If you disregard the film’s focus on time travel – and the somewhat vague explanations of the mechanics that govern it – you’d be hard pressed to find any major shortcomings in Avengers: Endgame. The Russo brothers’ masterpiece manages to, somehow, wrap up the universe-altering events from Infinity War, bringing together dozens of key characters for one final showdown while providing some satisfying conclusions for the series’ biggest players.
Of course, you can’t completely ignore those pesky time travel shenanigans. The introduction of alternate timelines – and, by extension, alternate versions of characters – have confused audiences all over, and it seems that the film’s screenwriters and directors can’t agree on how it all fits together. It turns out, the focus on time travel proved difficult throughout production, so much so that it required entirely new scenes to be written and shot in order to properly explain everything.
As Yahoo reports, Avengers: Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely quickly learned about the power and influence Back to the Future has over the public consciousness. When the latest MCU film underwent test screenings, audiences were very confused with how the pic’s time travel rules worked. McFeely pointed to one scene in particular. When present-day Nebula shot and killed the evil, alternate reality version of herself, the test audience expected her to disappear, not unlike the fate Marty McFly nearly met in Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 classic.
“Much of the audience was expecting that Nebula to disappear. And we’re going, ‘No, we told you, it doesn’t work that way!’ So we really needed to underline it,” McFeely explained. “It’s a testament to Back to the Future, that everyone who walks into a time-travel movie goes, ‘Well, I know how this works.'”
As a result, the screenwriting duo conceived an entirely new scene, one where Bruce Banner explains the rules of time travel by explicitly stating how Back to the Future got it all wrong. More importantly, Christopher Markus also shed light on the nature of alternate timelines – it seems a branching reality is only created if a time stone is removed. That being said, everything’s a little fuzzy at the moment, since the directors and screenwriters have offered up different interpretations on how things work.
“It’s a combination of what Hulk says and what the Ancient One [Tilda Swinton] says,” Markus added. “One, that if you go to the past from the present, the present becomes your past, so it’s not gonna change. And that the only thing that causes branched realities is the removal of one of those six Infinity Stones. So if I go back into time and grab a shoe, you’re not going to have a shoeless universe. It’s only if you move the stones.”
That statement in and of itself poses a lot more questions than it answers. Hopefully, the creative team can come to an agreement in time for Avengers: Endgame‘s home release. Personally, the staff at We Got This Covered would love to see a director’s commentary that clears things up once and for all.