For the past four years, Marvel has been leading up to the major cinemagraphic event that is The Avengers. While the film ensured box office success through the pre-existing popularity of Marvel's major heroes, there are a lot of areas where The Avengers could have made major mistakes.
Movies that feature a large group of previously established characters often commit the sin of diluting each character to a basic stereotype for the sake of easy writing. Another common mistake is giving most of the screen time to the highest paid actor, in this case Robert Downey Jr. who plays Tony Stark.
Luckily, screenwriter and director Joss Whedon avoided these two pitfalls, creating one of the best movies of 2012 so far.
"I've done a lot of work for [projects] that already exist," Whedon explains. Besides his extensive background working as a script doctor and writing television episodes, Whedon has had his hands in the first X-Men movie and Alien: Resurrection. "It's not hard for me to fall into the cadences of these people. In fact, it's a lot easier when you've already seen [the characters] being acted in other movies."
"The Avengers are all really, really messed up people, which I think is a fine reflection of me [and my works]."
Whedon's previous works, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, feature a range of different characters and personalities. His skill in working with a diverse cast aided in Whedon's understanding of the heroes of The Avengers. He allows growth for supporting characters like Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, while still featuring relationships between the movie's headliners.
One example of these well-developed relationships is the friendship between Downey's Tony Stark and Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner.
"Bruce Banner is the first guy Tony Stark has come across who operates on his level intellectually and isn't a villain," says Whedon. "Tony's particular attitude about the Hulk is endearing and cool."
"The tragedy of the movie is that you don't get to have scenes of everybody interacting because [each character] is up against [another]. . . . How do you structure a story that some people know well and other people don't know at all? The only other movie I've made [Serenity] had a very similar problem."
When Marvel announced Joss Whedon as The Avengers director, there were two extreme reactions: joyful screams and nervous cries. Whedon's directing experience is almost exclusively limited to cult television shows. Using a relatively unknown film director was a risk to such a major project. However, Whedon remained undeterred.
"Marvel has a great nose for a director who has a passionate vision, who's not famous for turning out big-budget hits, but will bring something fresh to the concept of a hero movie," says Whedon. "I tend to be a bit florid with my camera work and dialogue, but hopefully in a way that feels like a realistic version of a comic book universe."
He calls The Avengers an "old-fashioned movie," because it is the kind of movie he "grew up wanting to make and thought [Hollywood] had stopped making."
"All my life I wanted to do something like the first Indiana Jones, something that was steeped in character, in love with the genre it was portraying, had intelligence, had real acting, had a story that unfolded and wasn't just a big premise that you already knew going in."