Is the movie marketplace reaching its superheroic saturation point, or is the cinematic world of comicbook adaptations just getting started? This question is at the core of many a movie-theater lobby discussion and/or film major’s senior thesis. It’s also the question posed recently to Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director, Joss Whedon. Ever the master of dichotomic dialogue, Whedon’s answers walked the line between denigrating the mindless smash-em-up action of the populace-pleasing genre films and applauding the esoteric approach to well-known caped crusaders. Rather than choose one extreme over the other, he seems to land somewhere in that gray middle-ground, and by extension, that’s where we can expect his next big Marvel team-up, Avengers: Age of Ultron to live as well. Hit the jump for his comments.
You need only look as far as Warner Bros.’ supposed list of DC films opening in the next few years, or Marvel’s phase-filled slate of films up through and including 2021 to see both how lucrative and how ludicrous the superhero genre has become. One could argue that we’re fast approaching the tipping point, at which audiences tire of superhero films and lash out against them rather than slaver over them. It’s equally possible that this universe-building business plan is merely in its infancy, both in terms of technological/artistic achievements, and box office record-breakers. Here’s what Whedon had to say about the state of the superhero genre in a recent interview with the Huffington Post:
“People have made it very clear that they are fed up with movies where entire cities are destroyed, and then we celebrate.”
That’s a curious comment to start out with considering the ending of The Avengers, but perhaps that’s representative of his own lesson learned. I digress.
“Now, I watched ‘The Dark Knight’ and I thought of that as riffing on the genre. That was a superhero movie as ‘The Godfather.’ And I was like, ‘But I just still want to see a superhero movie!’ We had just gotten the technology to make it awesome, and I wasn’t ready to be post-modern about it yet.”
Christopher Nolan’s films have certainly gotten a bad wrap (from some) for being too dark and gritty while forgetting the fun of comic book stories. However, when you’re talking about a character like Batman, “dark and gritty” just works better for his world. In my opinion, The Dark Knight still remains as one of the few superhero films to balance the pleasing of general audiences and auteurs alike. Whedon comments on that delicate practice in his own work as follows:
“You’re in a constant state of being pulled both ways at all times. You’re trying to make a populist film with fascist iconography that is just bigger, and better, and longer, and trying to break that down and find a weakness and humanity. People come in with a certain amount of emotional baggage. So, whether we’re in our larvae stage or our decadent stage, I can’t really say, but I try to make my superhero movies as if there’s either never been one or there’s only ever been them. I work with the idea that it’s just a natural way for people to be, so that you still make a movie about people.”
So there you have it, folks! Avengers: Age of Ultron will ultimately be about people (and a pissed-off sentient artificial intelligence) and will be crowd-pleasing but emotionally resonant. We’ll have to see what all of that nebulous speech translates into when the film opens May 1, 2015.