The Avengers, led by Captain America, assembling for battle vs. Thanos and his army
The Avengers, led by Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, assembling in the battle at the Avengers Compound. Scenes from the sequence were positively received by cinematic audiences.[1]

The "Avengers assemble" scene, also known as the portals scene, is the sequence leading up to the climactic Battle of Earth in the superhero film Avengers: Endgame (2019), which sees the Avengers and their allies arrive on the battlefield through sling ring portals, in preparation for a battle against the film's antagonist, Thanos. It culminates with Steve Rogers / Captain America saying the phrase, "Avengers... assemble", a catchphrase and rallying cry associated with the team in the Marvel Comics. Following the release of The Avengers (2012) and an allusion to it in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), audiences speculated if the MCU would use the line. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige felt it was not appropriate to include it in the former while director Joss Whedon wanted to ensure the latter's scenes were preserved and not altered in the future.

The scene features many cast members and characters who appeared in previous Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) installments, including the return of characters who had died in the preceding film Avengers: Infinity War (2018) during an event known as the Blip. The sequence was not initially featured in the Endgame script, but was gradually integrated after the production team wanted to create a scene showcasing the return of the Blipped heroes ahead of the battle. Various iterations were filmed until directors Anthony and Joe Russo settled on a quiet delivery of the line. Weta Digital worked on visual effects for the scene, wanting to make the portal design attributable to Doctor Strange and arranging elements of the sequence together. The musical piece that accompanies the scene, "Portals", was composed by Alan Silvestri. The scene received positive responses from critics and audiences, being regarded as one of the best scenes in the film and MCU.

Scene summary

Further information: Avengers: Endgame § Plot

After Tony Stark and Thor are knocked out of battle by Thanos, Steve Rogers watches as Thanos' army arrives. Rogers then hears static in his earpiece before hearing the voice of Sam Wilson, thought to be gone because of the Blip,[a] announcing his arrival to assist. As Rogers turns to look, a magical portal opens from Wakanda, showing the arrival of additional allies to aid in the battle. Dr. Stephen Strange, Wong, and other sorcerers continue to open many additional portals from elsewhere on Earth and around the galaxy. Everyone gathers together as Thanos and his army look on, and Rogers says "Avengers... assemble", leading everyone into battle.[2]

Background and development

The first issue of The Avengers where Captain America says Avengers Assemble, a phrase he has been known for ever since
The Avengers (1963) #16, the first issue featuring Captain America saying "Avengers Assemble" which he has been associated with since.[3]

The phrase "Avengers Assemble" is the most famous catchphrase used by the Avengers in the Marvel Comics, traditionally said by Captain America, but he was not the first character to utter this line. Thor first said it in Avengers (1963) #10 from 1964 and multiple additional rally cries were used by the Avengers over the next few issues, with the phrase being established as their official one in Avengers (1963) #14 from 1965. In the following issue, Giant-Man shouts the phrase, but in Avengers (1963) #16 from 1965, Captain America is featured on the cover saying the phrase, and since then he has become the one most associated with the line.[3] As a result, starting with The Avengers (2012), people familiar with the comics started wondering when Captain America would say the iconic line in the MCU. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said soon after the film's release that the phrase was not included because there was not a good place for it. With the 360-degree shot of the team showing they were assembled, Feige felt that had more of an impact than if the line had been said in that moment.[4] The phrase was teased at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) when Captain America said "Avengers..." before the film cut to the credits. Writer and director Joss Whedon talked about the decision, saying he did not want to include the line, and he made sure that the scene could not be altered by the studio in the future. Captain America actor Chris Evans did not shoot a scene saying the complete phrase, and the "Avengers..." line was written into the script exactly how it was shown in the film.[5]

Creating the scene

The scene was not originally in Avengers: Endgame (2019), but was put together as a way to get Dr. Stephen Strange from the planet Titan[a] to the Avengers Compound in New York.[6] In the first draft, all of the character had immediately returned without a "cavalry" moment occurring, but co-writer Christopher Markus said that took away all of the momentum of the film. The conceptual part of the scene also changed, as it had originally focused more around Rogers, but it was changed to have the audience experience the portals from his perspective.[7] Several ideas for the scene had been conceived, according to the film's visual effects supervisor Dan DeLeeuw, including a long panning shot featuring all of the film's actors when they were together for one day on set, although this "didn't play as well as [the crew] wanted". DeLeeuw worked with the previsualization team and editor Jeffrey Ford, and they decided to use the portals as an alternative. They began the process of showcasing the previously deceased characters returning through the portals in the order that each of the characters had been killed off in the Blip, the climactic event of the preceding film Avengers: Infinity War (2018) in which Thanos eradicated half of all life in the universe. The crew also determined that they had to slow down the character's return scenes to "give the audience a chance to welcome their heroes back".[8] The scene was being worked on up until a month before Endgame's theatrical release in April 2019. The film's directors the Russo brothers explained that they had wanted the scene to start with the previously killed-off character Sam Wilson communicating with Steve Rogers by uttering their shared line "On your left" immediately before the portals begin to open.[8][9] They felt it was logical for the first portal to be from Wakanda, where Wilson died in Infinity War, and to have T'Challa and his Wakandan army arrive from it as a result.[9] Peter Parker / Spider-Man was chosen as the last character to return as it was designed to be emotional for audiences, following that character being the last one to die in Infinity War.[8]

In October 2017, Tessa Thompson revealed that she and other actresses from the MCU films—including Brie Larson, Zoe Saldaña, Scarlett Johansson, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, and Letitia Wright—had approached Feige during the production of Infinity War and Endgame to propose an all-female team-up film.[10][11] Thompson cited the Lady Liberators comic book team as precedent for such a team-up, and said that Feige was interested in the idea.[10] Feige later said a scene featuring many of these actresses and others who played female characters throughout the MCU together had already been filmed for an upcoming film.[12] The scene, filmed on the day all the actors were on set, is featured in Endgame following the "Avengers assemble" scene and during the film's climactic Battle of Earth, and includes Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel (played by Larson), Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), Valkyrie (Thompson), Hope van Dyne / Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Gamora (Saldaña), Nebula (Gillan), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Shuri (Wright), and Pepper Potts / Rescue (Gwyneth Paltrow). The scene was compared to the comic book team A-Force by commentators.[13]

Filming and visual effects

The part of the scene with the portals had been shot a couple of times. The first version of that was quicker and had the music up "at a 10 early", according to co-writer Stephen McFeely, immediately after the characters returned. The Russo brothers decided to reshoot all of the character's return scenes to give them their own individual "hero shots".[7] Evans had not filmed a different take screaming the "Avengers assemble" line, although he initially felt that should have been the case. He felt it was like a nice juxtaposition in the end with the line being spoken softer and the characters subsequently yelling around him. The Russo brothers liked the softer delivery, which was done on the first take, telling Evans "That's it, don't even do the screaming one."[14] On the Endgame commentary track, the Russos told Markus and McFeely that it was their idea for Evans to deliver the line that way, acknowledging that the idea was not without its downside. Joe Russo said the brothers thought it would be more interesting, but with Captain America catching Thor's hammer, Mjolnir minutes before creating a lot of energy in the theaters, they thought a lot of people may not have even heard the line the first weekend of the film's release.[15] As a result of the quiet delivery of the line, Tom Holland revealed that he was unable to hear Evans say "assemble" due to their distance from each other, which resulted in him running forward screaming by himself after hearing the "Avengers" part of the line.[16]

Weta Digital worked on the portals with visual effects supervisor Matt Aitken, who said the simulation team had to find a "recipe" that would make the portals be recognizable as Doctor Strange's, but they had to be optimized because so many of them were featured in the money shots of the returning characters. The portals would have been prohibitive to generate and render, so Weta used the original technique of creating them from previous MCU films. Another challenge was creating all the worlds that the portals were opening from as they were all computer-generated imagery. It was necessary because the environments had to be filmed with the same camera as the destroyed Avengers Compound on the other side of the portal for it to "lock together and parallax".[17] The VFX team had to ensure the characters did not appear to be coming from flat space where the portal is seen, with the goal to make it look like dimensional space.[18] For the characters returning from Titan, there were four separate plates used. Drax and Mantis were together, Strange's return was filmed separately due to him floating, with Benedict Cumberbatch filming his part on a green screen. Holland and Chris Pratt were both unavailable on the day, so they were both brought back at a later date with Pratt picked up with a separate motion control green screen element.[7]

One of the last VFX additions to the film was a quick cameo of Howard the Duck. The character was not meant to appear in the finished film, but during an examination of the portals part of the scene, Joe Russo or Feige had suggested to VFX producer Jen Underdahl for his inclusion three weeks prior to the completion of visual effects. There was a gap when the Ravagers were coming out of Contraxia where he could be added and Underdahl contacted Weta to do so. They used older models of Howard the Duck from various MCU projects as reference, and Howard ended up appearing for approximately 17 or 18 frames in the film. Additionally, a rig and feather groom was also used to put Howard into the VFX team's pipeline and animation.[7][19] After the "assemble" line, the actors ran forward towards just a small group of people in motion capture suits that represented Thanos' army so that the actors had an eyeline. DeLeeuw felt that the before-and-afters were some of the best ever as a result of the "general comedy" of what was actually happening on the set. Once the face-off began, the battle transitioned from CG to real, on-set stunt work.[18]

Music

A track titled "Portals" was written for the scene by Endgame's composer, Alan Silvestri. Silvestri was told early on that the scene would be a key moment in the film. It took a while to get a sense of what was going on in the scene, with Silvestri saying that there was an initial temptation to "become too segmented" by having every character do something special as they returned. Ultimately, it was decided to make it more of an overview of the characters and that a new theme was needed because nothing else would fit.[20] Silvestri created many versions of the song for the orchestra, including one with French horns playing and a choir singing. Eventually he decided on what became the final version with a trumpet solo at the beginning of the song as the Wakandans emerge from the mist.[21] Silvestri describes "Portals" as a piece where parts repeat multiple times, but with keys changing and getting "bigger and more grand". The original Avengers theme had to ramp up after Captain America utters "Avengers... assemble" which leads to the Avengers and their allies charging into battle.[20] The song was not always a unifying piece because the idea of the music changing while each character arrives was tossed around by the creative team "similar to the entrance themes used by professional wrestlers". Silvestri said the idea was not to just mash together various themes of characters or places like Wakanda, but instead, it would have been about making a "bigger sonic deal out of every single portal opening". Due to Rogers being down and out as everyone returned, the theme had to be almost celebratory according to Silvestri. "Portals" transitioning into the Avengers theme after Rogers says "Assemble" was one of the things that changed the most in development, but in the end, Silvestri felt it was fitting as everyone was charging, saying it just felt like "pure Avengers".[22] A video for "Portals" was released on June 13, 2019.[23]

Reception

The sequence has been well received, with fans in the theaters cheering,[24][25] and the scene is considered to be one of the best in Endgame as well as the MCU.[26][27] Louis Kemner from Comic Book Resources ranked the scene as the second best Captain America scene across the MCU, calling it the "ultimately battle cry".[28] The Hollywood Reporter's Josh Siegel felt that it was inevitable the scene would occur as he thought audiences knew the Blipped heroes would return, and was primarily concerned "whether or not the moment would be satisfying". He praised the screenwriting and direction of the scene, enjoying the narrative setup and calling it "one of the best possible versions of the old-fashioned 'Call in the cavalry' trope of action filmmaking". However, he lamented that other secondary characters, such as Black Panther and Spider-Man, were depicted as "glorified cameo performers" rather than being seen as the next generation of MCU heroes.[29] Similarly, Ana Dumarog of Screen Rant also felt the deliberate decision to not use the phrase "Avengers assemble" until the sequence in the MCU was a good one, as she felt previous MCU films had not provided a good opportunity to do so; she ultimately felt the film's narrative "set the stage for Steve to finally say 'Avengers Assemble' in the most satisfying, chill-inducing way" and opined it is one of the most "iconic scenes in movie history".[30] Additionally Kieran McLean called the sequence one of the defining moments of the Infinity Saga by saying how it was "incredibly fulfilling to see every conceivable hero stand alongside Captain America and fight Thanos' army" and that it displayed how powerful and epic the MCU can be at its best.[31] Monita Mohan of Collider said the scene gave her goosebumps, but felt the absence of Romanoff from it loomed large.[32]

Jaron Pak of Looper said the scene caused "spine tingles" because of the buildup from the teases of the previous Avengers films. He felt that the unfinished phrase left "diehard Marvel fans in a tizzy until Endgame" and that Rogers finally saying the line soothed their pain.[33] The sequence was referred to as "one of the most emotional moments in blockbuster movie history" by Pramit Chatterjee of Mashable India. He said the emotion is amplified because of the sleight of hand that caused audience members to temporarily forget about the fallen returning due to Thanos' attack on the Compound soon after Hulk's snap. Chatterjee praised Silvestri's "rousing" score which he said matched the "melancholic, ecstatic and motivational tones of the moment". He also called Evans' performance "jaw-dropping" when Rogers realizes everyone is returning after getting the "on your left" message from Wilson.[34] IGN writer Joshua Yehl felt that Wilson's callback line was the "perfect way to open the floodgates of hope".[35] Alice Sarkisyan of Marvelous Geeks Media called the scene a "homecoming of sorts" and potentially the most hopeful scene in the MCU. She said "every entrance, every beat, every single element is carefully placed to slowly build up and construct the intended eleven-year playoff that brilliantly brings a shiver down our spines." She commemorated the score by saying that it is perfectly timed with both the characters and sequence. In conclusion Sarkisyan said "As those portals opened and the music played, we were all Avengers together. It's for that reason this scene is one of the most beloved moments in comic book movie history."[36]

In other media

The "Avengers assemble" scene was recreated by Disney Live Entertainment for the World of Color – One attraction at Disney California Adventure as part of the celebration of Disney's 100th anniversary. It debuted on January 27, 2023, and featured archive footage from Endgame alongside strobe lighting and pyrotechnics, as well as the Avengers musical themes.[37][38] It was the first nighttime spectacular to feature the Avengers and took place next to Avengers Campus. Jennifer Magill, Producer at Disney Live Entertainment said that the scene was chosen because "the portals were such iconic entrances and something we could translate into our world perfectly".[39]

Notes

  1. ^ a b As depicted in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

References

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