As thrilling as Avengers: Endgame might be for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel’s comics, it’s also highly emotional. Even before going to theaters, we knew the movie wouldn’t have a perfect happy ending, and that someone would have to die to save everyone else. The Soul Stone sacrifice is just one example. Someone would have had to make that trade for the stone. And then we knew we’d see others die while fighting to beat Thanos. Anything is possible in the MCU, and it turns out that the cost was high in Endgame. We might not have foreseen Black Widow dying the way she did, though it was an amazing, heartbreaking end to her arc in the MCU. But Tony Stark had always been on our shortlist of characters who might perish after Avengers 4 — Steve Rogers was another, of course.
Ultimately, Tony died fulfilling his destiny. He saved the world from total annihilation, which was his worst nightmare. As a result, we’re not going to see him in any new Avengers adventures down the road. But it turns out there was an alternate version of Endgame where he survived, and it would have changed everything coming in the future in the MCU.
Since Disney+ launched, we got to see a bunch of deleted scenes that showed alternate versions of scenes from Avengers movies. One of the most interesting ones features Hulk and the Ancient One, who talk about a slightly different rule for MCU time travel, one that would have allowed Steve to go for that dance in the past of the main timeline. A different scene involved Hulk and Natasha having a special moment right before Thanos killed everyone back in Infinity War. It would have been a great scene, showing us Bruce Banner’s transformation into Smart Hulk, and a touching scene between Nat and this new version of Bruce.
As for this latest discovery, the alternate ending where Stark survives in Endgame was never even filmed. Instead, as WeGotThisCovered points out, it comes from the official Avengers: Endgame – The Art of the Movie book.
As you can see in the image above, we’re looking at a different version of the Endgame scene where Rogers goes back to the past to return all the Stones to their rightful places. Instead of having Bruce, Bucky, and Sam see him off, it’s Stark who gets ready to send him back. And if you look carefully in the background, there’s a man on a bench in the distance. That’s probably old Steve waiting for the young version of himself to jump to the past.
Still, the main takeaway from this art piece is that Tony survived in at least one version of the script, and maybe someone else died at the end of the massive battle against Thanos and his forces. Or perhaps this is is just artwork that prepares the audience for a future episode of What If…? that presents this particular variation of Endgame’s conclusion.
Having Stark die at the end is a much better finale for Endgame, one that confirms yet again that the stakes were much higher than anything we’ve ever seen before in a superhero movie.