Joss Whedon‘s tenure at Marvel is drawing to a close, but his three-year stint has seen the responsibility and weight of expectation that he carries with “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” grow far beyond just making a great movie. “The dollars, what’s riding on this, the burden of having done the first one and trying to come up to that level started to freak me out in the way it never has,” he told Buzzfeed. “I feel like I have to make a movie good enough to be the next third-highest-grossing movie of all time. I do feel like if it doesn’t make a certain ridiculous amount of money, I will have failed the people who have faith in me. I’ll fold in on myself.”
In essence, Whedon’s run at the comic studio has involved making sound creative decisions that also affect the bottom line. It can be a tricky dance, and Whedon has had to advocate for the studio to other filmmakers who may not take to a process where decisions are scrutinized at almost every level. And “Ant-Man” seems to be the opportunity that got away.
“I thought the script was not only the best script that Marvel had ever had, but the most Marvel script I’d read. I had no interest in Ant-Man. [Then] I read the script, and was like, Of course! This is so good! It reminded me of the books when I read them. Irreverent and funny and could make what was small large, and vice versa,” Whedon explained of the situation that saw Edgar Wright abruptly leave the movie last summer. “I don’t know where things went wrong. But I was very sad. Because I thought, This is a no-brainer. This is Marvel getting it exactly right. Whatever dissonance that came, whatever it was, I don’t understand why it was bigger than a marriage that seemed so right. But I’m not going to say it was definitely all Marvel, or Edgar’s gone mad! I felt like they would complement each other by the ways that they were different. And, uh, somethin’ happened.”
And while Whedon might be playing a bit cagey about the behind-the-scenes battle of “Ant-Man,” he’s upfront about the increasingly episodic nature of Marvel’s storytelling. The filmmaker is adamant about his movie working as a whole, even if it nods to characters or situations that will develop later on.
“No matter how much they may talk about, ‘Well, this is going to lead to some terrible stuff down the line,’ in my movie, it’s designed to be a complete experience,” he explained. “And if I don’t do that, if I haven’t brought you on that journey and closed it out, fuck me. That’s the danger of this sort of serialized storytelling, turning the motion picture experience into episodic TV. Because we have episodic TV, and now you don’t even have to wait to watch it, you can binge it. So that’s to me a dreadful mistake.”
And while you might point to something like Andy Serkis being cast as Ulysses Klaue as an obvious indication of Whedon playing the very game he’s warning against, it should be noted that was done long before he had any clue Marvel was indeed going to make “Black Panther.” And speaking recently with Collider, Whedon said not to get your hopes up about seeing too many fanboy winks in ‘Ultron.’
“Yeah, there aren’t a ton of Easter eggs,” he stated. “It’s so hard for me to make a movie, especially this movie, I don’t spend a lot of time going, ‘You know what else would be hilarious?!’ I’m more like, ‘Was the gun in the frame? Oh my God, I’m so tired.’ I mean I would leave set every day and go home and write because it wasn’t quite right; it wasn’t quite finished. It needed to be better. So not a ton.”
A lot of points to ponder, and it’ll be interesting to see who Marvel tasks with the creative guidance of their ever-expanding universe once Whedon’s contract is up this year. “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” opens on May 1st.