Avengers: Endgame is such a cinematic phenomenon that just when you thought you knew pretty much everything about it, more of its secrets come to light. On the other hand, Endgame is the culmination of 10 years of great MCU storytelling, so we’re bound to find out more and more secrets as the people involved in making the movie, from the cast to the crew, share more memories. For example, just a few days ago we learned that Marvel plans to address one of the biggest remaining Endgame secrets in the not so distant future, a secret the studio has failed to address in any way since the film premiered. But thanks to an extensive look at what it was like to create one of the most significant scenes in the film (the epic battle at the end), we were given a closer look at some of the decisions that went into building that battle sequence. Now, it turns out that one of the most important scenes in Endgame, which occurs during the fighting toward the end, was supposed to be a lot different.
Endgame isn’t just the end of the Infinity Saga for Marvel — well, technically Spider-Man: Far From Home is the final movie in Phase 3 — but it’s also the end journey for several characters who have been with us for more than a decade. Endgame completes various character arcs, delivering emotional final stories for several heroes, including Black Widow, Iron Man, and Captain America.
Each of the Avengers, and mainly these three, feel responsible for what happened, for not being able to do more to prevent the snap in Infinity War, with Tony Stark voicing the feeling beautifully at the beginning of the film. He lost the kid, and everyone else, and he couldn’t stop Thanos. It’s the kid, Spider-Man, who haunts Tony even 5 years later, and it’s the kid who gives him the extra motivation to attempt the daring time heist. All that effort pays off for Iron Man the minute when the kid comes back to Earth.
Peter’s moment with Tony during the battle is just as emotional as the Infinity War scene where Tony witnesses Spider-Man turning to dust. The highly charged scene also serves a secondary purpose: it explains to the audience how the characters who were just dusted experienced the whole thing, and what had happened since Hulk brought everyone back to life.
It turns out, however, that the scene was a lot different in the initial version. And it actually started with a tiny edit of the kitchen scene where Tony decides he has to figure out time travel — from SlashFilm’s extensive look at the making of that epic battle:
Jeff Ford (Editor): Tony seeing the picture of Peter that motivates him to do time travel. That was a late addition. He used to have an epiphany another way, and we thought, “You know, it’s really going to be Peter that’s haunting him a bit.” So once we started that track, we knew we needed a much more significant moment between the two of them.
Marvel then went ahead with a different kind of Tony-Peter meet-cute moment in the middle of the fight, one that wouldn’t have worked as well for Endgame. Alan Silvestri, Trinh Tran, and Jeff Ford explained the process:
Alan Silvestri (Composer): [The reunion] was just a great emotional moment, and it was kind of like Tony was over all his mentoring in that moment, and he just wanted to hug the kid. “I’m not teaching anybody any lessons now. School’s out. I just want to hug this kid.” I think I remember we’re pretty subtle or in the background there.
Trinh Tran (Executive Producer): We knew that was going to be a tearjerker because of what happened in Infinity War. We shot that initially, and then we filmed it again during additional photography because we wanted to make sure that we captured the emotion between them. There was a different version where there were a lot more characters involved in that moment, and it just felt like it should just be the two of them.
Jeff Ford (Editor): The first time we shot it, Peter and Tony reunite, and Pepper’s nearby, and Tony goes, “Uh, Peter, do you know Pepper?” “Nice to meet you!” It’s one of those crazy meet-cutes in the middle of a fight. He hugs him, and they have this thing, but it felt very incidental like they ran into each other at an airport or something. We watched it, and they were both great in the scene, but it was like a comedy scene, so it had this schtick quality to it. By the way, we did not yet know how powerful Peter disappearing was [in Infinity War] when we shot that first version. We had shot it, I think, but we hadn’t tested it, we hadn’t lived with it and actually done the [effect] of [him] going away, so when the audience had that reaction, we’re like, this reunion is different now. It’s a different thing.
The rest, as they say, is history. The moment Tony reunites with Peter after five years of agony and guilt is immensely satisfying for the audience, especially given what happens with Stark in the scenes that follow. And there’s no question the scene they ultimately went with was the right decision for this particular pair of heroes.