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This week the writers of Captain America: Civil War, who are also writing Avengers: Infinity War, talked about the challenges associated with working TV tie-ins into the Marvel movies. And really, it makes a lot of sense that there would be challenges associated with including TV characters in the movies. After all, a movie production schedule requires an enormous level of advance planning—much further in advance than a TV schedule even allows.
For comparison’s sake, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 comes out in May 2018, and the writers are working on the script right now. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been renewed for its fourth season (2016-2017), which is probably being mapped out right now but won’t be written until much closer to when it films. Marvel TV doesn’t even know yet if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be renewed for the season when Infinity War Part 1 premieres—let alone the one after that when Part 2 comes out! They can roughly map out when the announced Netflix shows will release, but they can’t know if they will receive future seasons until they are released, and they can’t be sure of spinoff shows until they are ordered. Even projects over a year in development such as Marvel’s Most Wanted are not a sure bet to even get a single season.
Long story short, Marvel won’t know until next May which shows will be airing in May 2018, let alone what characters will be on them or what the shows will be doing.
So putting together a meaningful TV tie-in is not an easy prospect, particularly not this early in the movie’s production process.
That being said, there are still several ways for the Infinity War movies to include the TV characters. Here are a few examples.
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This option would probably be the easiest and most user-friendly method for incorporating the TV characters and plots into Avengers: Infinity War. To make it simple, this idea would use an after-credits scene which is shot well after the rest of the movie. If, hypothetically, Infinity War Part 1 concludes with Thanos conquering the Earth or threatening the Earth, this option would work extremely well.
Once it is known which series will be airing during the 2018-2019 season, Marvel can set up a quick film shoot with a select group of Marvel TV actors and one or two actors from Infinity War Part 1. The purpose of this after-credits scene would be to set up a connection between all the groups which are going to be opposing Thanos between the two movies. Here is how it could work:
Scene opens with Nick Fury standing in an underground bunker with old monitors lining the walls, flanked by Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.Fury: “You know what we’re up against. Our biggest guns couldn’t make a dent. If we don’t work together, we lose our planet and our universe. You have your orders. Any questions?”Camera pans over to show Coulson (S.H.I.E.L.D.), Daisy (the Inhumans), Dagger (New Warriors on Cloak and Dagger), and Luke Cage (the Defenders) all sitting at the table.Coulson: “When do we get started?”
An after-credits scene like this has the benefit that it can be shot up to the month before the movie premiere; the after-credits shawarma scene in The Avengers was actually shot after the red carpet premiere!
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This might actually be an easier option than the previous one, but it would diminish the connection between movie and TV somewhat. In this option, the TV tie-in would be planned out in advance but not filmed until a later date.
This scenario would involve allowing the TV shows to film a couple of sequences of their heroes fighting against Thanos’ disposable minion army (whatever that happens to be). Then these sequences will be digitally added to the Infinity War movie in a natural way by having a bunch of green-screen monitors in the background of a scene with Fury standing in some sort of headquarters/control room with the Avengers. Fury explains to the Avengers that they aren’t alone in fighting Thanos; there are others out there fighting back. Then in the background they will be able to see monitors showing news feeds with the TV show sequences.
I’m not an expert on movie technology, but I think you can use green screen to add footage to a monitor after the scene has been shot.
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This option might be the most connected, but it would also be a challenge to coordinate because it demands a little more involvement from both sides (movie and TV). As such, this seems like the least likely option (though still possible). This combines elements of the previous two options.
In essence, this puts Fury (or another character—Coulson?) in the position of coordinating a multi-unit attack against Thanos’ forces: 1 or 2 teams of Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Defenders, and 1 or more teams of network TV heroes. A limited amount of this coordination could be written out in advance: the coordinator’s part as well as the movie heroes’ roles can all be written well in advance, with holes intentionally incorporated to allow space for the TV teams. Then, when it becomes clear what TV teams can be used as part of the Infinity War, those TV shows get to use the same cameras as Infinity War uses (for consistency) to film 2-4 sequences of their teams fighting against Thanos’ minions. The writers also write small bits of dialogue for the coordinator talking to the leader of each team. They can actually write and film some of this before knowing what teams are actually going to appear.
Here is how it could work:
Establish an operations center (perhaps on the original helicarrier) where Fury is organizing Earth’s heroes’ counterattack to Thanos’ invasion.Fury: “All team leaders, report in.”All team leaders acknowledge (leaving silence to add in audio of the TV team leaders later)Fury gives orders to the team leaders, using codenames for each team (“Alpha,” “Bravo,” “Charlie,” etc.). During this part of the scene, the only visual is of Fury watching the action on monitors and listening to the team leaders on audio. If Fury’s banter is vague enough, it would be fairly easy to record and dub in audio from the team leaders much later in the process.The scene would then transition to showing the actual fighting as each team fights a group of Thanos’ minions on its own in a separate location. At this point we just see each team fighting individually and talking with each other, with minimal input from Fury (which can be recorded independently and dubbed in later in the process).
Following these independent fight scenes, they could also work in fight sequences where all the movie heroes are fighting together, though it would not really be possible to do the same with the TV heroes.
This option would require the most coordination between the TV shows and movie writers, but it could certainly be worked into the finished product with some advance planning. The first major challenge would be figuring out timing for lines which haven’t been written yet so Samuel L. Jackson can film the helicarrier scenes while the rest of the film is shooting (before he even knows who “Team Echo” actually is). A close second would be arranging a time when Samuel L. Jackson can record his audio-only lines (the ones when we actually see the teams fighting). This would probably have to be much closer to when the film is released (maybe summer or fall the year before, as opposed to a full 2 years in advance). However, I don’t think either of these challenges is really enough to call the option impossible.
This timeline assumes that the tie-in is being planned for Infinity War Part 2.
2015-16- Screenplay written (leaving space for an additional 5-15 unwritten minutes)
2016-17- Both parts of Infinity War shoot back-to-back; Samuel L. Jackson films scenes on the helicarrier bridge coordinating both the movie teams and the yet-to-be-determined TV teams
April 2018- ABC and Netflix determine their Marvel shows for the 2018-2019 season; showrunners map out their season to determine what teams will be where at the time of Infinity War Part 2’s release on May 3, 2019
May-August 2018- Show writers write out 2-3 sequences for their team to fight against Thanos’ army
September-November 2018- Each show takes a week or so out of its production schedule to film 15-30 minutes of footage for Infinity War; Samuel L. Jackson independently records audio to go with the footage
October 2018-January 2019- Marvel’s post-production goes over the footage and works clips from it into the already-finished movie
As you should be able to see, it would be entirely possible for them to work this kind of connection into a Marvel movie (even if not this one per se). It would take a substantial degree of forethought to work the movie side’s portion into the script, and it would also take some quick adjustments to work the TV side’s portion into the movie. But it would (theoretically) be doable. It just needs to make sense on both sides: it has to fit into the movie, and it also has to make sense as something that the TV shows characters would get involved in.
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There are absolutely logistical issues involved with coordinating a TV tie-in on the big screen—particularly when the TV show is still on the air. This, I think, is a large part of why the major TV tie-ins with the MCU movies to-date have occurred on the TV side of the equation, and the movies have only included small, oblique references to what’s happening on the TV side.
However, with a major event like the two-part Infinity War, which will see all the heroes of the Marvel Universe come together to fight an Infinity-Stone-powered Thanos. During these two movies, the fate of the universe will be in the balance, so no one can really sit on the sidelines—and that includes the TV characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As such, this would be a very good opportunity for the movie and TV sides of the MCU to work together and give each other some significant on-screen acknowledgement.
Depending on the type of crossover/tie-in, there may be more or less cooperation necessary between the two sides, and this I think is what will ultimately determine which option is the most viable. If I could choose my ideal crossover, I would probably go with a combination of the three: end Part 1 with Fury giving marching orders for the TV shows that air between the 2 parts; Fury reveals to the heroes that he has been coordinating a widespread resistance movement early in Part 2; and finally Fury coordinates a fight with all the teams near the end of Part 2.
But I’ll be happy with just about anything they give us!
What kind of crossover do you want to see between Infinity War and the MCU TV shows? What do you think MCU TV will even look like in 2018-2019? Let me know in the comments!