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The following article contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.

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On Monday, Variety published an exclusive interview with Anthony and Joe Russo, the brothers who directed the 19th Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Avengers: Infinity War. The duo discussed their decision to end the fourth Avengers film on such a dark note, ending the lives of trillions with a single snap of Thanos’ gauntlet-covered hand.

“When we started working with Marvel on Winter Soldier, we wanted to do such a radical departure from their first [Captain America] film,” Joe Russo commented. “We said, ‘The character is moving forward in time. The interpretation we’re interested in is much more modern than what you had done on the last one,’ and they said, ‘Great. Do it. Let’s see what happens.’ So they’ve always been risk-takers … If you look at every film we’ve done for Marvel, there are huge, game-changing events at the end of the movies. We are interested in pushing the boundaries and pushing the story forward in unexpected ways, surprising the audience as much as we can.”

Before Infinity War hit theaters last Friday, fans and journalists alike were hypothesizing who in the star-studded cast would survive the conflict with Thanos. However, the Russo brothers had no intention of delivering an expected experience to Marvel enthusiasts, who bought out theaters around the world, demolishing previous box office records.

“We do our best work when we follow our instincts and tell the story we want to tell,” Joe Russo shared. “We’ve had one or two experiences early in our careers where we didn’t do that and we learned a very hard lesson: When you try to predict what an audience wants, you’re going to make mush. When you commit to the story you want to tell, it tends to have a much more resonant impact on the audience… The audience can tell you they love chocolate ice cream, but if you give it to them every day, they’re going to get sick of it real fast. You’ve got to stay ahead of them.”

Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of over a decade of filmmaking, beginning with Iron Man’s origin story in 2008. Over the years, MCU directors have slowly foreshadowed the eventual showdown between Earth’s mightiest heroes and the genocidal titan Thanos as he attempts to collect all six Infinity Stones for his gauntlet.

“Unless you have real stakes, you’re sort of limited in terms of the emotional impact a story can have on you,” said Anthony Russo. “You have to go to very difficult places for the stakes to feel real, for the characters to feel like they have something to lose, for the audience to feel like they have something at risk. What we’re looking for in storytelling or art is emotional catharsis. And that’s not simply getting what you want. It’s getting an emotional experience that makes you feel and respond to it and energizes you on some level.”

Then with a single snap, Thanos, the Russo brothers, and screenwriters
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely rocked viewers’ beliefs about what could happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After a two-and-a-half hour long journey from New York City to the dying star of Nidavellir and back to Wakanda, with stops in-between, audiences were devastated at the loss of beloved characters including King T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and Groot (Vin Diesel/Terry Notary).

“I will say this: There is a real commitment on our end to the stakes,” Anthony Russo said. “Yes, this is a fantasy world, and yes, remarkable things can happen in a fantasy world, but-“

“They come at an incredibly high cost,’ Joe interjects as he finishes his brother’s thought. “For us, there will always be stakes and the stakes have been progressing from film to film. And I think you can extrapolate that they will continue to deepen in Avengers 4.”

The fourth Avengers (currently untitled) arrives in theaters on May 3, 2019.

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