women.

Alan Silvestri (Composer): I approached it as its own moment. It’s one of the places where I was doing things as they were dropping into place or being revealed. It was great the way Joe and Anthony found interesting ways to reveal. One would be a camera move, another would drop in, and another would be a camera pull back. It just wasn’t cut, cut, cut. So without being too obvious, I treated that as its own section because it deserved to be that. It was really cool, the way they came together like that.

Jeff Ford (Editor): I was there when they shot that, and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. They were all so great, and they were all so in it. They brought so much attitude to that thing that was just right on. Weirdly, I remember it was Evangeline [Lilly] who was kind of leading it that day – she was sort of like the most into it all. She kept saying how great it was, and she has such a great spirit that it just lifted everybody up. We shot that shot about four or five times. It was all we could do, because it was crazy – it was really hard to do, because it involved the camera moving on this small stage to get enough running time. It wasn’t a huge stage, but they ran a lot, so we had to run them on this thing and the rigging was really difficult to pull off. We got through it, and there was a big cheer, and everybody was super happy, and all of the women on the set got together and took a group photo. I thought that was just the coolest thing ever. I had chills that moment. It was one of those things where you can’t do that in anything other than a series like this where all of those characters, you have a relationship with.

Matt Aitken (Visual Effects Supervisor, WETA Digital): Who wasn’t there on that day was actually Tom Holland, playing Peter Parker. He wasn’t able to be there on that day, and Peter Parker needs to hand the gauntlet to Captain Marvel at the start of that shot. So there was a stand-in on set on the day for that, and we picked up our Tom Holland element later on.

Jeff Ford (Editor): I remember being like, God, is this going to work? Are people going to buy this, or are they going to go, ‘Oh, come on, guys!'”

Stephen McFeely (Co-Writer): We’ve learned this a lot – emotional logic versus intellectual logic. Emotional logic wins every time. So I recognize that there are some people who are like, “It’s pretty convenient that all of the ladies are all in one spot,” but the eight-year-old girl next to me loses her mind and wears a T-shirt, and I’m good with it.

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): Literally, one of the comments at a test screening was, “It’s pandering. Don’t you dare cut it.”

Avengers Endgame Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel vs. Thanos

Just when it seems like Thanos is going to snap his fingers again and win the day, he nearly meets his match in the form of Captain Marvel. But he has one final trick up his sleeve that very nearly works.

Jeff Ford (Editor): When Captain Marvel arrives, that was in the script from day one, the way she comes through the ship. We knew she was going to do that, but what we did alter and add and expand later, mostly because of how much we loved what Brie was doing with the character, was her fight with Thanos before he power punches her back. Anthony came up with the great idea – this was a reshoot, by the way, at the last minute – he had the great idea that Thanos pulls the power stone out of the gauntlet, and then he punches her with the raw power stone. That is a fantastic use of that prop and that story point, because that’s what you want. And we had to find a way that he could sideline Captain Marvel for a minute, because she’s so powerful, there’s no way to do it.

Matt Aitken (Visual Effects Supervisor, WETA Digital): She had a great costume that they’d worked out for her, which was like her 2024-era Captain Marvel costume. But in post, the filmmakers decided that it could look even better, so they redesigned it, and we ended up doing a CG costume for her throughout as well.

Jeff Ford (Editor): Then the last piece of the puzzle was Brolin, bringing him in to do those performances and tie it all together. We hadn’t shot anything with him in the sequence, we’d just mapped it out. So we had the whole sequence cut, and we brought him in and he did his pieces.

Matt Aitken (Visual Effects Supervisor, WETA Digital): We did the whole thing quite late, so it actually works in that sense that we were able to get reference initially while they were still in progress on the Captain Marvel movie. We got work in progress versions of her effects sent through to us, and then as that show came together, we got the final versions of those shots to make sure we were on target with that. That’s quite a complicated effect, so we had to make sure that was all working.

Jeff Ford (Editor): I think it sells the notion of how powerful she is, and then having Thanos take her out shows how powerful he is, which then transfers all of that dramatic energy to Tony.

Avengers Endgame

“I Am Iron Man”

With all other options exhausted, Tony Stark finally realizes what Doctor Strange meant when he said there was only one way for the heroes to emerge victorious. So Tony swipes the Infinity Stones from an incredulous Thanos, uses his suit’s nano-technology to form a new gauntlet, and snaps his fingers, wiping out Thanos and his armies but causing fatal damage to himself in the process.

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): We wanted all the deaths and the leaving the scenes in this to be voluntary to be on the heroes’ part. We didn’t want somebody to be beaten to death. It had to be Tony’s choice that he dies. It takes a lot of set-up. From Infinity War on, showing the toll that using these [Infinity Stones] takes is all with the idea that, “This is how we’re going to kill Tony later.” So you see Thanos fried. You see him even more fried after using it twice. You see Hulk all fucked up. This is all just to set up the fact that Tony’s going to use them, and there is no way he lives.

Stephen McFeely (Co-Writer): In Infinity War, when Strange looks at him, and he says how many of the 14 million, and it’s so clearly, now that you know, when he goes, “One,” he’s saying, “One, and you’re going to die doing it.” That’s all baked in. It’s really daunting to make two movies at the same time, but it can be pretty satisfying narratively.

Matt Aitken (Visual Effects Supervisor, WETA Digital): He’s palmed the stones off Thanos without Thanos even realizing, and he’s used his nanotech to move the stones into place on the gauntlet. And then obviously the Infinity Stones, there’s all this power that starts to generate and surge through the suit, and we had the suit kind of trying to protect Tony from all this power and energy, so there’s quite a complicated bleeding edge effect that’s playing through those shots. As we worked on reviewing those shots with Dan Deleeuw, Marvel’s visual effects supervisor, and the filmmakers, we really worked on finding the balance between showing all that power and all of that destructive energy and the damage it was causing to the suit, but not having it be so distracting and flamboyant that it took away from Tony’s moment. This is a key Tony moment. So that was a real balancing act that we had to work through there.

Trinh Tran (Executive Producer): I remember that day, we tried quite a few lines. “I am Iron Man,” that idea came in post-production, because we were trying to figure out, “What would you want to see Tony say as his last thing to the villain, who made everybody disappear for five years? So what is the fitting thing that he’s going to say before he passes away and we end his character?” We tried so many different things and we actually did that in additional photography. We went back to Atlanta to reshoot that, and we asked Robert because we thought this is what we feel is right. So that actually came last minute.

Jeff Ford (Editor): The best one we had in before “I am Iron Man” was a silent one, where he and Thanos just looked at each other and it was just silent. But it didn’t complete that arc or close that narrative properly. Thanos has said, “I am inevitable” a couple times in the movie, and you really want to feel that sense is at hand, that inevitability: no matter how many times you time travel, no matter how many times you can go back and get a do-over, you’ll never defeat him, it’s destiny. And Tony says no, it’s not. I needed that exchange, for me, to make that satisfying. So that’s kind of how we got to that line.

Christopher Markus (Co-Writer): There were many [other options], and they just weren’t the culmination of 22 films. They were more like, “Fuck you, buddy!” [Snaps] Because Robert, to his credit – and it’s why Tony Stark has become so iconic – loves to undercut the drama sometimes with a non-sequitur or something. So we tried a few of those and it was like, “Really? We’re building up to that?” That’s why the more serious “I am Iron Man” was a reshoot, because we had a lot of zags. A creative person’s natural instinct is to not give you what you want. To go, “Eh, we’re going to do [something else].” And it takes a while to get to the simpler version of, “No, you should do exactly what you think you’re going to do there.” That’s what hits.

Jeff Ford (Editor): Robert did a ton of improvs, some of them were funny, some of them were silly, some of them were goofy. But that’s his process to find it. We knew that we were never going to use a silly one, but he goes through that to find rhythms, and as an actor, he’s brilliant at exploring that. The Russos gave him a camera and let it run on him, and let him do a bunch of different things. So we did that and we tried a few of them. Some of them were obscene. I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you the obscene one, but there’s one where he says, “You are so fucked” and he snaps. I loved that one. But I can’t do it justice, because there were tears in his eyes when he said it. It was an emotional – that was the thing, Robert found the emotional moment in what he did, but it took a little bit of work to get to the right narrative and emotional one. But there’s nothing that compares with the performances he gave on that last day, which I believe was our last day of shooting. The last shot. We shot it on the stage where he did his original screen test, and told him about that. So it was a very moving and emotional day, and also for me, it was at the studio where I had my first job as an editor. It was a really emotional day for me, too, because I was like, “I had my first job in a building a couple blocks away, and here we are doing this crazy moment that everybody’s going to see.”

Dan Laurie (Supervising Sound Editor): Then it goes really quiet for Iron Man’s death. We’re going from loud fighting down to this really soft, really intimate, really sad moment. It wasn’t just your standard battle and move on.

Alan Silvestri (Composer): It’s got some beats that we all agreed were very clear. Rhodey, the way he walks up to Tony tells us Tony’s not going to make it. So Tony’s laying back against the rocks, and Peter comes in and Peter’s this innocent, inexperienced warrior, and he doesn’t understand that Tony’s dying. He just wants to tell him how great they did. They kicked ass and all that. Then of course, when Pepper comes in, the adult’s on board now. She very lovingly hands Spidey off, like, “OK, the kid, this isn’t something he needs to – this is family now.” And then that whole thing happens, and it’s interesting. We had a couple of different versions of that. Joe and Anthony continued to lean it out. They wanted less and less and less. So we wound up with a very barebones, high sustain. There was a little bit of thematic material that we heard with Tony and Pepper when he comes in and he says, “I figured it out.” It was this little piano motif. So it was kind of like their music. But it was kind of the dying version of it, spread out more. Then things just drifted away, because we knew the real powerful moment now was about to happen, where all of the Marvel universe comes to pay homage. And we knew we wanted some silence there. So it seems like a really long time. The music fades away the way Tony’s light fades away, and then it goes silent.

Avengers Cast and Crew Final Battle Set Photo

Bringing It All Together

After principal photography concluded, the filmmakers went back for reshoots and began finalizing the entire project…a process that evolved over the course of several months, and came down to the wire. 

Trinh Tran (Executive Producer): We initially filmed portions of it, but we never quite finished the entire final battle when we ended principal photography. So when we went back to do additional photography, we had to actually finish parts of it, and then we reshot certain parts that didn’t make sense as we were cutting it together. It felt like it was months. It had to be right because it was the final fight.

Dan Laurie (Supervising Sound Editor): It was immense pressure. There was so much pressure from everybody, because it’s the end of Avengers and there was so much expectation. We wanted to get it just right, so we spent a long time mixing this film. We spent 30 days, which is a long time for even a film of this length. It’s very detail-oriented, so we’d just go over it again and again and again, and visual effects would come in and we’d have to change that. There was a lot riding on this film, but I think it paid off.

Matt Aitken (Visual Effects Supervisor, WETA Digital): I think it was within two weeks of the premiere that we wrapped on this one, which is about as close as they can get, really.

Dan Laurie (Supervising Sound Editor): [The sound work] was ongoing the whole time, mainly because we don’t see the visual effects. You’re just thinking, “What’s that?” And Jeff [Ford] would explain to us, and we’d go, “OK, we haven’t really seen it yet.” Suddenly, another round of unfinished visual effects will come in, and you go, “Oh, OK, so we can do that.” It just evolved all the way through. Particularly that battle scene, I remember, Samson Neslund was the sound effects editor in charge of that reel, and every time the effects came in, he would go, “Oh, no.” [Mimics sinking down in his chair] Because he designed certain things and it would be this way, and he’d go, “Oh, I’ve got to change all that and do it all again.” This would go on into print mastering. We’d be print mastering, and visual effects would come in, and we’d say, “We need to print master that reel again because it’s changed and we need to put different sounds in there.” That was very common. Some of these bigger visual effects films, not just Marvel films, you don’t see the visual effects until you actually see it in the theater. So we’d have to go to Jeff: “Is this going to be OK?” and he’d go, “Yeah, that’s going to be OK.”

Jeff Ford (Editor): One thing that’s interesting is if you watch the Marvel movies, I don’t know if anybody’s done an analysis of this, but I think that final battle – if you were to take the runtime of Endgame and figure out the proportions, my guess is that’s one of the shortest final battles that a Marvel movie has had in relation to the length of the overall movie. I know it’s shorter than Avengers and probably less complex, but the density of it is greater than anything we’ve done before because there are so many characters and so many transitions. So in a weird way, it’s super concentrated, and because it’s super concentrated, it has this kind of overwhelming quality to it. We always wanted it to be exciting, but I love the fact that it feels just as overwhelming to the audience, in a good way, as it does to the people who are in the battle. It has the right pace, and my favorite thing about it from an editorial standpoint is it has a great launch, it builds to this frenetic thing, and then it slows down just the right way to get to that ending, which is what people are really looking for. So it’s a journey, and a really incredible one, but in this movie, the emotional catharsis and the emotional payoff of the battle is far more, I would say, entertaining and nourishing to the audience than the actual action itself.

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