When “Avengers: Endgame” hit theaters in 2019, the epic superhero flick earned a cool $2.8 billion, becoming the second highest-grossing movie in history. However, in the newly released tell-all book, “The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” fans will be surprised to discover that the ending of the film required a good bit of extra work after test audiences complained about a certain moment.
The scene in question occurs at the very end of the movie, when almost every hero ever featured in the MCU comes together to help battle the villainous Thanos. During the massive battle scene, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man needs assistance. That’s when, suddenly, the women heroes of Marvel come to his aid, including Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch.
It was the first time many of these ultra-powerful women had ever appeared on screen together in the decade-plus of MCU movies. The dynamic display was meant to be a feel-good, “You go, girl!” moment for viewers.
Here’s the problem: Test audiences hated the scene. According to the book, they felt the moment was very contrived and pandering, as though the producers were sort of throwing these heroes — and viewers — a bone instead of developing the women superheroes in more meaningful ways and making them key players in the action akin to the men.
At that point, Larson was the only woman to have starred in her own MCU movie, compared to the myriad adventures that had featured men in the title roles.
The test audience’s complaints about the ensemble scene did not fall on deaf ears. It turns out that some of the people working on “Avengers: Endgame” already felt as though the scene rang kind of false.
“When we started screen-testing it, there was a little concern for, ‘Does it come off [as] pandering?’” says executive producer Trinh Tran in the new book. “Are we going to get people saying, ‘Oh you’re just putting that scene in there just to put the scene in there? Does it actually have a story to tell with the rest of the narrative?’ That was always a concern in the back of our heads.”
So, after test audiences raised this same complaint, the producers knew they needed to take action. Instead of editing out the scene entirely, Tran and Marvel Studios worked together to find a way to make the scene fit. They did so by including the women in earlier battle sequences and making their presence seem more natural so that when they come to Spider-Man’s assistance it flows with the overall action and doesn’t come out of nowhere.
In other words, they gave more screen time and narrative focus to the female characters instead of just inserting them in the end for feminist cred.
Since “Avengers: Endgame” debuted, Marvel Studios has been seeming to put its women characters closer to the forefront of their own stories. For instance, “Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson in the title role, and “WandaVision,” starring Olsen, both premiered in 2021, making it a banner year for women in the MCU.