Joss Whedon Comments on the Current State of Superhero Movies, Including His Own Upcoming Film AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

by     Posted 183 days ago

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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.

joss-whedon-avengers-age-of-ultronYou 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.”

joss-whedon-avengers-age-of-ultronChristopher 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.

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  • TigerFIST

    I wonder if they will show a clip @ comic con…

    • slimpunk

      I think it’s almost guaranteed. Good luck to anyone trying to get into Hall H on the Marvel panel day.

      • vpuik

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      • Um, Sure

        Why is it never just your Aunt. You know we won’t think any less of you if you just admit it’s your Aunt.

    • theseeker7

      Considering they already said what was almost 2 weeks ago now that they were roughly halfway done principle photography, and we’ve still got over a month to go before CC, yea I’d say it’s virtually a lock that we’ll get the first sort of teaser trailer, and that actually includes new footage (not merely like last summer’s).

    • Al

      Sure, but what I’d really like to see is an Ant Man panel. Having that? It would take so much balls that I may at least have some respect restored for Marvel.

      • TigerFIST

        Yeah that would be funny

  • milo

    If there ever was a film and director where I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt, this is it.

    We are living in a glut of superhero movies, yet I’m still looking forward to the next installments of Avengers, Captain America, and X-Men.

  • SomeGuy

    “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.” I like this quote because it really describes what has made the most acclaimed and well-aged superhero films so great. If you really do keep that quote in mind, then the superhero genre is no where near its end. But then again, genres do need to take a break every once in a while.

  • Chris

    I agree with Nolan being too dark and humorless, he is almost try hard and pretentiously intellectual. Don’t get the appeal of his movies at all.

    • Redjester

      Funny I feel the same way about Joss Whedon. Incredibly overrated director.

      • replying to idiots

        I don’t think ANYONE has ever said Whedon is a good director. He works well with ensemble casts and people enjoy his movies, but I doubt anyone would actually say Whedon deserves an award for directing. He’s like Kevin Smith (great storyteller, not so great director) but with a lot more success.

      • Redjester

        I’m not sure how to feel about someone named ‘Replying to Idiots’ responding to my post, lol…

        I guess my overriding point was that considering Nolan has more talent in his pinky finger than Whedon has in his entirety, perhaps Whedon should refrain from critiquing Nolan’s work as to not look like an imbecile.

      • Chad

        If Nolan knew how to create heart and emotional characters we actually cared about, he’d be 100x better. If Whedon knew how to direct and stop with all the inside jokes that are only funny to him and a few people, then he’d also be 100x better. They are both equally overrated.

      • Redjester

        While I don’t agree, judging by the trailers it looks like Interstellar might be the Nolan film you’ve been waiting for.

      • Batt Damon

        Nolan’s movies look better, Whedon’s a better storyteller.

      • Redjester

        Even if you’re not a fan of the Dark Knight’s and Inception, you’ve gotta admit that the storytelling of Memento, Insomnia, and the Prestige were pretty great.

      • Batt Damon

        I like Memento, the Prestige and Batman Begins. They were told in very interesting ways and were very well directed. They just don’t have the same kinda heart. Whedon writes characters I can care about, characters I can sympathise with. Nolan’s films feel cold and sterile. I found Insomnia particularly middling and bland with no real redeeming qualities.

      • replying to idiots

        eh, dont worry about my name. just too lazy to create a new username and remember its password (somehow this is the only account that i created that i can still log in to)

      • Oliver Queen

        I don’t think calling someone a good director automatically means he should get an award. The whole point of directing is to create an entertaining piece of film/television and invest the audience in the experience. Whedon has done that on multiple occasions which is why you yourself said “people enjoy his movies” which means he is doing a good job which is being a director/writer. However that doesn’t necessarily mean he deserves an award because good directors aren’t only the ones who create Oscar worthy films but good directors are those who can entertain their audience.

      • RecoveR

        I think it’s safe to say we live in world where we can have both, Both Christopher Nolan AND Joss Whedon are great directors- two very different directors- but two great directors. Not many directors could’ve made the Dark Knight what it was, and not many directors could’ve made the Avengers the success it was. I think people confuse overated-ness with popularity sometimes.None of Christopher Nolan’s films have been bad. But Joss whedon comes from more of a tv backdrop, creating deep interesting characters for the long term. We can have both.

      • milo

        Well put. People obsess too much about “overrated”. Both have made great films, and both have made films that have some flaws. And as you said, they have different strengths and weaknesses.

        Not everything needs to be a fanboy pissing contest.

      • ?

        i can’t hear you wth nolans jizz all over your mouth

      • Redjester

        Can you seriously say with a straight face that Whedon is the better director, has the better catalogue, or has the best chance of winning an Oscar in the future? What Whedon is great at doing is creating fun popcorn action summer films that can be watched by the whole family. That is the extent of his abilities as a director. <– And I enjoy his films as well, I'm just being honest.

  • Daz

    Genre’s should be “riffed with.” It keeps things ever-evolving as they need to be. Getting stuck in the same old tropes for long-ish periods just makes for a stale and limited experience (Perhaps as we’re experiencing at the moment). Nolan did a great job in bringing a new facet to cape-flicks, and hopefully someone else will bring their own take to the table, that will change the game in a new way.

    • milo

      He doesn’t say riffing is a bad thing, he just said personally he was more interested in seeing some straight up superhero flicks well executed with the latest filmmaking tools.

  • DoremusJessup

    The superhero genre is becoming tired for me. None of these movies have any weight. They all build to the team-up films. It’s not like anything ground-breaking is going to happen in Thor 2. You could probably not see a single Marvel movie between Avengers 1 and Avengers 2, and you’ll still get the entire picture.

    Somebody’s gotta surprise me and kill of a superhero. Then I’ll buy back in.

    • Daz

      Spot-on, DoremusJessup… absolutely agree on the major supe-kill as well (And I don’t just mean an X-Man or two) – that would help put an element of risk back into the game.

      Probably the easiest one to kill off would be a Green Lantern, as there are a few versions, so you could have one killed off and then pass the ring to another. That might be the easiest way for a studio to stomach it (They’d probably can anybody who tried to kill off supes, Bats, Spidey, etc, even if it would revitalize things)
      .

      • DoremusJessup

        I’m with you, Daz. I just want to see an event that adds some gravity to the story. Otherwise, the movies are made for children. I want to feel like I’m not exactly sure what is going to happen to characters that I care about. I just don’t feel that way.

    • theseeker7

      well, while I’m rather hesitant to actually use the word “groundbreaking” as it’s a bit on the hyperbolic side, but for me (and it seems like plenty of others as well) Captain America 2 was somewhere close to that, it wasn’t merely a bridge to get us that much closer to Avengers 2. yea Thor 2 might’ve been one of the weakest Phase 2 films so far, but Cap was far more than just a means to an end.

      • doc

        Captain America 2 was just a great movie overall, regardless of it’s connection to the larger universe.

      • Aquartertoseven

        No, it wasn’t; no character development, half assed story. It’s alarming how standards have fallen so far that people give undue praise for a film that wasn’t outright mediocre, like recent films such as Thor 2, MoS and TASM 2. Cap 2 was pretty good, but the story and characters are a long way off from Thor, Iron Man, IM3 etc.

      • milo

        You see standards falling, other people just see different people liking different things. If you look at reviews, MOS and ASM2 were both Rotten on RT and Thor 2 only had 65% positive. I guess that undue praise must be coming from some fans, but there have always been some people who would defend just about any movie. Winter Soldier was at 89% positive reviews, obviously plenty of other people felt there was character development and that the story was solid. And really, Thor 1 and IM3 as examples of movies that are supposedly way better? I liked both but Cap 2 is night and day better than either one.

      • Aquartertoseven

        What characters changed in Cap 2? Answer me that. Substance wise it was a massive disappointment, yes the action was good and the masses seem content due to that, but for objective people, it was lacking. The story was not solid, it was shoddy. Underdeveloped. There weren’t layers, it wasn’t cerebral, and political thrillers go, it was lacking.

        IM3 and Thor had a balance of story, characters, fun, humour, action and effects.

        Cap 2 had action, meh story and characters and okay humour.

        Again, like I said, if you’re objective, you wouldn’t be so positive about Cap 2.

      • Um, Sure

        I found it strangely boring. And I’ve generally liked most of the Marvel films. I don’t get all the giddy praise for Cap 2.

      • Aquartertoseven

        The thing is, it COULD’VE been amazing, if they embraced their premise; the lack of clarity, the claustrophobia, who can you trust? But it was so homogeneous, so safe, and that’s just not good enough. Look at Thor 2, safe and dull, look at how Edgar Wright left because his script wasn’t homogeneous enough, how they’re trying to get a director they can control just like with the Russos, Marvel’s losing it.

      • Guest

        It was a bit underdeveloped I agree but in terms of characters changing, the point of Captain America is that he doesn’t change. He remains constant, makes no compromises.

        Thor however I felt was undercooked and IM3 I actually agree with, it’s flawed (corporate meddling might be at fault there though) but overall pretty decent.

      • Aquartertoseven

        He could’ve at least gone through a little arc, like not being able to trust Widow and Fury, but he didn’t, he didn’t really do anything.

      • Aquartertoseven

        But he could’ve gone through an arc where he just doesn’t/can’t trust Widow or Fury, keep him constant and uncompromising but at odds with others, his former allies. There was just no ambiguity; the good guys were good guys and the baddies were bad. Widow is a double agent and they didn’t play off of that at all. Fury goes above and beyond, he probably has done a lot of illegal things, perhaps he has his own agenda, but no, he’s good and the bad guys are bad. Boring.

      • milo

        Totally agree, that and DOFP are great examples of how to avoid superhero fatigue.

  • R3aLdoe Foo

    Theres plenty of us who will always watch these movies. Yes, there can be saturation, but what will cause alienation to audiences is the lack of innovation.(Amazing Spiderman/Sony is not giving us anything profoundly different than what we’ve gotten prior, X-men/Fox is at least trying) Marvel, has many different universes under its belt, but the stories differ. Guardians makes me feel like a true step away from “comic book” like super heroe movie and more sci-fi “star warsy” kind of film. Just gets tagged a comic book movie because of obvious comic book history but also Marvel branding. Dr. Strange will also probably have the same departure from that norm as well. Dc/Warner making their movies along side marvel is whats making this genre crowded, but they have every right to do so and have been there for so long. Only just recently has Marvel taken huge leaps forward and positioned themselves into the forefront. Though, the audiences have spoken for themselves. It it wasn’t for the fans and the demand, there wouldn’t have been success or continued entries into cinema from this genre. Let alone an Avengers film. Let’s face it though, if you remove comic book movies altogether, the movie industry seems pretty dull. We’re only left with fun movies Disney/Pixar gives us. Even the animation movies have reached that supposed saturation point, but nobodies looking back from them, so why should comic book movies?

  • eternalozzie

    I am looking forward to more Hulk … but I can’t get excited about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch … that might be because Evan Peter’s was so awesome in X-Men DOFP as Quicksilver … Maybe Kickass/Godzilla guy will surprise me but he’s a very monotone actor.

    • Simon Foster

      True. Quicksilver in DOFP was a really fun character and is already casting a long shadow. Beat THAT!

      • Libby

        Just a short while ago, some fanboys and movie blogs were making fun of DOFP’s Quicksilver because of the outfit and the hair. According to many of them, Marvel was obviously the one and only Creative Force that could get that character right. The more reasonable pleas for “let’s wait and see” went largely ignored.

        And then we got a look at DOFP’s secret weapon: the guy in the goofy jacket that (literally) steals the movie. I love it when the Internet is wrong.

  • DEADP00L

    I like his reasoning.

  • http://www.collider.com/ DNAsplitter

    Sorry but TDK will be studied and analyzed for years to come as it has several layers of political underlyings and truelly changed the industry as it was nominated for several Academy Awards outside of technical achievements (special effects). I enjoyed The Avengers and thought it was a great film but it reminds me of Avatar – a flash in the pan that has no real substance but was good fun to see in theaters. I commend Josh for making possibly the best big screen adaption that he could given the prior films made before him. It takes a lot of talent to do so. But I’ve seen the Avengers three times and really don’t care if I see it any time soon as it doesn’t peak my interest. However TDK I’ve seen probably 50+ times and will always keep it on when it’s on TV. To me it’s just a more enjoyable film even if it is darker and heavier. It’s a better made film IMO.

    In Nolan’s defense I think it depends on the comics you read – Frank Millers and Alan Moore’s are a little heavier than the average comic book out there as they carry several social/political undertones as well as more violent (The Killing Joke? The Dark Knight Returns?).

    The greatest thing about the times we are living in, compared to 20 years ago, is that with all of the comic book film being released you can now have the option to watch fun, colorful films – like Iron Man & Avengers or watch more serious drama films like TDK, MOS to something more in the middle like X2.

    • milo

      Avatar? For me Avatar offered nothing beyond pretty visuals. With Avengers I enjoy the character moments just as much as the big action scenes. TDK I have mixed feelings, no question Ledger is just riveting the whole way through, and the look and mood of the movie is incredible, but for me the script just let it down. And while I liked the dark/serious tone, I feel like doing that requires a certain level of realism when it comes to the plot which wasn’t really there – if a movie takes itself so seriously, that gives me certain expectations.

      But I can definitely see why other people love that trilogy so much.

      • Guest

        Yeah Milo’s got it right. Whedon is just a better writer of character than Nolan.

      • http://mysite.verizon.net/vzepr1xp/index.html unsean

        True. I have never understood all that Avatar-love. It’s got great special effects, but with a plot out of a cowboys and indians flick, it was already old before a pixel was put on the screen.

        And The Dark Knight? It was OK, but nothing revelatory. The only think that makes it so fascinating was (sadly) the death of Heath Ledger.

  • Royale With Cheese

    If there is a downfall to the comic book/ superhero genre it will definitely be Sony’s Spider-Man that will be responsible for it. I consider my self a huge comic book fan and I would watch anything that that studios can come up with but for the first time after walking out of ASM 2 I said to myself that I have no interest in watching the next installment. I know that I can’t be alone in this sentiment. Unless all the studios start making movie like that (HORRIBLE dialogue and incoherent storyline top a very long list of problems) I think this genre will be around for a long time.

    • doc

      I agree that if Sony/Marvel/Fox/Warner Bros keeps making movies like ASM 2 people will eventually tune out. We are lucky we got any more X-Men movies after The Last Stand and Origins (Origins killed off any more origin movies, for better or worse). Just look at Green Lantern. That movie killed off an entire potential franchise.

  • Daniel_Plainview_Milkshake

    Why is this the one and inly film genre some prudes say there’s too much off? What what the dozens of romantic comedies every year, historical dramas, indie films about abuse, indie films about struggling with homosexuality, sports dramas, action movies, or comedies? Superhero movies are just a genre that pops out 2-6 movies a year. People need to quit moaning about it

    • Aquartertoseven

      No-one really cares about those films though, they’re barely on the radar, whereas superhero films are.

      • Daniel_Plainview_Milkshake

        So? That’s on the people who aren’t paying attention to other movies that deserve to be watched. It’s not the fault of the comic book genre, which many find some enjoyment out of

      • Aquartertoseven

        But the point is, a genre that isn’t in your face, all over the news, tv etc. won’t be nearly as annoying to some as its opposite in those regards.

      • Aquartertoseven

        But the point is, a genre that isn’t in your face, all over the news, tv etc. won’t be nearly as annoying to some as its opposite in those regards.

      • Daniel_Plainview_Milkshake

        So? That’s on the people who aren’t paying attention to other movies that deserve to be watched. It’s not the fault of the comic book genre, which many find some enjoyment out of

    • Um, Sure

      When the multiplexes fill up with screens showing gay indie films and historical dramas, you will then have a point.

      • Daniel_Plainview_Milkshake

        The historical dramas are all there in November and December. Superhero films are just another genre. My point is valid and there’s no denying it. 4 a year is nothing in the grand scheme of things. If you complain about superhero movies then you have to complain about animated films, comedies, and the 1000s of foreign films produced every year. Seek out other films and stop bitching about 4 movies

      • Daniel_Plainview_Milkshake

        This year we’ve had Captain America (loved it), X-men, (really liked it), and Spider-man (hated it), but we’ve also had Blue Ruin, Under the Skin, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lego Movie, Nymphomaniac, Afflicted, Godzilla, Cheap Thrills, Ida, Obvious Child, Borgman, Enemy, Willow Creek, and a ton of other great films. There’s something for everyone, so why do some minority of prudes complain about superheroes? (probably because they have nothing better to do)

  • http://mysite.verizon.net/vzepr1xp/index.html unsean

    “Entire cities” or even close to it, weren’t threatened with destruction in The Avengers, unless you take into account the nuclear response that was attempted against the aliens, which would have destroyed New York.

    Now “Man Of Steel,” that’s another matter.

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