‘Avengers': Joss Whedon talks sequel, ‘Buffy’ and ‘X-Men’ parallels

May 15, 2012 | 6:08 p.m.
joss Avengers: Joss Whedon talks sequel, Buffy and X Men parallels

Joss Whedon, shown in April. (Matt Sayles / Associated Press)

This story contains spoilers about “The Avengers.”

“The Avengers” passed the $1-billion mark in worldwide ticket sales this weekend, and a sequel is already in the works. Does that mean writer-director Joss Whedon will be back at the helm of the franchise that unites Marvel’s box-office heavyweights, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk?

“You know, I’m very torn,” Whedon said in a sit-down interview in Beverly Hills before the film’s U.S. opening. “It’s an enormous amount of work telling what is ultimately somebody else’s story, even though I feel like I did get to put myself into it. But at the same time, I have a bunch of ideas, and they all seem really cool.”

Whether he gets his hands on the sequel, Whedon’s fingerprints are all over “The Avengers,” which echoes some tropes found in his other work in comics and television.

For one, Mark Ruffalo’s much-praised performance as Bruce Banner and his raging alter-ego the Hulk parallels Seth Green’s Oz, the werewolf character in Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Like Banner, Oz tries to run from the beast within, isolating himself in far-flung lands while he learns to master his inner monster. Ultimately, Oz learns to accept the wolf and displays Zen-like (though imperfect) mastery over his full-moon manifestations. Similarly, Banner learns to master the Hulk only by accepting and eventually embracing the anger that incites “the other guy.”

oz banner Avengers: Joss Whedon talks sequel, Buffy and X Men parallels

Seth Green as Oz in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” left, and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner in “The Avengers.” (Fox / Marvel)

“I hadn’t really connected those,” Whedon said, when asked about the Oz-Hulk parallel. “But the Oz thing for me was kind of an intellectual exercise. And for Bruce, for me, it felt like a new truth — even though it really is similar and therefore isn’t new at all — because Mark and I had spent so much time talking about the way anger manifests. And I’ve even talked about the Hulk as a werewolf. As much as he’s a superhero, he’s that type of monster.”

kittypryde Avengers: Joss Whedon talks sequel, Buffy and X Men parallels

Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” run featured young heroine Kitty Pryde. (Marvel)

Fans of Whedon’s work in comics also may have noticed similarities between Tony Stark’s “sacrifice play,” saving the world from a nuclear missile at the end of the film, and Kitty Pryde‘s act of self-sacrifice when she saved the world from a giant missile-bullet in “Astonishing X-Men.”

“I was afraid you were going to mention ‘Superman,’ the first movie,” Whedon said. “I had never thought about that, since she’s more inside [the bullet], but there is a little bit of that. But the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate threat, when you mix ‘em up, usually somebody’s trying to divert a rocket.”

Whedon said any parallels between his previous work and the characters and plot in “The Avengers” are unintentional.

“I’m not going to do the same thing on purpose; I’m going to do the same thing because I’m creatively bereft, and I’ve run out of ideas,” he joked. “Awkward…”

But one trademark characteristic Whedon embraces in his work is his ability to unite groups of raggedy misfits against imminent evil. Led by anti-hero Capt. Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), “Firefly’s” crew of lost space-wanderers exposed the misdoings of an interplanetary government that stepped out of line. A teenage girl and her “Scooby gang” of freaks and geeks saved Sunnydale and Earth from demons and demented gods in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And now, in “The Avengers,” disparate superheroes worked through their egos and hangups, pulling together as a team to defend the planet against alien invaders.

So which misfit crew is Whedon’s favorite?

“You know, I love all my raggedy children,” he said. “But if I could be anywhere, I’d be on board Serenity.”

– Noelene Clark

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Comments


58 Responses to ‘Avengers': Joss Whedon talks sequel, ‘Buffy’ and ‘X-Men’ parallels

  1. kirk says:

    This was expected. Marvel only cares about $$$. Talent can go once a franchise is established.

    • unicorn says:

      Exactly. Leterrier = Hulk, Favreau = Iron Man, Kenneth Branagh = Thor. None of the original directors stayed.

    • alistahr says:

      dumb comment, Whedon is an amazing director and gets the genre better than anyone else. They have done great at picking directors. Favreua actually produced avengers but gave it to Whedon because of his experience at directing groups of people.

  2. j.e.vogels says:

    Serenity…'nuff said.

  3. heyfritters says:

    I can't believe they didn't mention how he Whedon'ed Coulson. THAT'S his number one trademark.

  4. Mr. Universe says:

    Always happy when someone brings up Serenity; it has everything that made the first two Star Wars films so great, and none of what made all the other Star Wars film so terrible.

  5. howard says:

    i ate shawarma due to the avengers. hope for 9 sequels and 80 spinoffs. shut up and take my money.

  6. @chrisdvanne says:

    So glad for Whedon and his fans that The Avengers is a huge hit.

  7. Marvel shouldn't be rushing the sequel. Iron Man 2 was a let down and damaged the franchise. They should learn their lesson. They should let Joss do another movie of his own choice, and then come back to the franchise re-energised, like Warner did with Christopher Nolan.

    • skyride says:

      Word, great advice, don't rush it, Marvel. Iron Man 2 was a half-wit compared to the first. A second Avengers could be on par with The Dark Knight, but only if they don't churn it out in two seconds time.

      And to all those naysayers above– wtf, Joss Whedon, talentless? Are you out of your mind?

    • Blobfig says:

      Iron Man 2 did not damage the franchise

  8. Yeah, I'd want to be on Serenity too! As much as I love Buffy, I feel her story (and Angel's) has been told very well but there is so much more to imagine and do in the Firefly 'verse.

  9. Davcato says:

    Good interview. Serenity is where he belongs. Finish the Big Damn Trilogy!

  10. Dragoneye says:

    Joss Whedon has a lot of guts saying he is not sure if he will come back or not. He has not had a successful movie, EVER!. Serenity is about as half-assed a movie as you can have. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was terrible, even for the day in which it was made. Take the opportunity to create something in the sequel (which are always harder to make) and show that you are a decent filmmaker. Iron Man 2 did not suck.

    • mattinacan says:

      everything you say is crap just FYI

    • @Wildcard6 says:

      Iron Man > Iron Man 2 > suck.

    • You aren't entirely off base as some others have suggested. He doesn't have a great track record in feature films. He developed into a magnificent TV director during BTVS but feature film success eluded him…until now.

      Avengers is the best movie Marvel has every done (outside of Spiderman which is from Raimi who is god) and that is no small thing. A movie this good gets a sequel that pops off even more cash.

      Whedon is just playing coy. Marvel would be crazy to not offer him the sequel but Whedon would be just as crazy to make it sound like he is desperate to do it. I'm sure he wants Marvel to back the money truck up and pay him HUGE. He earned it.

    • Corey says:

      You must be high. He has proven time and time again what a great writer and filmmaker he he is with his amazing series. He's been Emmy nominated. He's made several highly original and inventive masterpiece episodes of tv. He had a highly successful short self financed movie that debuted online which gave him credit for pioneering made for the web movies/content. Serenity was really good for a first feature film and highly rated too. Buffy The Vampire Slayer is one of the greatest series of all time and one of the biggest reasons why everyone who were fans of Joss Whedon said he was going to make an AMAZING Avengers movie without any doubt while many others doubted him. BTW, it was voted greatest tv series of all time by TVGuide's online poll for 50 greatest tv shows of all time. Your opinion = Crap.

    • Len says:

      Dragoneye is way off base.

      And Buffy was one of the best TV series EVER, from Seasons 1 through 3.

      It stuck around too long and went into decline, but even at its worst, it had more going for it than most of what's on TV these days.

      Whedon can do what the hell he wants, he doesn't have to or need to ride The Avengers if he doesn't want to.

      • Joanisback says:

        "Buffy was one of the best TV series EVER, from Seasons 1 through 7. "

        Fixed that for you.

  11. Jherek says:

    To paraphrase a line from Planet Terror, Give Whedon the movie… Give Whedon all the movies.

  12. Moe says:

    Browncoat forever.

  13. Larry says:

    What needs to happen is for Marvel to come to an agreement with Columbia and Fox so that Wolverine, Spider-man and Storm can be in the sequel. Add to that WASP, Ant-Man, and Black Panther. Just think Wolverine in the same film as the HULK. That would be so awesome it could not be contained. Joss Whedon should direct Avengers 2 and 3.

  14. alan stowe says:

    Oh good, so I'm not the only person that realizes Joss just repeats himself over and over and over with the same archetypes and the same plot devices. I thought nerds were smart, but they really haven't caught on to him for some reason…

    Thanks LA Times!

    • Guest says:

      Aaron Sorkin repeats himself over and over and over…I suppose you don't think he's very talented either?

      • Brett says:

        As a matter of fact, he's really not.

      • alan stowe says:

        I don't really care for his sort of movie. I liked Social Network but that's because I haven't hated a Fincher movie yet and that had his direction, Reznor and Ross' score and Jesse pulling out of just being the guy you hire when Cera is busy.

        Joss just taps into geek community psychological soft spots, tapping into that thing where we nerds all think deep down we're meant for more but spend all our time watching shows/movies/anime/games so we never actually become anything but maybe if we just stumbled on another group of outcasts we could do amazing things and still retain our self awareness and make wise cracks and never seem to be directly emotionally involved in how serious some of the things we're involved in actually are.

        And he clearly has some interesting fantasies about being an Ordinary Joe who stumbles on an emotionally crippled but utterly hot super woman that he could take care of and she could beat up the bullies for him. Like… oh… I don't know… Xander and Willow, the Dollhouse chick, River… I mean, I guess his stuff is entertaining in a kitschy kind of way. Firefly was great because of the cast.

        There are a lot of writers and directors that do the outcast with far more depth, complexity, originality and without relying on what's the safe way to tell a story. Like Christopher Nolan. Or David Fincher. Or Duncan Jones. Or Neill Blomkamp. Or Alfonso Cuaron. So yeah, Whedon can entertain, but he's only a couple notches up from Kevin Smith as far as just making a career out of doing the same thing over and over and milking the hey, remember that nerd meme? Let's all laugh about it together and be cool outcasts together. I went through that phase. In high school.

      • bigevilworldwide says:

        I can think of an extremely AWFUL David Fincher movie ALIEN3 worst Fincher movie ever….He disowned it for a reason

      • alan stowe says:

        Alien 3 was insanely underrated. It was hampered by god awful studio interference because they didn't trust a first time feature film director in his 20's, which he was at the time.

        Its still manages to be closer to the original atmosphere and stress levels that the original had without filling the film with guns and action sequences.

        But honestly, if that's the best retort you have to discredit someone's opinion and brush it off, that's really sad. So he made Alien 3, say Alien 3 was the worst film ever made, there was still The Game, Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network… none of which repeated the same characters with different names in a different setting essentially all doing the exact same things emotionally and saying nothing new. Truly a weak retort sir.

      • deadpanwalking says:

        Oh sweet Jesus just shut up.

    • alanapaints says:

      I once made up a list of all the plot devices on Star Trek: "Someone falls in love". "Alien threat". "Emotion vs. Intellect". "Old Lover Is Trouble". "Someone stole my brain!" "Misunderstood Alien". "We're raiding the stock wardrobe/sets and going Back In Time."

      Archetypes are archetypes because they resonate with the human mind and soul. So maybe some of us have caught on and we don't CARE. Would love to see you come up with something truly originall. If you can I'm sure we'll hear about it on the interwebs. I'll eagerly watch for your name.

      • alan stowe says:

        There's a huge difference between using archetypes, and using the same archetypes the same way every time without fail in predictable and unoriginal ways. There are plenty of people who make use of archetypes and make them new or share a fresh perspective on them. There are only like 7 actual plot lines in the world, old quote, you've probably heard it, everyone has. Its what you do with them that matter.

        Watch something like The Prestige, that's how you mess with archetypes. Or District 9, which utilizes the same Pocahantas/Dances with Wolves base archetypal plot that Avatar did. Only District 9 actually did something original with it, they made the main character UNWILLING become a member of a foreign "tribe" and was forced to help them as helping them was also helping himself. THAT is how you brilliantly play with archetypes. Not writing about a super powered female that is emotionally broken and depends on some powerless nerd boy to help her survive. That's pandering, incredibly sexist and speaks more to Whedon's own creepy fantasies about finding a hot female emotionally broken enough to boink him.

        Whedon's stuff has its moments, its fun, but its hardly the ground breaking art his fans try to sell the rest of us on.

        And don't worry, I'm working on some solid stuff myself. I don't pick apart art to hate, I pick it apart to learn. And when I see people repeat themselves I get bored and move on. And I do not mean repeat themselves stylistically. I mean repeat themselves as in clearly having nothing new to say. Tarantino repeats himself quite a bit stylistically, similar devices, similar set ups, similar as in classic. However he puts different spins on characters and settings and ultimately says something different about humanity every time. I'm not his biggest fan, but its an easy accessible example.

      • deadpanwalking says:

        You're working on some soild stuff? OOOOH! I can't wait. To see it.

    • skyride says:

      If it's not broke, don't fix it.

  15. Ed C says:

    Avengers was great but I'm glad Joss still floats Serenity in his interviews. That was way better than Avengers all things considered (ducks).

  16. Shawn J says:

    LOL @ the photo of Mark Ruffalo and Hulk!

  17. danj says:

    Whedon has no problem offing main characters. Too bad he didn't get rid of Black Widow. ScarJo's acting was terrible.

    • skyride says:

      Weird, I thought she actually improved this time around. Anyway, it would be lame if they killed the only woman in the gang, don't you think?

  18. Dr. B says:

    Why has no one mentioned that Iron Man's sacrifice at the end of Avengers is JUST LIKE the Iron Giant's sacrifice in Brad Bird's movie? I totally expected a shout out, with Stark saying "Suuupermaaan" while he flew that bomb up into space!!

  19. Brett says:

    Whether Whedon's success with "The Avengers" will translate into box office boosts for any of his non-"Avengers" projects remains to be seen. If he returns to the "Firefly" universe, obviously the fans of that series will go see it, and I suppose there will be something of a bump in ticket sales if the marketing is allowed to promote it as "from the director of 'The Avengers'." But don't kid yourselves, Whedon fans – it's unlikely that Whedon is ever going to enjoy this kind of success for his own original projects.

  20. scott says:

    Buffy………

  21. holly says:

    #Shiny

  22. Anthony Smith says:

    Repeating a successful theme works for me. Buffy was a thoughtful, fun, and exciting ride. Angel was that as well, although on the lighter side. Serenity/Firefly was a very good movie and an awesome show. It should set the standard for all space adventures and it would be very cool to revisit that world, whether it be with the same actors, I know, major character dies (won't spoil it if you have not watch it, stop reading and go watch it!), so bring that one back! It's sci-fi afterall, or go with a new cast.

    Master Whedon writes a hell of a story and has a great imagination. I have been waiting for an Avengers movie for nearly 40 years and I was not disappointed. I have seen it twice and plan to see it several more times before it leaves the big screen. I suggest you do the same so you don't feel
    withdrawal symptoms. Vision, Wanda, Quicksilver, and the Black Panther would be my choices to add for a second installment. That would certainly open the door for X-Men to be intertwined if the powers that be would consider it.

    I would sign Master Whedon up for at least 2 more installments NOW. Disney, Marvel, you listening?
    If not: Joss, would you please consider a Justice League movie? And nostalgia forces me to ask, perhaps a Doc Savage/Shadow crossover?

    Whatever this man does, I will see it. I hope you live a happy, healthy, and very long life Master Whedon. And please keep on writing and directing
    Best wishes,
    Tony

  23. Eleanor says:

    I watched The Avengers today for the first time, and thought it was excellent. I've also rewatched Buffy's Season 5 finale just now, and since we're talking about parallels I noticed that both Buffy and Captain America take their anger out on their punching bags, and both characters punch said bags straight out of the ceiling in this episode and of course in the Captain's first scene in the film. Probably not intentional, or possessing any deeper meaning, but I just noticed how remarkably similar the scenes are. But yes, I really hope Whedon chooses to be involved in the sequel!

  24. Peter C. says:

    The Avengers was amazing. Joss’s work never ceases to amaze me how he wraps everything up and truly shows what heroes are about. That being said, Fox needs to give him an X-Men movie. Not Wolverine, but an actual X-Men movie where we don’t have a director that knows nothing about the characters. I am so sick of Bryan Singer and his weird version of the X-Men. Fix them Joss! Please!

  25. HWA says:

    I want to see more Serenity. That was, by far, his Magna Opus. It was great.
    I could live without this superhero junk.

  26. Joe Baumann says:

    Serenity by far. They are doing a reunion at this years comic con in a couple days. Who knows. Maybe we will get very luck and another movie. I can dream.

  27. karen says:

    I think that Joss is a very creative person. Has anyone heard that great artists steal? Sure Oz and Bruce are similar but really…. I don't think Joss was thinking "hey i am gonna copy how Bruce deals with the hulk for Oz" And it is works then let him do it. Even the most creative people draw on the creativness of others. And Iron man 2 was okay not as good as Iron Man 1. Firefly was a great show and the movie was as well. And Buffy- what can i say about that show. And Dragon Eye, you do realize they were talking about the show right tell me how can a show last 7 years if was bad? There are so many BAD shows out there now. not enough good ones. Besides it is not just his decision but the decison of Marvel themselves on whether he comes back. But I think he will.

  28. Konk says:

    omg, i SERIOUSLY miss Buffy and her butt kicking the bad guys.

  29. Guest says:

    A 'Lord of the Rings' style 3-part Avengers vs the X-Men epic, please and thank you, Mr Whedon.

    Also, a Buffy where-is-she-now (Cleveland?) and-what-is-she-doing movie.. y'know, if you have a spare moment. That's my xmas list for Santa Joss. Ta.

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