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'Hero Whisperer' Joss Whedon and The Tension Within Him and His 'Avengers'

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood April 30, 2012 at 2:23PM

Would the "The Avengers" be earning its rave reviews without writer-director Joss Whedon? The multi-franchise-tentpole-orgy could have gone in countless different directions. (Robert Downey Jr. confides to Collider, "I think it is just a really good story that could have been done a hundred ways wrong," and credits it success to Whedon.) As Variety calls "The Avengers" "escapism of a sophisticated order" and ThePlaylist declares it "thrilling, hilarious and brilliantly executed," clearly Whedon took a stance and delivered. 
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Whedon, Johansson: Avengers set
MARVEL

Would the "The Avengers" be earning its rave reviews without writer-director Joss Whedon? The multi-franchise-tentpole-orgy could have gone in countless different directions. (Robert Downey Jr. confides to Collider, "I think it is just a really good story that could have been done a hundred ways wrong," and credits it success to Whedon.) As Variety calls "The Avengers" "escapism of a sophisticated order" and ThePlaylist declares it "thrilling, hilarious and brilliantly executed," clearly Whedon took a stance and delivered. 

Time's profile on Whedon the iconoclast (cleverly entitled "The Hero Whisperer") makes a strong case that the director was in fact the perfect man for the job and the only one with the skill set to finesse the challenge that "The Avengers" presented into a critic-pleaser. His modus operandi, according to writer Lev Grossman, is "to undermine the status quo and aggressively deconstruct whatever genre he's working in." He tells CBS that his whole career has been about the tiny person taking control.

"Whedon is the voice of the fan in Hollywood. He is the outsider who lives and works on the inside, in the heart of the heartless studio system," and states that while a cult figure, he has directed only one feature film ("Firefly" in 2005) and is "a known subversive." So Grossman can't help but ask whether Whedon could both beat and serve the system in which "The Avengers" exists? Turns out, Whedon played the movie straight, and Grossman explains that "When you watch 'The Avengers,' you see how badly Marvel needed someone like Whedon."

Whedon admits to Grossman that "The Avengers" is an odd comic in which characters are thrown together for "absolutely no reason" and without back story, and the film adaptation not only meshes potentially clashing storylines from several different standalone franchises ("Iron Man," "Captain America," "Thor" as well as the Hulk and Black Widow characters) but also a group of stars that are each used to being the center of attention. So after taking a look at the script and giving Marvel notes, he also pitched a memo that references "The Dirty Dozen" and concluded stating: "These are my Avengers. Some assembly still required."

Marvel ate it up.

For Whedon, the story he mined from existing comics characters is about "what we've lost that we used to have culturally, in terms of this sense of community, this sense of helping each other, this sense of self-sacrifice. We went from the world of Steve Rogers to the world of Tony Stark. I've described myself in this process as a Tony Stark who wishes he was Steve Rogers. That tension within me is going to be the tension between them."

Whedon says he'll always tell stories with themes of helplessness, empowerment and government conspiracy, "because people are manipulated every day and they never even notice it..These are the themes I'm going to come back to again and again…And generally speaking, those themes are going to be sung or they're going to be flying through space, because I'm also a 10-year-old. And I've got no problem with that."

This article is related to: Franchises, Thor, Iron Man, Comics, Comic-Con, Genres, Box Office, Box Office


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