Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have been writing Marvel movies since Captain America: The First Avenger, and they’ve been perfecting their superhero formula. Following Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Captain America: Civil War, the dynamic duo have teamed again for Avengers: Infinity War and the mysterious fourth Avengers film that follows it. Obviously, these were the two minds we needed to pick when it comes to the biggest enigma of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far.
What follows are excepts from the Infinity War confessions of Markus and McFeely on the film’s set in Atlanta, Georgia.
Infinity War Is Basically Thanos’ Movie
Thanos was first glimpsed in the post-credits scene in The Avengers: he gave Loki a scepter containing the Mind Stone in order to claim the Tesseract (the Space Stone) and an army to take over earth. He popped up in various films since then, but now, as Stephen McFeely says, he’s getting his own movie… in a sense.
"In many ways, it’s Thanos’ movie,” he said of Infinity War.
Thanos is after all six of these Infinity Stones — the gems of unlimited power — which also include the Aether (Reality Stone), the orb (Power Stone), the Eye of Agamotto (the Time Stone), and the Soul Stone (location is still TBD). Even though the Mad Titan wants to use these relics to wipe out earth, he wouldn’t call himself a villain — in fact, he would call the term villain “derogatory,” Markus said.
“If you have a villain who just wants to kill somebody or just wants to take over the world because it seems like a fun thing to do, that guy isn’t very interesting,” he explained. “He’s pathetic but, we take this from [Thanos comic book co-creator Jim] Starlin, Thanos is an amoral philosopher. He’s not the devil — although he does sometimes have the devil standing next to him [a reference to Mephisto in the comics]. We wanted that all the way through, to have a villain with understandable motivations and emotions. Thanos has family. Thanos has two daughters that we know of. Thanos has 8 million back stories in the comics, but they’re all kind of sad.”
McFeely commended Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn for introducing the world to those two daughters — Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillian) — but there are more to come. The Black Order, Thanos’ other children, consists of Proxima Midnight, Cull Obsidian, Corvus Glaive, and Ebony Maw.
“This is not an origin story,” McFeely clarified. “Very often, in the screen writing weeds, we’re trying to get a character up and off the ground and so the bad guy tends to be a foil for the development of the hero and that’s not the case here. If anything, it’s the opposite. Our heroes are foils for the villain, whose story we need to tell at large.”
The Infinity War Mashups Are Like Game of Thrones… Times 10
Spoiler warning for Game of Thrones season 7, but when Jon Snow met Daenerys Targaryen, they blew up the internet. Picture something that would “blow that away,” and McFeely promises that thing is Infinity War.
Thor will fight alongside Star-Lord, who will fight alongside Black Panther’s Dora Milaje, who will fight alongside Iron Man, who will fight alongside Doctor Strange — and so on and so forth.
“Not unlike Game of Thrones, where you have this vast canvas with characters, you’ve been watching this guy over here... and only now does it have that feeling of massive plates shifting and finally bringing these characters near each other,” Markus said.
If you’re thinking we might have something on par with Daenerys meeting Jon Snow, he added, “I’m absolutely telling you that. Yes!”
The Wounds of Civil War Are Still Healing
Remember when Iron Man fought against Captain America and the pair nearly destroyed each other? Those scars don’t just heal overnight. When Thanos comes a’ knockin’, the Avengers team will still be split, and they’ll be totally unprepared for the likes of the Mad Titan.
“That is something we didn’t want to blow off,” Markus said of Captain America: Civil War. “Didn’t want to devalue Civil War by having a phone call saying, ‘Let’s all get back together because there’s an even worse guy. Everything’s fine now.’ So we dragged that a long way through [the story] so that we are valuing the resentments we’ve built up between these characters.”
To put it more succinctly, McFeely said, “They’re ill-prepared to handle this.”
How the Infinity Stones Play Into Infinity War
Loki snatched the Tesseract from Odin’s vault on Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok, the Nova Corps obtained the orb in Guardians of the Galaxy, the Collector holds the Aether after Thor: The Dark World, Doctor Strange holds the Eye of Agamotto around his neck, and the Mind Stone has been lodged in Vision’s temple since Avengers: Age of Ultron. The last of the six Infinity Stones is the Soul Stone, and if Thanos gets a hold of them all, he’ll bend reality itself to his will.
“If you go back and look at Winter Soldier and Civil War particularly, they are, whether you like the movies or not, they’re pretty well structured,” McFeely said. “Big choices have been made. We had to do the same thing here and yet we had 6 MacGuffins, which means, every time you collect [an Infinity Stone] it can’t just be a check mark. It has to do something characterful. It’s got to move the plot forward, but it also has to have stakes and cost for literal characters at the time, so that it’s not just a shopping spree.”
He believes they’ve done that. “Boy, we’re going to wrench some emotion out of each and every one of those moments that we can,” McFeely added.
Captain Marvel Is the New Captain America
We won’t see Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers on the big screen until Captain Marvel hits theaters on May 6, 2019 — barring any secret post-credits scene. However, it seems she will appear in Avengers 4, and Markus likens her more to Captain America than any other Avenger.
“That’s a power scale that right now doesn’t exist in the MCU and it’s — or she’s I should say — in some ways the closest to Captain America,” he said. In other words, she’s “a person who’s right and knows they’re right and doesn’t really want to hear it when you tell them they’re wrong.”
In the comics, Carol is a former Air Force pilot whose DNA is spliced with that of the alien Kree race, an event that grants her superhuman strength, flight, durability, and concussive force blasts from her hands. Captain Marvel will take place before the events of Iron Man in the ‘90s when Nick Fury — still with both eyes — has his first encounter with an enhanced person.
Markus called the other Avengers “flawed” and “f—ked up people”: Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is "a mess” and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark has “a massive ego all contorted,” for starters. So, according to Markus, “it’s fun to get another person with a clear vision in there and going, ‘Shut up.’”
Are Ant-Man and the Wasp Not in Avengers 4?
It appears at least two characters won’t be returning for Avengers 4.
When asked about the process of introducing major Marvel characters before their respective films — i.e. Black Panther and Spider-Man first debuted in Civil War — McFeely answered: “We think we handled it and solved it in fairly clever ways, [knocks on wood] but it certainly was an issue. If you wanna do what you wanna do here, how does it affect this movie and not just make this movie? Why is Ant-Man and Wasp not in Infinity War Part Two? So we gotta work on that and figure it out.”
Was this a slip of the tongue? We know Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly will appear as the titular heroes of Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6, 2018 — more than two months after Infinity War hits theaters. We know it involves Hope van Dyne’s mother, the original Wasp named Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), and we presume it involves a return trip to the Quantum Realm. We also know the film has .
Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser.
Infinity War Will Continuing Pushing the Avengers Down Difficult Paths
McFeely and Markus don’t want to be in the business of predictable storytelling.
“The big thing about all of these movies, all the way along the line, we wanted to give people choices and make them continue to have to sacrifice this decision for this decision and not just have it be like, ‘I have no choice in this matter,’” Markus explained. "Aliens attack New York City [in The Avengers]. What are you gonna do, not fight them? No, you have to. So not criticizing that, but in order to sustain this long of an epic, you have to keep the waters a little muddy.”
Much like how the writers wanted audiences to be torn between rooting for Iron Man and Captain America in Civil War, they want you feeling torn again. The goal, Markus said, is “to do that for everybody, heroes and villains alike, until you get to the end and you go, ‘Huh, shouldn’t have done that.’”
Part of how they do that is making sure Thanos isn’t just “a relentless machine collecting stones like he’s going shopping,” McFeely said. “So we want to give him a full weighted emotional story.”
For more fun Avengers: Infinity War facts straight from directors Joe and Anthony Russo, check out part one!
Avengers: Infinity War opens in theaters on April 25.