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The events of Thor: Ragnarok (2017) marked a notable shift in how the Marvel Cinematic Universe's God of Thunder was depicted compared to his earlier appearances. While the revitalization of Chris Hemsworth's character at the hands of director Taika Waititi was well-received (for the most part), it also posed a problem for Avengers: Endgame writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, as they had to depict Thor in their own special way for Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Endgame. As McFeely recalled: "Remember, we were inheriting a Thor from Ragnarok who was very well and radically re-toned from the previous Avengers movies. So, we had to fly in Hemsworth and Taika Waititi word was getting out from Australia, 'You guys understand what we're doing with this movie?' We're like, 'No, I don't know what you mean. Are you making him an idiot? I don't understand!' Between taking more advantage of Chris Hemsworth's comedic chops and Thor speaking more like a denizen of Earth due to spending so much time with the Avengers, the God of Thunder definitely behaved differently in Thor: Ragnarok compared to his first four MCU appearances, although obviously the original spirit of the character was still intact. But for Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, they had their own plans for Thor and initially had trouble understanding what Hemsworth, Taika Waititi and the Ragnarok team had done to him. Ironically, while Ragnarok is the funniest of the Thor movies (and one of the funniest MCU movies overall), it's also arguably the most tragic for the main protagonist, as he lost so much in such a short amount of time. Fortunately for Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, they were able to take advantage of all this loss, particularly when it came to Avengers: Endgame. Markus added in their conversation with Vanity Fair: "In Ragnarok, he loses his kingdom, his father, his sister and his eyeball. We just thought about what would happen if any one of us sustained this loss and horror. You would probably get incredibly depressed and retreat from the world. That is a comedic performance with a lot of pain behind it."
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In an interview with Variety, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely tell the audience why Endgame was codenamed Mary Lou early on. Markus thought it would be an interesting exercise to see what happens when things don't go well for the heroes, "Most of these movies have ended with a win. We wanted to see what happens to their personalities when they don't. When they very very definitively lose." "When we have tested this, with various secret audiences, they always said, 'The first part is the slowest.' We went, 'Well, we know that,' but I guarantee that if we cut it in half even if we could, when Cap picks up the hammer, the [Falcon] says on your left, it wouldn't resonate as much because you hadn't gone so dark before," McFeely continued. As all fans can recite from memory by now, "Part of the journey is the end." The writers wanted both the heroes and their audiences to be put through the proverbial wringer. Many of Endgame's reviews pointed toward that gradual buildup as something strange for these movies. It was all by design as the creative team was gearing up for that massive payoff in the third act. "We really want to make them feel that we value these characters as much as they do," Markus would follow up with. Then, McFeely would spell it out, "The watchword was 'Stick the landing.' Right? That's why the codename was Mary Lou."
The first true break (or diversion) of the Marvel timeline in Endgame is regarding the Space Stone in 2012. Tony and Scott intend to give 2012 Tony an arc reactor failure when he meets Secretary Pierce (something that presumably always happened), allowing them to remove the Tesseract briefcase from the equation. An angry 2012 Hulk complicates matters and the Space Stone is attained by Loki, who teleports out of New York. Following the rules laid down by the Ancient One (and the fact that the film puts focus on the Loki moment), this a clear and intended break in the Marvel timeline that is not resolved by the time Avengers: Endgame comes to an end. In this reality, Loki escapes capture at the Battle of New York with the Tesseract. The knock-on effects of this are serious: directly, Loki is still working for Thanos at this point so may give him the Space Stone years earlier; from a movie perspective, he isn't there for the events of Thor: The Dark World (2013) or Thor: Ragnarok (2017), meaning Odin is never replaced and, possibly, Asgard may not be destroyed and Thor never loses Mjölnir; the Avengers also haven't completed their first mission, likely keeping them together longer and impacting solo movies up to and beyond Captain America: Civil War (2016). The extent of all of this is speculation, sure, but the very immediate potential is massive. This would also mean that everything that happens subsequently in this time period is not part of the prime MCU universe: Steve Rogers didn't always fight his future self because he was never looking for Loki. Practically, this is a get around of Loki's death at the start of Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Thanos declared "no resurrections this time" and he was right, from a certain point of view. Loki is dead in the MCU going forward, yet a version of him is alive and well for new adventures at his most malicious in another timeline, which is a topic that will surely be explored in the Tom Hiddleston-starring Disney+ Loki (2021) show.
The film was formerly known as "Avengers: Infinity War, Part II," with Avengers: Infinity War formerly known as "Avengers: Infinity War Part I." However, due to the movies being different from each other, Marvel decided to rename their movies "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame." Kevin Feige said the films were titled as two parts of a single film "because they [have] such shared elements," but he would not actually describe them as "one story that's cut in half. I would say it's going to be two distinct movies."
Fans questioned whether or not it made sense chronologically for Steve to stay in the past with his love, Peggy Carter, after putting the Infinity Stones back in their respective places in the the timeline, but one of the film's writers, Stephen McFeely, has some thoughts on Cap's ending. Speaking with Canada.com, McFeely referenced Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), which showed photos of Peggy's two children and mentioned but never named her husband, stating: "It depends on what story Marvel wants to tell going forward. I don't know if Marvel wants to tell any more Captain America stories or if Chris Evans is up for it. Do they want to tell an alternate timeline story? Chris and I are partial to the idea that Steve is part of a strange, unique time-loop where he has always been there. The husband that you very purposefully did not see at Peggy's bedside in Winter Soldier is Chris' Steve. We have always thought that he was her husband. The movies you have been watching follow a line where he always goes back. To be fair, not everyone agrees with us. I don't even know if Marvel agrees with us. But that's what we think."
(at around 1h 16 mins) A comment from Ant-Man about Captain America's ass proved one of the most hilarious parts for many viewers. However, the line almost didn't make it into the film. During the Vudu Viewing Party for Endgame, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige revealed, "Ant-Man's line, 'As far as I'm concerned, that's America's ass,' was not in it for quite a while. I think it was [executive producer] Louis D'Esposito or someone who said, 'What happened to that funny line about America's ass?'" "We're like, 'Is it funny? I don't know, let's try it in the next test screening,' because we screen all of our movies multiple times for audiences. And it killed, it killed instantly, without question. And it stayed in the movie, and later in the movie it a got a reprise in some additional photography where Cap himself comments on his own ass." "We questioned, let's be honest, we questioned, 'Is it in character? Is it in the character of Steve Rogers to make a comment on his own ass?' And the thought was, yes, it works, and the audience likes it," Feige said. "But also, we were building a version of Steve who actually was growing, and who was loosening up, and who was leading towards the decision [to retire]. It was part of a character shift, maybe we're just justifying the laughs, but it was part of a character shift to get to the decision he makes at the end of the film to stay with Peggy and get some of that life Tony was always telling him to get."
The end of Endgame has one final big time travel reveal. When Steve Rogers goes back in time to replace all the stones and, as the movie tells it, correcting every potential issue, instead of returning to the present, he uses the Pym particles to jump to the 1940s to be with Peggy. He gets that date, that dance, that life that he was forever robbed from by his duty. This is confirmed by an appearance of a much older Steve just after he leaves, saying he was happy with the life his chose and passing the shield to Falcon. Thematically perfect and tear-inducingly delivered, this moment nevertheless creates even more complications thanks to, once again, borrowing from multiple forms of time travel. Captain America has inserted himself into the past, becoming Peggy Carter's husband. It's notable that Marvel movies have been avoiding giving much of Peggy's post-Agent Carter background even as they teased Steve's eventual fate. The only proper mention of her husband came in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) where, in an archived video at the Captain America Smithsonian exhibit, she explained how he was someone Steve saved during World War II; Agent Carter (2015) was canceled before the show could reveal his identity as promised and pictures on her bedside further showed only her children. It's distinctly possible that this ambiguity was intended to hide that it was really Steve Rogers all along. This line of thinking comes with its own problems, many explainable. Steve and Peggy would have had to hide his return from the outside world, likely seeing him live under an alias. As spies, this would be well within their remit, and if the focus was on living a life together, a worthy sacrifice. It would also explain the now-incongruous fact that Peggy has a photo of young Steve on her desk; she's covering for him. It also doesn't make the Sharon Carter love story (too) disgusting as Steve wouldn't be her blood relative. Of course, that would directly work against what happened to Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)-era Thanos; following that logic, Steve's return would have started a new chain of events that would surely butterfly into a totally different, possibly Avengers-less future. This solution here would that old Steve turning up straight after his disappearance isn't just him simply revealing himself but having traveled across from another reality using Pym particles for a proper goodbye.