Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige once said fans would see why Thanos was the baddest villain in the MCU within the first five minutes of Avengers: Infinity War. For many, this spelled doom for Xandar. The speculation got even more intense when trailers showed the Power Stone, which was put on Xandar for safekeeping in Guardians of the Galaxy, as the first Infinity Stone in the Mad Titan’s Gauntlet.
Infinity War opens, however, with Thanos attacking the Asgardian refugee vessel and he already has the Power Stone in hand. All we hear about Xandar comes from Thor telling the Guardians that Thanos had “decimated” the planet a week before the events of the film. Thanos’ off-screen attack on the Xandarians is the only Infinity Stone acquisition that we do not see at all (we don’t actually see him take the Reality Stone on Knowhere, but we at least see him there in the immediate aftermath.
In the commentary track for Avengers: Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely explain why that sequence was eliminated as the script was being developed.
Christopher Markus: We wrote versions of Thanos attacking Xandar and it had a similar purpose in the script to what Knowhere does now. It was a place where Thanos and Gamora encountered each other. But the fact of the matter is, if Thanos went to Xandar to get [the Power] Stone, you know what happened. There was a big battle and he got it.
Joe Russo: It was an attempt to not be repetitive. We decided to cut it from the script. And as [Markus] said, start in the middle of the story.
Stephen McFeely: And make every Stone collection an emotional moment. Sometimes it’s because there’s a person who’s either wearing one or has one in his head. Sometimes it’s because of who Thanos encounters there.
Joe Russo: What you need to go to get it.
Stephen McFeely: What you have to do to get it. Who you might have to sacrifice, etc. So it was always, as I said earlier, scenes need to do more than one thing and every Stone collection scene is gonna be plot-based, but we wanted them to be deeply character-based, too.
Starting the movie with Thanos attacking the Asgardians and killing Heimdall and Loki was the right call creatively. While a few of us MCU diehards are heavily invested in the fate of a few Xandarians, Thanos murdering a character that, up until that point, had been the MCU’s biggest villain certainly maximized his “first five minutes” impact on general moviegoers.
Nothing on Xandar could have offered anything on the same emotional level as the other Stone acquisition scenes, so the choice to cut it makes sense. Joe Russo is probably right in that it might have felt repetitive and Markus is definitely right in that it’s easy enough for us to picture what happened. It probably looked a lot like the flashback sequence we saw on Gamora’s home planet.
Hopefully, though, we will one day get an answer as to which half of Xandar survived Thanos’ onslaught.