Days after having experienced Joss Whedon’s directorial success called Marvel’s The Avengers, I’m still reeling from the implications. Some of this may include spoilage about the current film as well as rumors and speculation about future movies. See my blog entry from a few days ago for a list of movies I hope they will make in this franchise over the next few years, some of which have been confirmed to happen and some of which never will but it’s still fun to speculate. Many different thoughts about the show. I’ll try to address them below in no particular order.
* The Script Leak: A not-very-well-kept secret on the Internet is that about a year ago, Samuel L. Jackson accidentally lost possession of a copy of the Avengers script, and it fell into the hands of the blogosphere. In fact it went up for auction. The rumor at this time was that this halted production and they made massive changes. The first part is true. The script was leaked. However, it didn’t really upset the apple cart that much. There’s no more or less dramatic changes to the script than would happen in the regular course of production. They were already in the middle of principle photography at this point. I just want you to think about this though. The entire script was leaked a year before it hit the theaters, and it STILL made over $650million worldwide in its first 12 days. Maybe Hollywood should “accidentally” let their cats out of their bags more often. The trick isn’t secrecy. If you build a better movie, the world will beat a path to the theaters. It’s just that simple.
* Scarlett Johanssen: A disturbingly high number of people online in Twitter and message boards really don’t like this woman’s style of acting. Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of hers either. I mean I don’t go out of my way to see everything she’s ever done. However, I don’t wince if I happen to hear her name attached to a film I want to see. She’s not a draw for me, but she also doesn’t turn me off. However, a lot of people seem to think she can’t act. They say similar things about her that I recall people saying about David Duchovny during his tenure as Fox Mulder on the television series X-Files. No facial expressions. Stilted movements. No apparent method to the madness. No emotion. Lackluster. et cetera. I can’t speak for everything she’s ever done. I haven’t seen everything Scarlett’s ever done. What matters to me is how she performs a character I’ve enjoyed since the first time I saw her team up with Spider-Man in one of his comics many decades ago. I’ve since gone back and read other stories with Black Widow in them. Again, not my favorite character but she doesn’t make me wince either. Black Widow is a spy. She’s an assassin. She’s cold and aloof and does not make friends easily. I’ve always imagined her to be a little older actually, and she should have a couple scars here and there. Johanssen doesn’t have a body that looks like it’s seen multiple war zones intimately. Still, she portrays Natasha Romanov as a woman who keeps her cards close to her chest. Even when admitting intimate details to a trusted colleague like Hawkeye, she should appear to be keeping many secrets to herself. Now, whether this is cuz Scarlett CAN’T emote, or chooses not to, remains to be seen. Perhaps the reason she was hired to play the part is because her style of acting is precisely what the producers wanted, and I could not agree with them more. The most important thing is you need a woman playing Black Widow who looks like she could drink every other man in the group under the table.. except maybe Thor. I think Johanssen’s overconfidence and poise pulls that off in spades.
* Much Ado About Whedon: whether or not Whedon will be directing Avengers II is anyone’s guess at this point. Personally I could care less about that. If he does, great. If he doesn’t, that can be great too. What he’s got in the pipeline currently is far more interesting to me. First off, immediately after production on Avengers, and during editing chores in post production, Whedon was also knee deep in a personal independent project where he took one of William Shakespeare’s better comedies and filmed a modern revamp of Much Ado About Nothing. The rumors are he used black and white photography. Anyone who saw the River short subject videos should be excited right there. Whedon has a unique flair with b/w. It lets him do some things he can’t do in color, and he also seems to be a better director and artist under constraints like small budgets and simplified mediums. I’m a fan of Shakespeare and am so looking forward to what Joss does with MAAN. Rumor also has it he filmed it at his own house, using a cast and crew of friends and family. So there may be some familiar faces both on screen and off. He’s also been talking recently about starting principal photography on a follow up to his Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog this summer. Whedon’s team have already got the script (mostly) and musical numbers done (sorta) and ready for filming (just about). What’s been holding this up until now is scheduling among the principals involved. Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris, and Joss Whedon are working out free time in the coming weeks. It’s not Serenity Two, but it promises to be fun. And who knows? Depending on what offers Whedon will be getting in the near future now that he’s THE most successful writer/director in Hollywood, Serenity Two is only impossible at this point if Whedon chooses not to revisit it. If he wants to push that button to call the ships back, I bet he won’t run out of gas this time.
* Shawarma: at the very end of the Avengers’ movie, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) invites his fellow heroes to join him at a Manhattan deli down the street to eat some Shawarma. He says he’s never tried it before but after having almost been lost in space forever and saving the world a few times, he wants to see what they’re about. So the last shot of the film shows everybody on the cast eating shawarma in a deli. I wanted to try some, but it’s not easy to find a place in the bible belt where middle eastern cuisine is purchasable. There are a few high end fancy schmancy indian restaurants that claim to have it on their menu, but I wanna eat it in a deli atmosphere like the guys (and gal) in the film. Will keep looking. A couple interesting tidbits about that last shot. It was actually filmed AFTER its first debut. That night after the red carpet treatment, Joss Whedon convinced all the principles to join him at a nearby deli in California which they dressed up to look like a Trashed-by-aliens Manhattan deli. Chris Evans, who portrayed Captain America, was sporting a beard and mustache that night, so he’s leaning on his hand and is seen barely in profile to hide this.
* The Big Reveal: At the end of most of these movies, there’s a big reveal. The Avengers is no exception. During the credits, we see one of Loki’s lackeys talking to someone about how much they failed against the Avengers, and how challenging the humans of Earth is like courting with death. Then we see this big guy’s head turn and smile a big toothy smile. I thought that big head was supposed to be Kane The Conqueror at first, but turns out to be Thanos. Personally, I’m disappointed. I know little about the character, cuz I was more of a DC fan growing up than a Marvel fan, but to me Thanos always looked like a copycat character based loosely off Jack Kirby’s Darkseid. I don’t know which came first, but since I’m more of a DC fan, and a fan of Kirby’s work, I tend to lean favoritism that way. I think Marvel made up Thanos as a response to Kirby’s Darkseid. Even so, what is cool is the Infinity Gauntlet, which is Thanos’ big MacGuffin. In the first Thor movie, the signature object of a metal glove with multi colored stones in the fingers is briefly visible inside Odin’s vault. Anton Chekov once said (as advice to script writers) don’t put a gun on the stage unless you intend to fire it. The same can be said with Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet. It’s in the source material of the comics. It’s in one of the movies. Now they’ve revealed Thanos himself. My guess is Thanos will be the big bad of the movie Thor 2, and he will attempt to get his gauntlet back from Odin. With that, Thanos can wreak havoc upon all the nine realms. Should be fun.
* Atheism and The Avengers: Joss Whedon himself is a publicly declared atheist. However, the source material of The Avengers is exactly the opposite. Not only does it acknowledge ‘a’ god, but it tells the stories of multiple gods throughout several decades of published storytelling. Thor (one of the founding members of The Avengers) is described as one of the legends of Nordic lore, the god of thunder. One might think this is a contradiction, but we’re dealing with fiction. In the Thor movie (which I doubt Whedon had anything to do with) there’s a moment where this apparent contradiction is dealt with. Many centuries ago, Thor & his father visited Earth (what they refer to as Midgard) and the vikings were to impressed by their strengths and seemingly mystical prowess, they worshiped them as gods. Thor goes on to tell Jane Foster how magic and science are one and the same where he comes from, and he compares The Yggdrassil Tree of ancient nordic lore to images recently caught by the Hubble Telescope. All this is par for the course with Joss Whedon. Naturally, Loki assumes these mere mortals will bow before him at one point in the Avengers movie. An old jewish guy stands up to him, followed quickly by The Avengers themselves, all to Loki’s chagrin. At one point after Thor first arrives to spirit Loki away from Iron Man to bring Loki to Asgardian justice, Captain America grabs a parachute to chase after Thor and Iron Man before they kill each other. Black Widow cautions Cap not to fight alongside gods. “There’s only one god, ma’am,” says Steve Rogers, “and I’m pretty sure he don’t dress like that.” It’s one of my favorite lines of the film, because it typifies Captain America perfectly. There’s all kinds of gods and immortals in the mythos of Marvel Comics. There’s Hercules and Thanos and The Beyonder and Galactus and The Watcher, but no matter how big these god like characters get, in Marvel’s Universe, there’s always somebody bigger. Whedon respected that in the story telling, and I applaud him for it. Keep in mind though, in the same film, we see Hulk grab Loki by the cape and throw him about like a rag doll in a moment that brings laughter and cheers to the audiences every time. “Puny gods,” Banner’s The Other Guy is heard muttering as he leaves the all powerful Loki whimpering on the floor. This is also one of my favorite lines from the film. Whedon is not ignoring his atheism in telling this story, but he’s not shying away from it either.