It’s not exactly a secret that the Marvel movies have long had a bit of a villain problem. There have been exceptions, sure, but they can’t all be Loki, and figures like Ronin and Yellowjacket have tended toward the generic and interchangeable. And the less said about Malekith, the better. And while things have improved recently, with the likes of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming‘ and ‘Black Panther‘, no film has bucked the trend of weak villains quite as impressively as ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.
Indeed, Thanos was so central to ‘Infinity War’ that the film might well have fallen on its face had the character not worked as well as he did. But as central as he was to the film, early versions of the story placed him even more firmly in that role. As co-director Joe Russo explained at a recent screening, earlier drafts employed a vastly different narrative structure and would have featured narration by the Mad Titan himself:
“We did three drafts of this that were all radically different. One draft involved Thanos as the narrator of the film. It was non-linear in structure, it had backstories for the Black Order, and they were all introduced in very cool sequences. But it ended up being a 250-page script and we thought, “Alright, we can’t fit all of this storytelling.””
So what happened to this mammoth early version of the story? Well, according to Russo, all of the characterization and background information informed the finished film, even if it didn’t explicitly make it to the screen. Beyond that, there was (naturally) a lot of streamlining involved. But how do you even start streamlining something that massive? Well, as Russo explains, it all comes down to structure:
“We did a lot of development on this, but at a certain point we thought, “This is really a heist movie, and Thanos is enacting a heist. It’s gotta have a certain structure to it that reflects a heist film.” So if you look at the movie, it actually is sort of like ‘Two Days in the Valley’ or ‘Out of Sight’ where there’s multiple McGuffins that Thanos is chasing and that all the other characters are trying to get to first, or stop him from getting. So it’s a very simple structure. We thought, we have so many characters in the movie, we have to simplify the structure. I think that’s really what led us from that 250-page draft to what the movie is now is simplifying the plot, keeping it linear, and letting the character moments come through.”
And that, in many ways, is the key to what makes ‘Infinity War’ tick. Simplicity of structure lets the characters shine and prevents even a narrative as jam-packed as this from getting too convoluted. But that doesn’t mean the earlier versions are without merit.
Would you have liked to see some of those Black Order scenes? Would Thanos’s narration have enhanced the film or been a bit too much? Let us know in the comments!