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The Marvel Villains That Were Almost In Avengers: Endgame

The climactic final battle with Thanos in Avengers: Endgame is one of the most monumental and ambitious scenes ever put to film. Almost three dozen identifiable heroes appear onscreen to do battle with the armies of the Mad Titan Thanos — and they almost had another army to contend with, as well.

According to Matt Aitken, a visual effects artist who worked on the film, the Dark Elves — whose leader, Malekith the Accursed, attempted to use the Reality Stone to destroy the universe in Thor: The Dark World — almost made an appearance during that final melee. (via Slashfilm) "At one point, there were going to be — potentially, dark elves were going to show up," Aitken said. "They didn't make an appearance."

The final battle was a massive, multilateral technical challenge to put together, and Aitken's remarks came as part of a comprehensive oral history of the sequence which also included recollections by the film's editor Jeff Ford, executive producer Trinh Tran, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, among others. It's a fascinating retrospective on how blockbuster filmmaking operates in semi-real time, and how hard everyone works to include as many fun callbacks and cool moments as possible for the audience's enjoyment without weighing the film's narrative down unnecessarily.

Particularly with a sequence as mind-bogglingly complex as the final Endgame battle, there will always be about a million things pitched during the production process, from scripting all the way up until shooting. While it would have been fun to see the pointy-eared baddies taking to the field of battle alongside Thanos' armies, ultimately, it wouldn't have made a heck of a lot of narrative sense — and Aitken implied that the Elves' appearance was cut in order to make room for an addition to the Chitauri forces, one which hadn't been seen onscreen before.

Why were the Dark Elves cut from Avengers: Endgame?

While Aitken didn't come out and say so, he did follow up his remark about the non-appearance of the Dark Elves by enthusiastically pointing out that the Chitauri had brought a new breed of soldier to the party. "The guys who are new are particularly the Chitauri gorillas," he exaplined. "We see the Chitauri leading them out by chains, and then they set them free. These are not quite King Kong-sized, but yeah, giant gorilla-ish, alien gorilla creatures who are a formidable force to be reckoned with on the battlefield."

It's an understandable choice — especially considering that, as neat as it might have been to see a bunch of Dark Elves pouring out of a portal to join the fray, this would have basically amounted to pure fan service. Conversely, while it was a reasonable decision to keep the narrative focus on the Chitauri, but it's also a bit of a shame not to give the Dark Elves one last curtain call.  

Of course, Thor: Dark World is generally recognized as one of the weaker MCU offerings, and as good an actor as Eccleston is, this is largely due to the forgettable nature of Malekith. It's entirely possible that the only reason you remember that he existed is because of this article, but that doesn't diminish the Dark Elves' importance to the history of Asgard and, therefore, to MCU lore. Giving the baddies another chance to appear would have offered a chance to tie back to the franchise's history, and perhaps would have retroactively made them a bit more noteworthy overall — plus, their Ark and Harrow ships were highly stylized and cool to look at, which would have added a bit of visual variety to that final battle.

Issues posed by their inclusion

Besides the simple technical issue of having an entire extra category of combatants to render in post-production, there's a sound narrative reason for the Dark Elves' exclusion from the scene: simply put, their motivations as presented in Dark World had nothing to do with Thanos. The Elves themselves (hey, that rhymes) were not serving Thanos in their attempts to retrieve the Reality Stone — it was a means to an end in their continuing blood feud with the Asgardians, as it powered their soldiers' transformations into the superpowered Kursed monsters. 

Also, there's the fact that at the conclusion of Dark World, it appeared that most of the Dark Elves died during the final battle as Malekith attempted to destroy the universe during the Convergence of the Nine Realms. Beyond a very small cameo (a single Dark Elf is shown being held in The Collector's vault during Guardians of the Galaxy) it's entirely possible that the Dark Elves are effectively extinct. 

Trying to justify their presence during Endgame's final battle also may have taken away vital screen time from more important narrative priorities, like oh, for instance, Captain America putting Mjolnir through Thanos' face. Dark World's place in canon has been expanded and (if we're being brutally honest) given the emotional value it missed the mark on the first time as a result of Endgame anyway, by virtue of Thor's journey to the time period in which it took place to visit his mother Frigga moments before her death.

At the end of the day, the decision to nix the Dark Elves from Endgame was probably the right one. The creative minds behind the flick and its massive final confrontation had enough narrative balls to juggle; adding one more superfluous and unnecessary one just might have been enough to bring them all crashing down.