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Some Thoughts On Why Joss Whedon Will Slam-Dunk ‘The Avengers’

Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer


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Fanboy favorite and future Avengers director Joss Whedon told Collider in a recent interview that he has “no directing skills.” Uh-oh!

Just kidding. The interview offers no further context for that quote, but I for one am excited as hell about Whedon’s prospects as the director of The Avengers, and I’ll tell you why:

 

1. Whedon has formidable directing skills.

 

When you watch a Joss Whedon show, you can always rest assured that when Whedon takes the helm of an episode, he’s going to try something new, or he’s going to try and challenge his actors in some unusual way. He directed countless memorable episodes of Buffy, including such acknowledged classics as “Hush,” “Restless” and “Once More With Feeling.”

But I want to turn my attention to the centerpiece of Buffy’s stellar fifth season: “The Body.” Buffy fans will well remember this as the episode where Buffy’s mom died, but it’s also worth remembering for its top-notch direction. Witness the first scene in the episode, which includes an uninterrupted take that runs almost two and a half minutes:

Although I can’t boast any experience as a TV director, I can assure everyone that executing a scene like that isn’t easy. It takes patience, care and a light touch with everyone involved, including actors, who we all know run the gamut from easygoing professionals to temperamental headcases. (I’ve only ever heard good things about Sarah Michelle Gellar.)

But on the flip side of this is the “so what?” factor. So what if Whedon was able to direct a heavy, dramatic scene with a bunch of actors he already knew on a set he had used before countless times? If he’s any kind of professional, shouldn’t he be able to do that at the drop of a proverbial hat? How on earth will that skill set translate to a good Avengers movie?

I’ll tell you. And that brings us to our second point.

 

2. As long as The Avengers has good characters, no one will give a shit about the special effects or battle scenes.

 

You heard me. They won’t. They won’t give two shits about all the superheroic, big summer movie bullshit as long as the character work is there. I don’t pretend that this is a new argument or an especially creative talking point, but I think it’s worth mentioning again, especially in light of the first Iron Man movie, which succeeded entirely because of a winning cast and a lot of quirky acting.

There are many, many good scenes in Iron Man, but I’ll offer the first scene where we see Tony Stark (a pitch-perfect Robert Downey Jr.) interacts with his XO, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, also on-target). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any clips from this movie online, so I’ll offer the dialogue:

 

Tony Stark: What are you trying to get rid of me for? You got plans?

Virginia 'Pepper' Potts: As a matter of fact, I do.

Tony Stark: I don't like it when you have plans.

Virginia 'Pepper' Potts: I'm allowed to have plans on my birthday.

Tony Stark: It's your birthday?

Virginia 'Pepper' Potts: Yes.

Tony Stark: I knew that. Already?

Virginia 'Pepper' Potts: Yeah, isn't that strange? It's the same day as last year.

Tony Stark: Well, get yourself something nice for me.

Virginia 'Pepper' Potts: I already did.

Tony Stark: Yeah? And?

Virginia 'Pepper' Potts: Oh, it's very nice… very tasteful. Thank you, Mr. Stark.

Tony Stark: You're welcome, Ms. Potts.

 

The tone of this scene ranges from intimate to silly, and the acting simply sparkles. Favreau deserves tons of credit for finding moments like this in a big summer movie, and I submit that this kind of character work is the chief reason why Iron Man was such a success. I think Favreau knew it, too, and he sought to cram as much quirky character work into Iron Man 2 as possible. Check out this clip from the sequence in Monaco:

 

 

In my review of Iron Man 2 last week, I argued that Favreau tried – and failed – to recapture the magic of the first movie, but even though he failed, he had the right idea, and he had a talented team of creative types all around him to make sure that his movie looked good. Which brings me to my third point:

 

3. Whedon will have a huge team of designers and effects artists in place to make sure The Avengers looks great.

 

Frankly, I hope Whedon leaves the planning and execution of the action sequences to his lieutenants. That way, he’ll have more time to concentrate on tone and character – and that’s time he’ll need, because Whedon is undertaking one of the greatest challenges in cinematic history, I submit. He’s not only directing a superhero team-up movie, but he’s directing a superhero team-up movie built from several different franchises. Bryan Singer pulled off two memorable superhero team-up movies, but in his case, Cyclops, Storm and Wolverine, et al, hadn’t all appeared in their own tentpole movies leading up to the release of X-Men. Whedon will have to deliver an effective team-up movie, all while dealing with the eclectic cast of characters handed down to him by Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnston and (possibly) Louis LeTerrier.

I for one think he’s up to the task.

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Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer

Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.

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