The highly-anticipated superhero movie “Avengers: Infinity War” opened in China on Friday, fanning the flame of a decade-long craze for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) series.
Before the movie’s release, sibling directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and screenwriters, said the epic extravaganza was challenging and fun to work on.
Infinity War, the 19th movie of the MCU since Iron Man which came out 10 years ago, brings together dozens of superheroes and characters from earlier episodes for a fight against the Mad Titan Thanos.
It was not easy to balance the record number of MCU characters in Infinity War and its untitled sequel, the Russo brothers said.
There were not “a lot of models that we can look to, for example of how you make something like this work on a dramatic level, on a structure level, as storytellers”, Anthony Russo said.
Anthony said he and his younger brother spent a long time trying to figure that out and reworking the material to a place where they “feel like giving all of these characters their due within the story”.
There were “a lot of miles under the hood of these characters and the audience has a strong connection to them … we have to do a storytelling that brings them together in a satisfying way and tells a really compelling story”, Joe said.
Joe and Anthony worked closely with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who have written all three Captain America movies, two of which were directed by the Russo brothers.
The story of Infinity War was constructed “a little bit like Game of Thrones”, McFeely said, where “there are different areas for different people to have different parts of the story and eventually they will collide on their way to try to solve the problem”.
The common enemy for the superheroes is Thanos, a mighty Marvel supervillain who wears the Infinity Gauntlet and eagerly looks for the powerful Infinity Stones across the universe.
Thanos’ appearance has made Marvel’s fans nervous because the cruel, gigantic conqueror is so strong that he appears to be overwhelming for the Avengers. But for the two screenwriters, Thanos is the “best” villain ever.
“He doesn’t do anything small,” Markus said, “that is a nice base from which to build.”
Markus and McFeely, also screenwriters for Infinity War’s sequel, said that writing screenplays for two consecutive movies allows them to deal with “the ramifications” in a way that a two-hour movie does not allow them.
“When you have four hours for two movies, you can actually take these things pretty seriously … like what the actual ramifications of everybody’s action are,” Markus explained.
Describing their challenges in writing MCU screenplays, the long-time work partners said they have to look beyond big scenes since “the important thing is the person”.
In the MCU, suits and weapons are an inevitable part of superheroes, used to strengthen their images and personalities. Some are even superheroes’ symbols.
Russell Bobbitt, who has created movie props for half of the MCU movies, called Thanos’ gauntlet a key element in the movie. The prop appeared in a quick shot in the first Thor movie, was teased across the universe and eventually became a main thread in Infinity War.
Bobbitt said he worked closely with actors to develop their characters and determine what they should look like in most cases, with the task of providing and managing props for dozens of characters.
“On any given day we might have 50 superheroes in one shot and there are truckloads of props that we bring in,” the prop master said. “I have to make sure their weapons stay true and in continuity so that they always look perfect.”
Among the props that Bobbitt has made, Captain America’s shield is one of his favourite items. He has made about 140 shields since the start of the MCU.
Bobbitt said computer graphics enable him to look at props differently, though he always struggles to create a practical prop that an actor can hold.
Making props is now a collaborative effort between handcraft and computer graphics. “That will give the audience a much more grand imagination from what we have created,” he added.
Having made costumes for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Hunger Game and other fantasy and science-fiction blockbusters, costume designer Judianna Makovsky said doing a superhero movie was the most difficult, especially a fully-fledged MCU movie.
“The most interesting and difficult part is making sure that all the costumes from every different franchises all work in one film,” Makovsky said, adding that one of the ways to deal with the problem is controlling the colour in one.
Makovsky said that Russo bothers like the superhero costumes tend to make the superhero costumes “less cartoon, less comic”. After all, “the film is more about the story and the people in it”, she noted.
The Infinity War, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, will top the North American box office for the third weekend in a row. As of Tuesday, it had made U$472 million domestically and US$754.9 million internationally.