Between his popular TV shows and the blockbuster success of The Avengers, Joss Whedon has earned a well-deserved place in the hearts of nerds everywhere. But the 49-year-old director hasn’t let the fame go to his head. Rather, Whedon has managed to keep a nuanced and critical perspective on his career, both in his successes and his failures.
In a recent talk with Entertainment Weekly, Whedon opened up on a wide range of topics, candidly speaking about everything from his first staff writing job on Roseanne to his surprisingly depressing perspective on the fate of humanity. Whedon also talked about what he felt could’ve been better in The Avengers and how he plans to improve its sequel, The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
If you have the time, we recommend checking out the whole EW interview, but in the meantime we picked out some of Whedon’s most interesting quotes.
One of the most intriguing parts of the interview was when Whedon talked about The Avengers, which is arguably the director’s greatest triumph. Though Whedon professed to be proud of the movie, he didn’t hold back on his criticisms. According to Whedon, The Avengers wasn’t a “great film” and he explained why:
“When I think of a great film, I think of something that’s either structured so perfectly like ‘The Matrix’ or made so lovingly like ‘The Godfather Part II.’ There was haphazardness in the way it comes together – not just the people, but the scenes. I don’t think you’d look at it and go, ‘This is a model of perfect structure.’ You’d go, ‘This is working.’ I like it. I’m proud of it and I like its imperfections. The thing I cared most about – making a summer movie like the ones from my childhood – is the thing that I pulled off.”
Though many fans would argue that Whedon is being a bit hard on himself, he makes a compelling point. Though The Avengers hangs together fairly well, the plot structure of the movie is fairly superficial. That is to say that, while there aren’t any major plot holes, some of the plot strains credibility. Things seem to happen because they need to rather than out of any clear motivation or intention from the characters.
Fortunately, the movie is so entertaining that these issues don’t weigh it down. As Whedon said, it’s a great “summer movie” that people were excited to see (to the tune of more than $1.5 billion worldwide). That being said, no true artist is ever really satisfied with his work, which is why Whedon is focused on bringing greater clarity to The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
“I want to be clearer about how I engage the audience, and where I take them. I want more control visually, more time to prep it. Not that I didn’t dictate every shot—I did. But there’s only so much you can do when you’re making a summer film when the ball is already rolling as fast as it was when I got in. Why do it again if you can’t do it better?”
So what does this mean for audiences? Reading into Whedon’s comments a little bit, it’s reasonable to assume that Age of Ultron will not only deliver a more cohesive narrative, but also one that ups the stakes significantly for the characters. Whedon wants to be more deliberate about where he’s going to “take” the audience, meaning we’re not just going along for a ride, but we’re (hopefully) going to fully understand the story and what the consequences are for each scene.
Could some of those consequences be death for certain characters? Whedon was non-committal, but did leave open the possibility.
“I’d have to have a really good reason, a really great sequence for [Marvel executives] to go, ‘We’ll cut off a potential franchise, that’s fine!’ They know, as any good studio does, that without some stakes, some real danger, how involved can we get? We don’t just rule it out across the board, but neither is the mission statement ‘Who can we kill?’ We try to build the story organically and go, ‘How hard can we make it on these people?’ You go to movies to see people you love suffer—that’s why you go to the movies.”
Of course, before Whedon can kill off any characters, he needs to finish the script. And if he’s going to deliver on his promise of a clearer narrative, he’s going to have work on reining in his current draft. The director told EW that the current script is more than 150 pages long (which would equate to a more than 2 and 1/2 hour movie). As he explained, however, the length is by design.
“There’s a point at which I’m not holding back; I’m going to put in everything I like. Then there’s a point where it’s: ‘Okay, what do I like best.’”
What do you think of Whedon’s comments on The Avengers? Do you agree that the first film was “haphazard” and, if so, how could the sequel improve? Also, what do you think about killing off a main character? Is it too big a risk, or something that should happen in The Avengers: Age of Ultron?
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases May 1, 2015.