When in doubt, hit ’em with a twist. That seems to have been the thought process of Avengers: Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who recently sat down with the New York Times to discuss the film’s plot in the wake of its runaway success.
The twist in question occurs early in the film, when the remaining Avengers track down Thanos, now living on the lonely planet he retreated to after snuffing out half of all life in the universe. Their goal: to swipe the Infinity Stones and use them to undo the Mad Titan’s damage.
But upon arriving, they find that Thanos has used the power of the stones to reduce them to atoms, rendering their mission moot. In a moment of pure frustration, Thor does what he should have done during the Battle of Wakanda and went for the head — killing the most formidable foe the Avengers had ever faced roughly 20 minutes into the movie.
It was a shocking narrative decision, one which Markus and McFeely admitted they struggled to pin down. McFeely told the New York Times:
“We always had this problem. [Thanos] has the ultimate weapon. He can see [an attack] coming. It’s ridiculous. […] At some point, [executive producer] Trinh Tran went, ‘Can’t we just kill him?’ And we all went, ‘What happens if you just kill him? Why would you kill him? Why would he let you kill him?'”
The answer to that question is simple: Thanos had accomplished what he set out to do. Markus explained:
“It reinforced Thanos’ agenda. He was done. Not to make him too Christ-like, but it was like,’If I’ve got to die, I can die now.'”
Thor’s brutal beheading of the Mad Titan benefited no one, however. It was an act of pure frustration, and one which was never going to bring back the Infinity Stones or any of the Avengers’ fallen comrades. In fact, it seems likely that the noble Asgardian’s desperate, vengeful killing of Thanos may have been the final straw in causing him to spiral into a years-long bout with depression.
But this also gave Thor, who has gone from a rather one-note hero to arguably the most fascinating and complex character in the MCU, one of Endgame’s most emotionally satisfying arcs. It wasn’t until his encounter with his mother Frigga in 2013, during the Avengers’ time heist to recover the Infinity Stones, that he came to terms with his failure. It all fell into place neatly for Markus and McFeely, who had gone into the screenwriting process with little idea of where they could take the Asgardian’s personal journey during Endgame. Markus said:
“When we were spitballing for Endgame, we started with, Thor’s on a mission of vengeance. And then we were like, he was on a mission of vengeance in the last movie. Keep watching the video to see the enormous Thanos twist in Endgame finally explained!
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