The Russos answered fans’ most burning questions, including what that ending means for Thanos going forward and what was up with Bruce Banner’s alter ego.
It’s been less than a week since Avengers: Infinity War was released in theaters, but Joe and Anthony Russo are already more than happy to dive deep into their new film.
The Russos participated in a Q&A with NPR’s Linda Holmes on George Washington University’s campus in Washington D.C. as a lead-up to donating some notable Marvel props to the Smithsonian Institution, including Captain America’s shield from Captain America: Civil War.
The duo were met with some hard-hitting fan questions (many of them from children!), including the mixed reaction to upending the Marvel Cinematic Universe with one snap of a Mad Titan’s finger.
“I’ve received a lot of F-Us,” Joe Russo said of the Twitter backlash to the film’s controversial ending that featured beloved heroes like Black Panther and Spider-Man being erased from existence by Thanos and his completed Infinity Gauntlet.
All the social media vitriol the two received was probably neutralized by the film’s record-breaking opening weekend. Anthony Russo said the two “look at it as our job to deliver a satisfying experience for every character in the film,” and whether they succeeded at that or not, audiences clearly were more than happy to see their work once or more last weekend.
Here’s a brief rundown of the juicier tidbits the Russos dropped during this Q&A:
“Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good”
The Russos are painfully aware of the heartbreaking nature of Peter Parker dying in Tony Stark’s arms. They told a story about a recent Infinity War screening where, after the movie was over, a distraught 10-year-old asked them, “Why did you kill Spider-Man?”
“It was always in our heads that we wanted that scene to be very powerful,” Joe Russo said.
Tom Holland now-famously improvised his tear-jerking death scene, but the Russos had to coax that performance out of him a bit. Joe said the first few attempts at that scene felt a bit flat, like “a piece of plot that was happening.”
The Russos coached Holland a bit, reminding Holland that he is a 16-year-old kid and, crucially, “You don’t want to go.”
“The next take, that’s what happened,” Joe said, referring to what became quite possibly the most devastating scene in any MCU movie to date.
Anthony said the combination of Holland and Robert Downey Jr.’s acting styles helped make the scene as effective as it was.
“Robert Downey is a very improvisational actor, and Tom is a very brave young actor willing to be vulnerable,” he said. “That’s kind of a best-case scenario on what can happen on set.”
There were a few Hulk-related questions that should interest Marvel fans.
The first was about Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo straight-up spoiling the ending of Infinity War months before the movie was released.
“That’s why Mark doesn’t get scripts anymore,” Joe quipped.
Then there was the inquiry about why the Hulk, after being pummeled by Thanos in the movie’s opening scene, refused to show up again, forcing Bruce Banner to use the Hulkbuster armor to participate in the final battle in Wakanda.
“We have to be careful with the character of Banner,” Joe said. “Because if every time he’s in trouble Hulk saves him, Hulk becomes the hero and he becomes whiny. We wanted to force Banner to be the hero.”
Fair, but then why was he featured in the original Infinity War trailer fighting alongside the other Avengers in Wakanda?
Joe Russo actually copped to digitally inserting Hulk into that scene purely for the trailer to deceive audiences about Banner’s real storyline. Devious!
One intrepid young fan asked about that ending shot of Thanos looking out at a beautiful landscape presumably on a refurbished Titan, specifically the fan theory that this means Thanos has created multiple realities.
“We felt that we brought his story to completion,” Anthony said cryptically.
OK, fine. Another fan asked why Thanos didn’t just use the reality stone to alter the universe, as opposed to collecting all six Infinity Stones.
“I said that for two years!” Joe joked. But neither of them had a real answer for that question. Awkward.
They were, however, ready to discuss Thanos’ character design, specifically the lines on his face.
“They’re there specifically so Chris Pratt can say, ‘Nutsack,’” Joe explained. Fair.
The movie’s soul
The two took some time to praise Zoe Saldana’s performance, who had one of the toughest jobs in the movie. She had to sell her father-daughter relationship with Thanos, her romance with Peter Quill and perform her tragic pre-death monologue, all in a limited amount of screen time.
“In a lot of ways she’s the soul of the movie,” Joe said, before realizing his accidental Soul Stone pun and clarifying, “I didn’t even do that intentionally.”
He continued: “She at many points in the movie offers her own life to protect the universe. For someone raised by a monster, she in some ways became the most human character in the movie.”
Pour one out for Gamora.
No event in D.C. is complete without a politically charged question. That came in the form of a fan asking why in an otherwise diverse movie, a black character (Idris Elba’s Heimdall) dies first.
“You want to service the story,” Anthony responded. “Characters have identities more complex than their race.”
That discussion also led into the Russos vaguely apologizing for setting the final battle in Wakanda, which presumably also resulted in many black casualties.
“The reason why this movie climaxes in Wakanda is if Earth is going to make a final stand, where are you going to make it?” he asked, and the audience agreed Wakanda was the natural spot for such a conflict to take place.
“And unfortunately, that overly taxed Wakanda,” Anthony concluded.
Wakanda is no place to die.
Let’s conclude with two non-Infinity War pieces of news the Russos dropped.
First and foremost, they will not be involved with season 5 of Arrested Development, a question that came up because they directed the show’s pilot and multiple other episodes of its original run.
They were also asked if they would ever consider working in the DC universe. The answer should please the Marvel faithful.
“Growing up as a comic book collector, I collected Marvel comics,” Joe said. “I had trouble identifying with DC characters as a kid.”
He also mentioned that a lot of DC characters present a story conundrum that few Marvel characters do, creating an extra challenge in making them cinematically viable.
“If they can solve the problem at the start of the movie, there’s nowhere else to go,” he said of DC’s larger-than-life repertoire of heroes. “That’s why Vision got skewered 30 seconds into the movie.”
Poor Vision. That robot dude can never catch a break.