It’s taken 11 years and 21 films to get to the point where the curtain closes on a significant period of cinematic history. The MCU’s newly dubbed ‘Infinity Saga’ ends with Avengers: Endgame, and the franchise’s 22nd film. With loose ends getting tied, new story elements introduced and, consequently, a new perspective opening up on previous instalments, directing duo Anthony and Joe Russo speak to Fandom about what moments within the MCU meant most within the epic 22-part narrative.
“‘I am Iron Man’,” laughs Anthony. Indeed, Tony Stark’s famous words from the first film in the franchise are the acorn from which the entire MCU ‘oak tree’ has grown.
“Certainly, half the characters dying is an important moment,” remarks Joe. He’s not wrong, of course. Whatever the outcome of Endgame (we’re not spoiling it here), there’s every chance that this will have a massive impact on the way the MCU develops through the next phase, making this occurrence one of the most impactful of all events through the films so far. It also led to a three-hour movie dealing with its consequences. But these are kind of obvious choices, right? What about moments that are, on the face of it at least, less in-your-face?
Muddying the Moral Waters
“From our own movies,” continues Joe, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier — the elevator sequence is really a turning point for the MCU up to that point. Captain America makes a discovery about the good guys and the bad guys that sort of flips everything on its head and I think that the universe becomes a lot more tonally and morally grey in terms of thematics.”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the ninth film to be released, coming directly after the oft-derided Thor: The Dark World and before that a series of more standalone offerings – including the three Iron Man films, Cap’s own origin tale and both Thor’s and the Hulk’s introductory movies, as well as the first team-up outing for the Avengers.
The series was established by this point, and very ready to start properly blurring the line between good and evil, and embedding the overarching Infinity Saga firmly into the long-running narrative. To keep audiences invested and comic-book fans engaged, more nuanced characters and “grey” morals have been necessary within the MCU – resulting in, among others, Thanos, the saga’s end-of-level boss; a bad guy with his own ideas about what it takes to save the universe, and a villain held up as a true hero by some for what he was trying to achieve.
The Avengers Are to Blame
Anthony Russo fast forwards to the film that kicked off Phase 3, 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, to pick another critical MCU moment.
“There’s a moment in Civil War where Captain America is learning about HYDRA, and gets some information visually that implies that the Winter Soldier may have been involved in the murder of Tony Stark’s parents,” says Anthony.
He continues: “That becomes the sort of ignition point for Civil War, and the breaking up of the Avengers. And that, of course, set the stage for Infinity War. Now… the Avengers’ greatest threat comes to visit them in Thanos and they’re no longer united; they’re no longer a team. And they never, in fact, faced Thanos together in that film, and end up, I think — because of the fact they weren’t together — losing.”
You mean to say, Anthony, that if only Cap had told Tony what he knew, and they hadn’t fallen out, the Avengers would have beaten Thanos in the first instance, and stopped him actioning that ruddy Snap? If only we could go back…
Bring Back the God of Mischief!
And with time travel very much the phenomenon on everyone’s lips as we head into Endgame, it seems apt to get the Russos’ opinions on what events they’d change in the MCU if they could.
“Maybe I’m speaking for others but maybe not killing Loki would have been exciting for some people,” says Anthony.
Joe agrees: “Yes! We hear about it all day long.”
With Loki still alive, we’d be guaranteed his particular brand of mischief for the foreseeable going forward in the MCU. No matter, though, since he IS getting his own series on Disney’s new streaming platform, meaning we’re not done with Loki yet. God of Mischief fans rejoice.
When it comes to the future of the MCU, the Russos tease REPRESENTATION (hallelujah!).
“I think it’s where they’re going which is more diversity. I think everyone has got the right to see themselves on screen and certainly it’ll just keep widening the fanbase the more that people are able to identify with the characters that they’re seeing,” says Joe.
And that includes the recently announced entry in Phase 4, Shang-Chi, all about the ‘Master of Kung Fu’, the studio’s first Asian superhero.
With Disney’s acquisition of Fox, and the potential to welcome characters including the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the MCU fold, who are the characters the brothers would love to explore?
“Ben Grimm, the Thing, was really one of my favourites,” says Joe. “The Fantastic Four would be really fun to play around with, Wolverine, the Great Lakes Avengers – that was a joke.”
The Great Lakes Avengers include Big Bertha, a mutant able to control her body’s distribution of its adipose tissue, or fat.
With so much talk around a younger faction of superheroes coming through, spearheaded by Spider-Man but also set up in Captain Marvel with Monica Rambeau and, presumably, in Endgame too, which of the more youthful characters in Marvel’s roster would they want to explore?
“Certainly the Young Avengers would be fun,” he says. “Take Spider-Man as an example, but whenever you put responsibility on a teen or a child it adds a much more dramatic component to the notion of being a superhero, so I think there’s a lot of interesting choices that can be made with younger heroes.”
With the Russos having made such an impact with the four films they’ve helmed in the MCU to date, we can expect them to take the reins of more going forward. With that in mind, let’s start salivating at the prospect of a young Hawkeye, Iron Lad, Hulkling and more on the big screen.
Watch Anthony and Joe Russo talking MCU in the video above, and catch Avengers: Endgame on the big screen from April 25 in the UK and April 26 in the US.