Avengers: Infinity War’s Climactic Deaths Were Originally Much More Disturbing
The ending of Avengers: Infinity War was genuinely shocking. Not in my wildest dreams did I think Marvel Studios had the balls to kill off heavy-hitters like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, (most of) the Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and many, many more.
The first time I saw it on opening night there were a bunch of children weeping in abject misery in the audience, traumatized by the sight of their favorite heroes collapsing into a pile of ash. But, according to Infinity War VFX supervisor Dan Deleeuw, things could’ve looked a whole lot more disturbing.
As he explained in a recent interview:
“[It] made sense that all six stones are combined now, [so] what stones would… how would combining the stones make that happen? So does the Soul Stone go in and disintegrate their soul? And does the Power Stone disintegrate the body? And the Space Stone what actually moves the ash?
And so early tests were combining all those different pieces and although it was kind of beautiful in a way, it just became too much, right? It became… if there was too much of a Soul Stone effect it looked like they were on fire when they were disintegrating, and the idea was like just back off and keep it simple.”
Keeping it simple was probably the best bet, as the ash effect they used has instantly become iconic and has a certain funereal finality to it (despite the fact that we all know these characters are coming back in Avengers 4). Watching Tom Holland’s loveable Spider-Man apparently burn to death while disintegrating would definitely have been a step too far for audiences, perhaps even putting the film under threat of achieving an R rating.
Deleeuw then went on to talk more about their thinking behind the effect, saying that its simplicity let them decide “how quickly the ash went over a person’s body and how it went over their body and how when they disintegrated they floated away” which let them give “everybody a unique way in which they turn to ash.”
That also lets them control the rhythm of the scenes, as “some characters would go away quickly and some would last longer, just give them something a lyrical, almost a poetic way in which they kind of float away to ash to make it more impactful.” So, you get the sudden shock of some folks immediately vanishing as well as the more tragic drawn-out death of Spidey in Tony Stark’s arms.
Even when some or all of these heroes are de-ashed, I doubt the impact of this sequence will lessen. Marvel Studios, the Russo Brothers and their VFX team deserve a huge amount of praise for making the climax of Avengers: Infinity War so jarring and effective, as it’s one we won’t soon forget.