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Deconstructing the Marvel Universe - The Russo Brothers on Avengers: Infinity War

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WARNING: This article contains massive spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, in theaters now.

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Earlier this week, at a special event sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates, the educational programming branch of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, Joe and Anthony Russo took center stage. There, the pair formally signed over the Captain America shield used in 2016's Captain America: Civil War along with their directors' chairs from helming four separate films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Following signing over the items to be displayed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, the Russos spoke about their most recent release, the record-breaking Avengers: Infinity War, in a conversation moderated by NPR pop culture blogger Linda Holmes before a live audience at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium.

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Fresh off the international press tour for the Avengers sequel, the brothers started the discussion by observing that they had begun production on Infinity War in January of 2017 and wrapped principal photography on Avengers 4 this past January. This means the pair have been working nonstop in the MCU for a year, with another year of post-production ahead of them for the 2019 follow-up.

Anthony Russo noted that he and his brother are natural deconstructionists, which has been a recurring element across all of their MCU films. 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier was about deconstructing S.H.I.E.L.D. and what it means to be Captain America in the morally nebulous 21st century. Civil War was about deconstructing the Avengers, with the acrimonious, irreconcilable split between Captain American and Iron Man at the heart of the conflict. Infinity War deconstructs what it means to be a hero in a world where it's difficult to make heroic decisions, continuing Civil War's theme of division between the heroes.

Joe Russo pointed out that the idea of division carried on to Infinity War's narrative structure by separating the ensemble cast into de facto sub-teams. Given Thor's location at the end of Thor: Ragnarok, and the shift to a more comical tone in his latest solo film, it would make sense that he would be the Avenger to first meet the Guardians of the Galaxy, especially as the two properties share absurdist sensibilities. The teaming of Iron Man and Doctor Strange was made because the Russos saw both heroes as narcissists with opposing backgrounds, Tony Stark being a man of science versus Stephen Strange being the Master of the Mystic Arts. This led to friction between the two, which the brothers felt made for more interesting storytelling.

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