20 Big Things We Learned From the ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Director Commentary

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus dropped a lot of knowledge

Last Updated: August 5, 2018 @ 2:47 PM

Fans have been speculating about all kinds of things about “Avengers: Infinity War” since the movie came out. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Chris Markus and Steve McFeely layered their culmination of 10 years of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies with references that cut right back to the MCU’s beginnings, and there are plenty of clues about what the future might hold scattered within, too.

In the home video release for “Infinity War,” the Russos and Markus and McFeely give feature commentary to go with the movie, and they reveal all kinds of interesting things about the film — plus, they confirm a few fan theories about what’s going on in the movie that might give hints about the events of “Avengers 4.” Here are all the interesting, cool and cryptic things we learned from the director commentary on “Infinity War.”

Kenneth Branagh was the voice of the Asgardian distress call

“Infinity War” opens almost directly after “Thor: Ragnarok,” the MCU movie which takes chronologically right before it. That movie ended with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) leading his people away from a destroyed Asgard. “Infinity War” picks up with Thanos (Josh Brolin) attacking the Asgardian “ark” ship. We hear a distress signal from the Asgardian ship at the start of the movie. Turns out, the person calling for help is Thor” director Kenneth Branagh, or Sir Kenneth if you’re feeling especially British.

Thanos assaulting Xandar to get the Power Stone was in a previous draft of the script

Markus and McFeely discuss how they went through multiple iterations of the “Infinity War” script, because they were developing it even before other MCU movies — notably “Black Panther” and “Thor: Ragnarok” — were completed, or even written. That meant there were multiple versions of the script. In the finished version of “Infinity War,” Thanos gets the Power Stone, which was left in the care of the Nova Corps of the planet Xandar in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” off-screen — he has it when he attacks Thor and the Asgardians.

One version of the script included a huge battle where Thanos attacked Xandar, but it was cut because it was pretty much a foregone conclusion, McFeely and Markus said. They figured the audience wouldn’t need yet another battle in which Thanos emerged victorious with an Infinity Stone, especially because that battle wouldn’t add much to the characters or plot.

The most interesting part of this nugget, though, was that in that version of the story, Thanos and Gamora ran into each other during the battle on Xandar Meaning in that version the crucial “find Gamora and get her to take Thanos to the Soul Stone” part of the plan wouldn’t just have been the result of an odd coincidence.

The filmmakers confirm Doctor Strange has a secret plan

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One scene that’s key to understanding the later events in “Infinity War” is when Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) uses the Time Stone to look at “alternate futures,” the possible outcomes of the battle with Thanos. In that scene, Strange says he sees only one outcome out of 14 million in which the heroes defeat Thanos. Not much more is said after that, but the implication is that his actions from that point, including surrendering the Time Stone to Thanos to save the life of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), are all part of the sequence of events that need to happen to create that victorious future.

During the commentary, the filmmakers talk about Doctor Strange’s character and what he knows at several points, and more than once the Russos and the screenwriters confirm that Doctor Strange knows a lot more than he’s letting on — the term “ominous prophecy” comes up during that scene. While they’re cryptic about it, they’re still strongly implying that everything that happened on Titan, at least, was part of Strange’s plan based on his vision.

Read more about Doctor Strange’s big plan here.

Hulk isn’t scared of Thanos, he’s tired of bailing out Banner

The “Infinity War” arc for Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and his alter-ego, the Incredible Hulk, is that Banner can’t summon the Hulk to help fight Thanos’ lieutenants, the Black Order, when they attack Earth. Hulk starts the movie by getting absolutely thrashed by Thanos, and after that, every time Banner tries to get the Hulk to come out and fight, he refuses.

The Russos put to bed the idea that Hulk refused to come out to fight the Black Order because he was afraid of Thanos after his definitive defeat. Instead, the issue is more of a culmination of Hulk and Banner’s ongoing issues — the two sides of the same person hate each other and are constantly battling for control of their shared body. Hulk resents the fact that Banner only wants him around when he needs to smash things. In the movie, Banner is forced to deal with his own problems, rather than continually rely on Hulk.

They blew on Tom Holland’s ear to make his hair stand up (not really)

When Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is introduced during the Black Order’s attack on New York, his hair stands up — visual representation of his “spider-sense” that helps Peter detect and avoid danger. In the commentary, the Russos joke that to get Tom’s hair to stand up, they just “blew gently on his ear.” They reference the fact that they made same joke during an “Anatomy of the Scene” video for the New York Times, but don’t reveal how the effect is really achieved in “Infinity War.” Turns out, it’s just CGI.

Even the filmmakers don’t really know how much time passes over the course of the movie

During the scene when Peter Parker sneaks aboard the Q ship, the Russos and the screenwriters took some guesses at just how much time passes between Thanos’ arrival and the snap at the end of the movie. They didn’t have a firm answer, putting it probably about two days, at the outside. They’re just like us!

Thanos’ plan isn’t a plot hole, it’s a character thing

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The filmmakers spent a lot of time talking about the inner and emotional life of Thanos, especially in terms of his relationship with his adopted daughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana). During the scene on Knowhere, in which Thanos uses the Reality Stone to trick Gamora into thinking she killed him, they talk about how messed up Thanos is — because even though he’s manipulative and abusive, he thinks he’s been good to Gamora.

That led to a discussion of Thanos’ overall plan, and a “plot hole” a lot of people have brought up since the movie was released: If Thanos can use the near-limitless power of the Infinity Stones, instead of killing half of all life in the universe (which he says is to stop the suffering and death created by too many people competing for not enough resources), why not just double all the resources in the galaxy?

Well, apparently that wasn’t a permanent enough solution for ole Thanos, an egotistical maniac with a messiah complex who is on a quest to save the universe his way and no one is going to be able to convince him his plan sucks.

Here’s a bit more about how Thanos’ plan was actually logical — by his own insane standards.

And why not just use the Reality Stone if it can, like, alter reality?

While discussing Thanos’ use of the Reality Stone to trick Gamora, the Russos also brought up a time when a fan questioned why Thanos couldn’t just use the Reality Stone to enact his plan, since it seems to alter the physical makeup of reality. We see it turn real objects to bubbles and people into ribbons or rocks; why bother gathering all six Infinity Stones if this one is so cool? The answer is that, really, the Reality Stone just doesn’t have enough power. The filmmakers also mentioned that while the Reality Stone seems to have an incredible amount of power, it’s mostly illusory. When it turns Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) into rocks and ribbons, respectively, the effect doesn’t last because it’s more of a short-term trick.

The movie’s inciting incident is Thanos finding out about the Soul Stone

One question that lingers in “Infinity War” is why Thanos hasn’t gotten around to grabbing up all the Infinity Stones before now. In the past, we’ve seen him try to gather them using intermediaries — he sent Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to conquer Earth and steal the Tesseract for him in “The Avengers,” which contained the Space Stone, and he dispatched Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) to get the Power Stone in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But why did it take Thanos so long to go on his all-out campaign to get the stones? According to Markus and McFeely, the game-changer was when Thanos found out that Gamora knew the location of the Soul Stone.

The Soul Stone was the only Infinity Stone that was never teased in the MCU before “Infinity War,” and in the movie, Thanos reveals that he tortured Nebula (Karen Gillan) and found out that Gamora knew of the stone’s location. The screenwriters say that it was that knowledge that turned the tide for Thanos; he previously used agents to go after the stones because he didn’t want to tip off the universe to his genocidal plan and have everyone array against him. When he found out that Gamora could lead him to the Soul Stone, he kicked off his campaign to get the other stones in earnest, creating the events of the movie.

Read more about why Thanos took so long to strike here.

Markus and McFeely had ‘a fetish’ about bringing back Red Skull

The idea to make Red Skull (Ross Marquand) the guide to the Soul Stone on Vormir served a purpose for the script, but it also fulfilled a longtime wish for the movie’s writers. The pair have written all three of the “Captain America” movies, and really wanted to bring the Red Skull, who was the villain in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” back to the MCU. Vormir gave them that opportunity, since they said they needed a reliable guide to the Soul Stone whose information audiences would believe immediately.

As an added bonus, go back and rewatch “The First Avenger” to see for yourself how well Red Skull’s appearance in “Infinity War” is supported by his fate in the earlier film.

The Wakandans’ chants on the battlefield were ad-libs

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Portions of “Infinity War” and “Black Panther” were being made simultaneously, which meant that Joe and Anthony Russo didn’t know a lot of the ins and outs of Wakanda. The decision to set the third act of “Infinity War” in the country was made before “Black Panther” was released to critical and audience acclaim. When the “Black Panther” actors showed up for their big battle scene, though, they already knew their characters — so the powerful Wakandan chants led by M’Baku (Winston Duke) and T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) were ad-libs by the actors.

Read more about how the success of “Black Panther” was a real benefit to “Infinity War” here.

The Russos say Shuri is the smartest person in the MCU

It’s not too big of a tease for the future that the “Infinity War” directors consider Shuri (Letitia Wright) the MCU’s smartest super-genius, especially since it’s the reason the heroes bring Vision (Paul Bettany) to Wakanda to get the Mind Stone removed from his head. But with some fans speculating that Shuri could be the successor to Tony Stark and Iron Man in the future of the MCU, it could be loaded comment.

Rocket’s quip about ‘space dogs’ came from a focus group

The Black Order uses an army of multi-limbed alien lizards to attack Wakanda’s energy shield, and the heroes have to fight a horde of the beasts. After the Russos showed the movie to an early test group, one person described those aliens as “space dogs.” The directors said they thought the description was funny enough to turn it into a line for Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), which he uses while firing away at the creatures alongside Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), shouting, “Come and get some, space dogs!”

Star-Lord’s joke about his plan for catching Thanos was an ad-lib

On Titan, when the Guardians of the Galaxy, Tony Stark, Peter Parker and Doctor Strange manage to tie up Thanos, they very nearly get the Infinity Gauntlet off his hand. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) rockets over a few seconds later, as everyone struggles to keep Thanos tied up, and says, “I thought you’d be hard to catch — for the record, this is my plan.” The joke about the plan was an ad-lib by Pratt.

Speaking of the Guardians, read more about the deleted “Infinity War” scene that definitely should have been in the movie.

There was a draft of the script in which Captain America didn’t show up until Wakanda

Markus and McFeely wanted the arrival of Captain America (Chris Evans) to carry a huge amount of weight, coming after the character’s two years of exile following the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” They achieved that with Cap’s entrance in the Edinburgh scene, alongside Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), but in some of the other drafts of the script, the screenwriters wanted to push the entrance even farther. One draft, they said, had Cap’s first appearance being in Wakanda, when he rockets out of the trees to save Vision’s life as he grapples with bad guy Corvus Glaive (James Michael Shaw). The screenwriters say they were told holding Cap back for that long would be a huge mistake — and then, after thinking about it, decided those people were absolutely right.

Captain America’s big character arc is in ‘Avengers 4’

Grappling with so many characters in one movie was tough, which left Captain America without much character development in “Infinity War.” The screenwriters said that, since they knew “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers 4” would be two parts of the same story all along, they were able to leave the bulk of Cap’s personal story to the second part. During the commentary, the filmmakers mentioned that Cap has “a big story” in “Avengers 4.”

That orange place Thanos goes at the snap is, in fact, the Soul World

Speculation has run rampant about the nature of the Soul Stone, which, in the comics, contains a whole world where the souls of people killed by the stone are trapped and reside. Fans have figured that the orange place where Thanos winds up briefly after he achieves the snap, where he meets a young Gamora, was the Soul World. In the commentary, the Russos said, “Of course it’s the Soul World,” which likely means the place will have a big part to play in “Avengers 4.”

There’s an actual story reason why Spider-Man took longer to die than everyone else

avengers infinity war why spider-man took longer to die

Most of the characters who fell victim to Thanos’ cosmic finger snap turned to dust in a second or two, but Peter Parker managed to hold out for nearly 30 seconds after uttering his much-memed “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good” line. Apparently, according to Joe Russo, they decided when they filmed the scene that they wanted to draw it out a bit to increase the emotional impact of the whole thing, and they justified it by telling Tom Holland that “you’re using your strength as Spider-Man to fight this.” Which is a fascinating, and believable, bit of lore that they apparently came up with on the fly.

Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet were permanently damaged by the snap

When Thanos snaps his fingers at the end of “Infinity War” and gets his wish, a huge amount of energy is expelled, and the Gauntlet and Thanos’ arm are singed by it. In fact, the snap looks like it hurts Thanos pretty badly. The Russos confirmed in the commentary what they’ve said before: using the Gauntlet took a toll on Thanos. What’s interesting is that the filmmakers used the word “permanently” to describe the damage done to both the Mad Titan and his weapon. Sounds like that could have implications for Thanos and the Gauntlet in the future, and maybe, how they can be beaten.

Also, imagine if Thanos is dead at the beginning of “Avengers 4,” having succumbed to that gaping chest wound. Hoo boy.

The final shot of Thanos contains a comic Easter Egg

Eagle-eyed fans will notice that when Thanos comes out of his hut on the unnamed planet at the end of “Infinity War” after achieving his goal, there’s a figure in the bottom-right corner of the frame. It’s a scarecrow, one made out of Thanos’ armor from the beginning of the movie. That’s a nod to the Marvel comics, in which, after the “Infinity Gauntlet” storyline, Thanos leaves the life of villainy to become a farmer, and uses his armor to make a scarecrow in his field.