Get a glimpse on the storytelling elements from balancing tones to collaborations and more.

How do you approach the behemoth that is Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Infinity War” — a film with ten years of baggage with different storylines, different visions, different tones, to honor? How does a storyteller divide screen time among  40+ major players who are at different stages of their journeys and continue to engage and surprise viewers? The challenge and weight of what this film means to many is not lost on “Avengers: Infinity War” directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo.

As we continue unveiling everything we learned during last summer’s set visit, we couldn’t think of two better people to get a look at the magnitude of the biggest cinematic production ever assembled than those who are helming the film — the Russo Brothers. Not only were the Russos tackling “Avengers: Infinity War” and the untitled fourth “Avengers” film simultaneously, they had to contend with the finishing of James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and Taika Watiti’s “Thor: Ragnarok,” with the concurrent production of Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” start of Peyton Reed’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” and planning for “Captain Marvel.”

The Russos entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe as storytellers with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” joined by screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The team went on to tackle higher stakes with “Captain America: Civil War.” Not to be outdone, they’re now tackling 20-some heroes, multiple locations, six Infinity Stones, and the baddest/most powerful villain our heroes have ever encountered—Thanos, with the next “Avengers” installment. The Brothers shared insight on their approach to the characters, the complications of putting together a project of this scale, and dropped some insights during our intimate set visit.

[Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.]

How “Avengers: Infinity War” Kicks Off

“Avengers: Infinity War” is two years following “Captain America: Civil War.” According to Anthony, “Infinity War” is a “direct corollary to the end of ‘Civil War,’ and our heroes will be heading into this film “with the ramifications of that film at the forefront of this film.”

Continuing, “[‘Infinity War’] is very much about how we move forward from ‘Civil War’ in a big way, and what happens to that division between the Avengers and how does that affect them. What does that mean when the greatest threat they’ll ever face comes to them.”

Despite the two years following “Civil War,” the Russo Brothers have a storytelling philosophy where make sure to “keep any big moments of the characters’ lives on camera.”

We know Cap’s team of Avengers find their way to Wakanda seeking aid from King T’Challa. Joe explained the fortified country is the most “logical place for anyone seeking refuge.”

Meanwhile, Tony Stark has to deal with the consequences of his choice to side with the Sokovia Accords. Our directors haven’t forgotten young Peter Parker. “They basically have a unique mentor/mentee relationship that continues to evolve as they move into this film,” shared Anthony.

With the Guardians, the directors acknowledged the film picks up 5-6 years following “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” The Guardians have had a chance to deepen their relationships with each other where the Avengers haven’t had that chance.

“They’re closer, and they’re tighter, and they’ve been doing it for a while,” said Anthony. “They’ve cemented their chemistry as a team. And they would stand in contrast with the other teams. Potentially.”

They’re thrilled at the chance to take on Thor and lean into his profound experience during “Thor: Ragnarok.” As for Hawkeye, the Russos confirmed he’s on his own journey in this film.

The Directors’ Approach to the Tone and Characters, and their Collaboration with Past Filmmakers

“It’s been a personal journey for us as filmmakers from ‘Winter Soldier,’ of a theme set in that movie that we then tried to expand upon in ‘Civil War,’ that then led to Infinity War,” shared Joe Russo. “It’s how we feel about the characters, as comic book fans, the story that we want to see.”

“It’s not only a culmination of the last ten years of Marvel storytelling, but for us, it’s a culmination of our journey as directors to the Marvel Universe,” added Joe. “Having at our disposal all of those characters and allowing ourselves to re-filter them through the way that we see the universe, the way that we feel about the characters, the themes that we really want to bring to the forefront, that’s what these two movies are for us.”

“Everything’s always got to be character based,” proclaimed Anthony. “If we’re sitting in the editing room, watch the sequences for more than 20 seconds without a character having a point of view or moving the action forward, my brain just shuts down. The action for us, it’s always character based.”

In addition to screenwriters Markus and McFeely, the Russos credited the team there were able to work with the past films, including effects supervisor Dan Deleeuw, editor Jeff Ford, DP Trent Opaloch, and stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave, to achieving the complex and ambitious nature of “Infinity War.”

It was important for the Russos to honor the journeys and approach the other MCU filmmakers took their characters on, but also make it work with the film they were creating. As Joe explained, the “Russo Brothers-execution” was filtering what others have done “through our very personal expression of them as characters.” Anthony acknowledged, “Everyone is interwoven in this plot in a way where they have an emotional connection to the story…. You can’t tell a movie with this many characters and not have each of those characters show up and honor them from the different franchises if they are not motivated to be there. If there are not in life or death circumstances. If they are not fighting to save their belief system or way of life.”

The Russos equated the MCU process as similar to how comic book stories evolve and involve several comic creators. “[We] found repeatedly that the best and only way for us to move forward is to receive that information, and keep what we like, and explore what we like, and exploit what we like, and tell the story that we want to tell. The same way you do in a comic run when you’re reading it, you go, ‘I want to see someone else’s point-of-view on that.’ That’s what Marvel’s done really well, bringing in a lot of different voices to execute the films.”

It’s safe to say everyone in the Marvel Universe had been involved. During the preparation and production of the third and fourth “Avengers” films, the Russos had the opportunity to collaborate closely with James Gunn, Taika Waititi, Scott Derrickson, Peyton Reed, Ryan Coogler, and producer Nate Moore. With the Marvel Universe progressing in different courses simultaneously and at the time, not yet completed, the Russos adopted a “real collaborative united artists approach” to ensure they were sensitive to the other stories and sharing those elements.

The Sources and Influences

Mark Ruffalo previously alluded to how THE INFINITY GAUNTLET informed the film, but there are clear deviations. Joe further elaborated on the comics source: “Certainly the Starlin book was our jumping off point. It’s a brilliant comic, and the ideas behind it are so large, it’s what pushed us to go for the scale that we’re going for on these movies.”

Joe continuing, “Anth and I love the post-modern comics. We’re also drawing from newer INFINITY stuff, and we’re kind of combining it all into…how do we see elements from each helping the story that we want to tell.”

In addition, the Russos were inspired by ensemble 90s crime films, and the two films that they look to for inspiration in relation to narrative imagery were “Two Days in the Valley” and “Out of Sight.”

“These movies are so complex you need a unifying peace, or a sense of cohesion, and that cohesion can come from a narrative construct that you can apply all the characters to,” explained Joe Russo.

Thanos (Josh Brolin)

Thanos

True Believers, you’ve never seen a more formidable antagonist in the MCU like the Mad Titan, and he’s on a destructive mission to collect all the Infinity Stones no matter the stakes.

“This movie is catalyzed by Thanos’ decision and an opportunity for him to make a very aggressive move for the stones, a more effective move for the stones than he has ever in the past,” revealed Anthony. “When Thanos decides to do it, he really goes for it. He’s one step ahead of our heroes through the movie and he puts them through a lot of pain in the process.”

“Our job with Thanos is to make him the preeminent villain in the Marvel Universe,” added Joe. “In order to be a preeminent villain, you have to do some pretty bad things.”

The Russos stressed that the Infinity Stones are the “bedrock of the film” — “the key driver.”

Prepare Your Hearts

On the subject of Thanos, several of our heroes wield/guard the Infinity Stones putting them in directly in the path of Thanos, elevating the emotional weight. When asked about the invincibility of our heroes, Joe quickly teased, “I’m sorry.”

Acknowledging that every character is someone’s favorite character, Anthony explained, “We like mature storytelling. We like dramatic storytelling. We like intense storytelling. We appreciate conflict, and we appreciate stakes. And without stakes, there really isn’t a lot of value to the story. If you look at the Marvel Universe as a whole, as a story that’s been told for 10 years, you can look at [‘Infinity War’] as the climax. The stakes will be higher in this movie than they’ve ever been, times ten.”

Once the dust settles, we can expect the Avengers to see major casualties as they protect the universe and all of existence from Thanos.

Topping the “Civil War” Airport Fight Scene

“We have an equivalent that’s like if you had a comic book, and you open it up to your double panel, and then you fold it out. And then you fold it out again and again,” said Joe Russo.

Anthony Russo adding, “And you have another comic book laid out next to it.” “So we have the equivalent of that in this movie,” continued Joe Russo.

Hinting at the Untitled Fourth “Avengers” Film

The Brothers on the new challenge of shooting two MCU films at the same time: “Our approach has always been how we look at the project. It’s simply the same thing in the way that the ‘Winter Soldier’ related to ‘Civil War,’ and the way that ‘Civil War’ relates to ‘Infinity War.’ These two movies will also relate…but at the same time, there’s an independence in terms of what the experience is or where the story goes. It isn’t a true two-parter…. It ended up being more of two singular expressions.”

“We always try to make each film different so they don’t get repetitive,” said Joe. “This kind of serialized storytelling…. You have to keep evolving who’s at the forefront, how you’re laying the story out because rigor mortis will set in very quickly. Each character…can shape and color and re-tone an entire film depending on who you’re following. We find them as exciting as complex and inspiring and heartbreaking, and we believe that there are real emotional stakes. This is exactly the kind of movies we aspire to and exactly the kind of movies we look for as film goers in a theater.”

It’s safe to say that we’ve never seen anything like “Avengers: Infinity War.” Closing out the visit, Joe remarked, “If you were to think of the Marvel Universe over the last ten years of the book, this is the ending of the book. There may be new books written, but this is certainly the ending of this book.”

“Avengers: Infinity War” opens in theaters on April 27. Stay tuned to Marvel.com, follow @Avengers on Twitter, and Like “The Avengers” on Facebook for the latest on the Avengers as it develops!

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Thanos comes face-to-face with his legendary creator!

Sideshow, who are famous for their high-end, luxury pop culture statues, memorabilia, and collectibles, have unveiled an all-new interpretation of Thanos.

Recently, following the red carpet premiere of “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” in Los Angeles, Sideshow’s creative team were able to share their vision of The Mad Titan with comic-book legend and Thanos creator Jim Starlin!


Jim spent a day at Sideshow HQ, hanging out with the creative team, poring through the countless concept designs and sketches, and checking out the final prototype of Thanos on his throne.

Sideshow’s Art Director, David Igo, said: “The Thanos on Throne Maquette was a labor of love that went through years of design and development. We aimed to give our fellow collectors ‘an ultimate Thanos,’ combining aspects of all of our favorite iterations of the character as he appeared in paintings, comic books, movies and more–and it looks like Jim likes him as much as we do!”

Sideshow Sculptor Will Harbottle added: “[His gesture is] an homage to the cover of INFINITY GAUNTLET #4. It’s one of my favorite moments in all of comic book history. He’s on the cover, floating in space and he’s saying, ‘Come and get me’! We wanted to reference that awesome moment.”

When asked about his first impression of Sideshow’s huge new Maquette, and that hand gesture in particular, Jim said “The first thing I saw was this finger, beckoning, and I went ‘They got it right!'”

He added: “It’s just a gorgeous looking piece of work entirely. Currently, I think this new statue [is] my favorite.”

David Igo added: “Jim is a constant source of inspiration to us, and it was our pleasure and privilege to share this moment with him. The whole experience has been a dream come true, and we’re incredibly proud to be able to work with Marvel, and to explore this amazing character.”

The Thanos on Throne Maquette was met with praise from critics and fans alike, and the super limited edition Sideshow exclusive variant sculpt–with a second, grinning portrait–sold out in minutes!

But don’t despair, a Collector Edition of the Thanos on Throne Maquette is available for pre-order now!

For a more detailed behind the scenes look at Sideshow’s Thanos on Throne Maquette, check out this behind the scenes video:

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Cosmic legends Jim Starlin and Alan Davis team for a new adventure!

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: MOTHER ENTROPY, the upcoming five-issue limited series not only re-teams writer Jim Starlin and artist Alan Davis, but offers up a new villainous entity along with some old favorites from the Starlin cosmic catalog. We spoke with the writer in advance of the project’s debut this May.

Marvel.com: Jim, what do you love most about the current Guardians of the Galaxy line-up?

Jim Starlin: What do I like best about the new Guardians? That’s easy: Groot. To tell the truth, I wasn’t a big fan of the original Guardians. Didn’t dislike them, just didn’t care one way or the other about them. I was out of comics during the time [Marvel] rebooted the title and, so, only became aware of the revised group once the movie was announced. Then I went back to catch up on the changes and was more than pleasantly surprised by what I discovered.

Marvel.com: What’s the origin of this story of yours?

Jim Starlin: The MOTHER ENTROPY series came about in a strange sort of way. I’d finished writing the last of the Thanos graphic novel trilogy and wasn’t sure I was going to do any more Thanos stories. But an unexpected hole appeared in my schedule and [editor] Tom Brevoort suggested writing a different kind of Guardians story.

Apparently the regular on-going Guardians series was coming to an end and Tom decided to do a bit of experimenting. My instructions were to come up with a Guardians story that could be read by fans of the movie Guardians or the Marvel Comics Guardians. So I jettisoned Gamora’s armor—always envisioned her more ninja than storm trooper—and changed a few other little things here and there. Alan did the same in the drawing—when did Star-Lord grow a van dyke?—and MOTHER ENTROPY came to be.

Marvel.com: We hear that Pip the Troll returns in this! What’s it like to be working with him again?

Jim Starlin: Always fun revisiting Pip, like hanging out with an ol’ degenerate friend you know you should be avoiding but don’t. My original idea for the story involved a switch around, which required an even number of characters, so Pip was enlisted to round the cast off to a half-dozen. Kind of surprised Pip didn’t have more contact with the Guardians over the years. They seem like such a natural fit for each other.

Writing a comedic tale is so much harder than writing straight-up drama. Not only do you have to carefully craft the storytelling aspects but then you need to go back and fine tune the funny side of the tale: readjusting lines and rethinking visuals. Worked twice as long on scripting MOTHER ENTROPY than I did any of the individual Thanos graphic novels.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy by Alan Davis

Guardians of the Galaxy: Mother Entropy by Alan Davis

Marvel.com: What can you say about Mother Entropy herself? What are her motivations? Why does she test people?

Jim Starlin: From Mother Entropy’s perspective, she’d say her chief motivation is love. All she wants is for everyone to get together and be one big harmonious family. Of course most would disagree with what Ma Entropy sees as a harmonious family. The Guardians certainly do. Why does she test folks? She wants the best to lead her family within our reality, of course. But, again, her definition of “best” is open to debate.

Marvel.com: We hear that Thanos is going to be sticking his head in here…

Jim Starlin: Thanos’ role in this tale is very peripheral, determined more by his relationship with Drax and Gamora than by any personal motivation.

Marvel.com: Okay, so, will MOTHER ENTROPY connect with any of your past and future Marvel stories?

Jim Starlin: No, this is pretty much a stand-alone story. The Guardians and Pip encounter a lot of Marvel Universe characters along the way, but a new reader should be able to come in cold and easily get what’s going on, even if they don’t know who Gladiator or Galactus is.

Marvel.com: What’s it like working with Alan on this? How much input will you have art-wise, especially on a new character like Mother Entropy?

Jim Starlin: Working with Alan is a real pleasure. I put down a few words and a few weeks later these beautifully drawn pages arrive in an e-mail gorgeously illustrating the tale. My input on the visuals is minimal and hardly needed. Mr. Davis is one of the best around and doesn’t require any micromanaging.

As for Mother Entropy, I asked for mossy, gross and a bit pregnant and Alan delivered big time.

Explore the cosmos with Jim Starlin and Alan Davis this May in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: MOTHER ENTROPY!

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