10 Things Joss Whedon Got Right About The Avengers (And 10 Things He Didn’t)
When The Avengers was announced, no one in their right mind could’ve dreamed what it would go on to achieve.
This wasn’t just any other blockbuster– it was the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) first phase, bringing in a gargantuan $1.519 billion. Proving that lightning does indeed strike twice, its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, raked in another $1.405 billion.
At the head of the movies’ success was writer/director Joss Whedon – the man known for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Speaking to The Guardian, he said, “I feel like I’ve spent my entire career being bred for this job. I directed TV shows and a movie about superhero teams. I’ve written Marvel comics. It’s not such a surprise to me as it seems to be to everybody else.”
He also emphasized in the same interview that he doesn’t feel like he was the “voice” of the fans and made the films for himself and not others – something that seems to have been his biggest blind spot as well. While Whedon did get a lot of things right about the Avengers, he also got a fair bit wrong.
With that said, here are the 10 Things Joss Whedon Got Right About The Avengers (And 10 Things He Didn’t).
20. Right: The Tension Between Captain America And Iron Man
It was only natural that Tony Stark and Steve Rogers would butt heads in a team setting. After all, Stark is the antithesis of what Rogers stands for, even if he’s a genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist.
What Whedon did exceptionally well, though, was to plant the seeds for their future conflict in Captain America: Civil War with subtle differences in opinion and interactions.
By the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America and Iron Man respected each other, but you could always tell there was some underlying tension bubbling between the two of them.
If Whedon hadn’t done this, it’s unlikely that the seminal Civil War movie would’ve had the impact it did.
19. Wrong: Hulk And Black Widow’s Romance
In The Avengers, you got the feeling that there was something between Black Widow and Hawkeye going on, while in Captain America: The Winter Soldier it was her and Rogers.
Sure, we understand how fans love to ship characters, but is Natasha Romanoff only in these movies to fall in love with an Avenger?
Well, Whedon seemed to think so, as he paired her up with Bruce Banner/Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It felt like one of the most forced story arcs yet and it was obvious that the actors had zero chemistry together.
18. Right: The Strength Of Hulk And Thor
Comic-book fans love a good ol’ debate, and one of the most popular ones is: how strong is my favorite superhero?
Unfortunately, in most movies, the question is never answered as characters are powered down to make things more “realistic” and “down to earth.”
Not Whedon, though. He grabbed hold of Hulk and Thor and made them so OP that Goku shook in his boots and crawled back to the Reddit memes where he belongs. These two colossuses went toe to toe with their enemies and even squared off against each other in a memorable fight sequence.
17. Wrong: Hawkeye’s Family
Hawkeye proves to be one of the most controversial members of the Avengers. He has a rabid fanbase who decry the fact he isn’t on the Avengers: Infinity War poster, yet he’s still considered one of the least popular heroes of the team.
What makes him even iffier is the direction that the MCU took his character in. He wasn’t introduced in his own solo movie, and his background has been hush-hush – until Avengers: Age of Ultron where it’s revealed that Clint Barton has a family.
This entire sequence screamed of cheese, fabricated sentiment, and tried to paint him out as a regular, working-class dude.
16. Right: The Team-Up Battles
No one will ever forget the moment when all the Avengers stood together and Alan Silvestri’s classic theme blared in the background.
It was an iconic scene, and one that still sends shivers down our spine today. Whedon successfully captured the comic-book feel and grandeur of seeing these larger-than-life heroes together, united as one, and plastered it on the big screen.
He translated this to the fight sequences as well. Combining practical effects, stunts, and CGI, Whedon had a way of creating what’s the equivalent of a choreographed dance.
The battles were fluid, while capturing the spirit of each hero and advancing the story eloquently.
15. Wrong: The Maximoff Twins
Look, this isn’t entirely Whedon’s fault, but his introduction of the Maximoff twins failed mostly due to X-Men: Days of Future Past.
In that movie, Fox presented its version of Quicksilver, as portrayed by Evan Peters, and he was a smash hit due to his epic slow-mo scene and quirky personality.
Unfortunately, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Pietro Maximoff failed in comparison to Peters’, and his – pardon the pun – quick death didn’t do much to inspire us, either.
The jury is still out on Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch; however, she isn’t exactly at the top of everyone’s favorite Avengers list yet.
While the introduction of the Maximoff twins had immense potential and excited longtime fans of the characters, their overall impact on the MCU was far from spectacular. It was disappointing, if you ask us.
14. Right: The Balance Between Bruce Banner And Hulk
When you consider the fact that Eric Bana and Edward Norton portrayed Banner in Hulk and The Incredible Hulk respectively, it’s almost difficult to fathom how neither actor managed to nail the dual role of Banner and the green monster.
Both Bana and Norton are terrific thespians, yet they failed to convince as this iconic Marvel superhero.
Without a solo movie to establish himself in the role, Mark Ruffalo stepped into The Avengers, knowing full well that he had a task on his hands – and boy, did he deliver.
That said, we can thank Whedon for finally getting the Hulk right on big screen.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, he explained how he and Ruffalo achieved the right balance between Banner and Hulk. “Right up front, we talked about rage; what it means, how it’s portrayed, what causes it. We talked about making Banner sort of less whiny and self-obsessed.”
13. Wrong: Corny Dialogue
Oh, we all know about some of Whedon’s cheesiest dialogue (ahem, “thirstiest reporter”), and his Avengers movies weren’t spared from his wrath, either.
While he has a good knack for writing quirky and snappy dialogue, he does tend to overdo it and go into dad joke territory at times.
A good example is Avengers: Age of Ultron, which suffered from far too many Whedonisms. The dialogue was sophomoric and as if it were written in the late ’90s for an American Pie movie. Plus, it didn’t help that his gags fell flat and the material felt recycled.
Looking back, it’s quite obvious when Whedon is writing under pressure.
12. Right: Maria Hill
Getting secondary characters right is remarkably difficult – especially in a movie that’s already stuffed with so many characters and subplots.
That’s why it was surprising how Whedon got the character of Maria Hill so spot-on. In fact, one could argue she was treated better than Black Widow was in the movies.
Never treated as eye-candy or a mere love interest, Agent Hill was tough as nails, and a true asset and ally to the Avengers. Much like her comic-book counterpart, she played a major part in proceedings and proved to be as important as the super-powered heroes.
While Whedon’s writing of her is certainly a huge part of the character’s success, it needs to be said that Cobie Smulders brought her A-game here and ensured that Agent Hill became an unforgettable MCU MVP.
11. Wrong: Loki
You could easily argue that Loki was one of the best MCU villains to date, and that was thanks to Whedon’s writing and direction on The Avengers. However, that’s simply not true.
While Tom Hiddleston wowed in the ways only he can, the treatment of his character was poor in retrospect.
Let’s look at the popular “Hulk smash” scene where Loki is treated like a puny god by Hulk. While it was hilarious for everyone and a memorable moment from the movie, it destroyed most of the menacing progression that Loki had made in the storyline for one spot of comedic effect.
10. Right: Ultron
Despite Avengers: Age of Ultron being a divisive movie among fans, Ultron is fondly remembered as one of its brightest spots.
Not only was he a strong villain with thought-provoking motives, but he was also responsible for the creation of Vision.
Plus, it was James Spader providing the voice and motion capture, so how can you not love the character?
Speaking about what made his character tick to Entertainment Weekly, Spader said, “His view of the world and humanity’s place in it is tumultuous and violent and dramatic – it’s biblical, really. He’s allowed himself to make a decision about what he thinks is best. What he has decided is best for the world is to start over.”
9. Wrong: Black Widow
We’ve mentioned this before, but Whedon did Black Widow no favors in his movies. From treating her as a reusable love interest to flog from one character to the next, she deserved a lot more respect than she received in the first two Avengers movies.
Although, Whedon did try to give her some semblance of an arc in Avengers: Age of Ultron as we found out more about Romanoff’s past, which at least gave her more to do than being Hulk’s comforter.
Still, we can’t help but feel like she was massively wasted in these flicks.
Additionally, why did it take so long for her own solo movie to be announced? Surely, everyone could see that Black Widow is a beloved character and deserves to be the star of her own film after her first appearance in the MCU.
8. Right: The Hulkbuster Armor
Taking down the Hulk is no easy task. After all, he’s practically indestructible when he’s in angry mode, and we all know how rage gives you that extra push in a slapping fight.
So, when Whedon introduced the Hulkbuster armor in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it was a stroke of genius for everyone wondering how Stark would deal with Hulk if he went off the rails.
It also cemented Stark as the Batman figure of the Avengers, in the sense that he has a contingency plan if his teammates go bad.
7. Wrong: Thor’s Cut Scenes
Between a director and the studio, decisions are made. While we can all agree that things need to be cut and compromises made in order for the bigger vision, there are baffling choices taken at times.
One of the strangest decisions was the cutting of Thor’s more interesting scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Sure, the movie looked like an editor’s worst nightmare as it jumped from scene to scene in furious fashion, but the part where Thor journeys into the Norn Cave was crucial to Avengers: Infinity War‘s plot.
Rather than set the mood for the forthcoming movie, we received brief flashes of what Thor was doing, which made no sense and looked like he wanted a quick dip in the pool.
6. Right: The First Avengers Movie
The success of The Avengers was unparalleled. Yes, we’d seen great Marvel movies, but no one could’ve expected this team-up affair to smash the box office like it did.
Those were numbers that no one at Marvel Studios dreamed possible when the universe first began with 2008’s Iron Man.
Numbers aside, Whedon delivered a solid story that gave fans everything they’d hoped for.
He made sure that all the teases and years of promising build-up were worth it, as the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes truly looked and acted the part.
It was a remarkable feat considering how difficult it is to create team-up movies with so many characters demanding screen time and their own arcs. Yet, somehow, Whedon juggled this task and produced a compelling story as well.
5. Wrong: Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Financially, Avengers: Age of Ultron succeeded. It might not have brought in the same amount of money as the first one, but it’s unlikely any of the Marvel Studios execs were crying in their Bentleys about it.
However, the actual product disappointed. The movie was oddly disjointed and suffered from stuffing in too many things into one storyline.
While the first film had the advantage of being the culmination of the first phase of the MCU, this one had the unenviable task of setting up a whole bunch of other movies.
Whedon isn’t too proud of this movie, either, and has lamented it as being the one that broke him. It’s sad, because you can find traces of an excellent film in there but it’s suffocated by a lot of other nonsense.
4. Right: Humor And Seriousness
Want to know why the MCU is so successful? Because it caters for all ages. Its formula of blending humor with seriousness is something that the wider audience goes nuts for.
Regardless of how you feel about the formulaic storytelling, it works – and it doesn’t look like Marvel will change it anytime soon.
In Whedon, the studio found the perfect candidate to reap the benefits of this formula. While we’ve addressed how he sometimes overdoes the corny dialogue, he largely succeeds in creating an entertaining film for the whole family.
Not every movie needs to be an Oscar contender – and Marvel Studios understands this.
3. Wrong: Agent Coulson
Agent Coulson had been a major part of the build-up to The Avengers, so it was a shock how he met his demise in the movie. As any fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. knows, though, Coulson didn’t quite die and later reappeared in the TV series.
This is where the problem lies. The emotional impact of his death was nullified by his reappearance on the TV show.
It lends to the notion that Marvel fears cutting beloved characters, or if they do, it’s all a ruse and they’ll pop up again later down the line.
Unfortunately, Coulson’s death and rebirth still feels like a major cop out here. If Whedon had the guts to destroy him in the movie, he should’ve kept him gone and buried. Like proper gone – not soap opera gone.
2. Right: Tying Up The Movies
Building a cinematic universe is a daunting task, as you need to plant the traces of something more and hope the audience spots it and puts two and two together. In The Avengers, everything came together in a terrific and understandable way.
All the teases and storyline sprinkles were addressed, or served a purpose, in the culmination of the first phase of the MCU. In fact, you could argue this was the last time that the timeline and universe made complete sense to everyone.
There was no need to spend half the movie retelling origins or introducing pivotal characters, as we spent the bulk of the time with the story and high stakes.
1. Wrong: The Shawarma Scene
Remember how we mentioned that Whedon writes corny stuff at times? Well, the shawarma scene is a perfect example of something that was completely unnecessary in The Avengers.
Tell us again, what purpose did this scene serve in the grand scheme of it all? “Oh, they’re a team and they’re eating together now, so it solidifies their bond.” Please. How many of us have company breakfasts and lunch and absolutely loathe the people across the table? Sitting with someone doesn’t mean anything.
Sure, it was an extra scene for fans to savor, but there was so much more that Whedon could’ve done with it. After the world nearly ending, the first thing that the Avengers do is eat shawarmas? Sigh. You’re better than this, Joss.
What do you think Joss Whedon got right and wrong about The Avengers? Let us know in the comments!