While the second biggest opening weekend in domestic cinema history doesn’t seem like painfully coming up short, Avengers Age of Ultron failing to beat The Avengers for opening weekend gross seems to have shocked many people. Personally I blame Floyd Mayweather, as he should be blamed and punished for all the world’s ills, but Vulture’s Kyle Buchanon has a more in-depth examination of possible causes, including: the fight; the downbeat marketing campaign; the been there done that phenomenon; the mixed critical and fan reaction; and…maybe the superhero movie fatigue we’ve all been expecting:
I have no doubt that comic-book movies will continue to make bank, including the looming, two-part Avengers: Infinity War — I just think they’ll be hard-pressed to reach the massive totals that superhero movies made when this shtick all felt a little fresher. The peril to the shared cinematic universe is that they can get awfully packed with stray story lines as time goes on, and all the comic-book minutiae that Age of Ultron expects you to know will be doubled and quadrupled in the years to come, keeping the casual moviegoer at arm’s length. Geeks may cheer as the Avengers add more recruits, but as the Marvel universe grows more populated, the domestic box office for this top-heavy franchise may have topped out.
I’m not sure that adding more and more Marvel characters is the reason for this fatigue—most everyone thought the new Vision was the funnest thing in the movie—but there’s no escaping the fact that the movie was kind of…a marketing plan in search of a story. Even the biggest boosters are now saying that whaddya expect, it was just a great set-up for Avengers: Infinity War….meaning we sat through two and half hours of elements that are just priming the pump for two more movies in three years time that will probably end up setting us up for Avengers: The Clone Saga, and…where does it end?
I’ll admit, one of my favorite things in the movie was the whole Andy Serkis/Klaw segment because unlike many people Andy Serkis does a mean Afrikaner accent, and his whole schtick was over the top and…fun. But let’s get real. Was there ANY STORY REASON for that whole segment other than setting up the Black Panther movie? And setting up the also unnecessary Hulkbuster battle?
The other day I joked to someone that superhero movie fatigue will set in for real whenever they release a Wonder Woman movie…or a Black Panther movie. But I think as entertaining as it was, the noisy, shapeless Age of Ultron may be where the cracks first appeared.
But then again, it WAS the second biggest opening ever even though half the population had to take Sunday off to watch a boxing match.
Even if the public doesn’t have Superhero Movie Fatigue, it’s pretty clear that Joss Whedon does. His three-year contract with Disney is reportedly up in June, and in interviews he hasn’t worked very hard to hide that he’s burnt on all that universe running.
AND NOW SPOILERS
In a just released podcast with Empire magazine, Whedon opens up about many things, including variant scenes, whether you-know-who may have lived, and how much he had to fight to retains the scenes down on Hawkeye’s farm. Vulture has a transcript of some of the best bits:
Whedon explained to Empire that Thor’s cave scene caused a weird sort of chain-reaction drama. Initially, Whedon wanted Thor’s interaction with Erik Selvig to be much more fleshed out, with “Thor getting answers, but he doesn’t have to ask the questions. He’s the guy giving the answers. And [Chris Hemsworth] gets to do something exciting as an actor. And he’s got his fucking shirt off, so everybody wins.” But Marvel execs wanted Whedon to whittle this scene down because it didn’t play well with test audiences. “The dreams were not an executive favorite, either. The dreams, the farmhouse, these were the things I fought to keep.” Although Whedon talks about some of his filmmaking haggling in Avengers diplomatically, he admitted that when it came down to keeping his favorite scenes, things got unpleasant and he had to pick his battles. For instance: “They pointed a gun to the farm’s head. They said, ‘Give us the cave, or we’ll take out the farm.'” Yikes.
This level of filmmaking by committee is of course standard for the MCU and it comes as no surprise, but even though Whedon wanted to make the film MORE crowded by teasing Captain Marvel and Spidey (but contracts weren’t signed) we are getting a little bit into Spider-Man 3 territory here with characters being shoehorned in whether necessary to the director’s ideas or not. And that eventually makes flat, listless movies which fans reject.
Just to cap everything, Whedon quit twitter yesterday, which, given his uneasy relationship with the internet and social media, isn’t really a surprise. There were definitely a lot of ugly comments on Avengers, but Whedon, like all famous people with more than a million followers, gets abuse and dumbass fronting all the time, so it’s not clear if this was the trigger for the removal. A previous EW interview suggests that he was ready to quit months ago::
EW: You’ve quit?
WHEDON: I joined six months ago to specifically try to drive business to Much Ado About Nothing because I figured Much Ado needs all the help it can get. The moment I joined, oh my God, what a responsibility, this is enormous work—very fun, but it really started to take up a huge amount of my head space. I’m making a movie, I got a responsibility, this job doesn’t pay very well. It’s a fascinating medium, it’s a fascinating social phenomenon. People are like, ‘It’s like a drug.’ Yeah, and it’s like a job. It’s just another art form. Until I have a script I truly believe in or a tweet that’s really remarkable, I can just walk away and get back to the storytelling I need to do.
As the exhausted, gaffe strewn media tour for Age of Ultron showed, making these movies is exhausting, Whedon has seemed exhausted for a while, and he deserves a break.
Of course, that didn’t stop GGaters from painting Whedon as the victim of crazy feminists who drove him away by calling him a hypocrite. Or some actual feminists being disappointed with some of the aspects of the Black Widow character in the film. Because there is nothing in the world that can’t become part of GGate,
Joss Whedon may have the right idea after all.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.