By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist May 4, 2012 at 12:00PM
Many feared that, given that Robert Downey Jr.'s become a megastar in recent years, the film would turn out to be "Iron Man 3: The Avengers," rather than a bona-fide team movie. And indeed, a recent issue of Total Film relates that the star pushed to be the lead at first, the telling Whedon that "I need to be in the opening sequence. Tony needs to drive this thing." But after trying it, Whedon realized that it was the wrong approach. "There was too much Iron Man early on," he says. "And although he's riveting and terrific, they were about to make 'Iron Man 3' afterwards. Stark needs to be the rock star and he's very important in this film, but I structured so much around him that it overbalanced it."
One Of The Biggest Challenges Was Coming Up With A Global Scope Without Leaving The Country
"The Avengers" is big, both in scope and budget, but to make it for a manageable amount, Marvel were set on a fast shoot that took advantage of tax breaks in Cleveland. Whedon tells Movies.com that balancing the two was one of his biggest challenges. "At the end of the day, with 'The Avengers,' you need that kind of world scope. You need the world organization, and you really want to feel the multiculturalism of where they might all be and not feel like, 'I'm in Arkansas, [and now] I'm in a slightly different part of Arkansas.' It needs to breathe like that. It’s not a James Bond film where the establishing shots could be in the opening credits billed establishing shots by because they’re so important. I'm not actually even a fan of establishing shots. I just like to be somewhere and get into the story," he explained. "But we knew we needed as much scope as we could possibly get -- it had to feel enormous. And sometimes we worried if we had enough, but when we watched the final thing we were like, 'it seems we’ve got something there.' But it’s tough also because the other thing about a James Bond movie is that if he’s in Siena, they’re going to Siena. If we’re in Siena, we’re going to Cleveland and having great production designers and great set dressers and some imagination. It’s easy to make it work, but there is also a challenge to that to find the scope when in fact you’re having to build it."
Echoing our piece on the faithfulness of adaptations, Whedon tells Badass Digest that being faithful to the letter is less important when adapting a comic book than staying true to the source material. "It's capturing the essence of the comic and being true to what's wonderful about it, while remembering that it's a movie and not a comic. I think 'Spider-Man,' the first one particularly, really captured [the spirit of the comic]. They figured out the formula of oh, tell the story that they told in the comic. It was compelling, that's why it's iconic, but at the same time they did certain things that only a movie can do [but] were in the vein of the comic. I think you see things like 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,' where they just threw out the comic, or 'Watchmen,' where they do it frame for frame, and neither of them work. You have to give the spirit of the thing and then step away from that, and create something cinematic and new.
The Core Of The Film Was In The Dysfunction Of The Group
How do you unite four heroes (plus stragglers) who've each led their own blockbuster movie? Whedon's answer to Wired was that you don't, something he thinks was the very core of the movie. "They don’t belong together. They all belong alone. The more they’re alone, the less useful they are. And there are a lot of elements of that that got thrown out at script stage, in editing stage. A lot of slightly darker things. But the one thing that did stay in there was the assertion that there are people who can’t be controlled, and we need as a human race to deal with it. We need something to stand up for us. We either need to fight them or we need to make them fight for us. And it doesn’t matter if they’re just kind of skillful or they’re the fricking Hulk. What matters is they’re all people, and they’re all dysfunctional on some level no matter how cool they are. And the dysfunction comes from their inability to work in a group."
For all the superhero flicks that have led up to it, Whedon soon found in the writing process that those wouldn't be the major influences. "The first movie I referenced when Marvel asked me what I'd do if they gave me the script was 'The Dirty Dozen.' People forget, but that movie is an hour-and-a-half of training and 20 minutes of Nazi fighting. It helped me to say, you can have time to let these people get to know each other: their conflict can be as interesting as their conflict with the villain...," he told Total Film. And it went further after he watched Ridley Scott's "Black Hawk Down: "That's when I realized we needed a war movie. With this many heroes the only way you can really earn them -- earn the idea that they are heroes -- is that you put them through a meat grinder."