If Joss Whedon were Superman, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” would be his kryptonite. During an on-stage conversation with actor Mark Ruffalo at the Tribeca Film Festival Monday, the 51-year-old director appeared weakened at every mention of his last film, despite the fact that, generally speaking, he feels “very proud” of the sequel to “The Avengers.”
So what’s his problem? In addition to not meeting some of his own expectations for the film and referring to the story as “absurdly personal,” Whedon blamed himself for how he responded to the film’s mixed reception. “I sort of created a narrative wherein I had not quite accomplished it…and I think that did a disservice to the movie and to the studio and to myself,” he said. “The fact that Marvel gave me that opportunity twice is so bonkers…and the fact that I [came] off of it feeling like a miserable failure is also bonkers, but not in a cute way.”
For Ruffalo, who played Bruce Banner and The Hulk in “Age of Ultron” and called the movie a “great film,” Whedon is a master at creating female characters.
“You write these really beautiful, powerful, vulnerable women, and you do it again and again,” he said, referring to roles from “Black Widow” in the Avengers movies to “Buffy” in the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“Everything I write is about power and helplessness and somebody being helpless and their journey to power,” Whedon said. “Why is my avatar an adolescent girl with super powers? I still don’t really know.” While Whedon asserted that he often doesn’t realize he’s writing characters that share his own real-life attributes, he’s keenly aware of the fact that he’s drawn to crafting stories about people whose lives are threatened.
“It has a lot to do with being very helpless and tiny,” he said. “[As a kid,] I got mugged every single time I left the house.”
Whedon also acknowledged that his penchant for telling stories with dire circumstances in which the world is threatened makes him an anti-hero of sorts in the independent film world.
“I’m not very Sundance-y,” he said. “I don’t have a Sundance vibe. Nobody [in my films] is going on a road trip.”
That said, Whedon did hint that his next project, which he described jokingly as being “super good,” will be nothing like a superhero movie. “It’s definitely a departure — not from the things I care about — but from the kind of storytelling I’ve done,” he said.
Asked by an audience member whether he will ever make a Broadway musical, Whedon admitted he had been working on writing a musical in 2015 before shelving the project after a “hitch.”
“After ‘Ultron,’ there were too many moving parts, and I [felt] I needed to write something that I completely understand, that I’m going to shoot,” he said. “Also, something else happened, and nobody will be surprised — even remotely — to hear that that something was ‘Hamilton.'”
Watch the trailer for Tribeca entry “Elvis and Nixon” below.