Just yesterday, I covered a story where comics writer Mark Millar compared putting together a crossover book to "passing a very difficult stool," and that was based on tying together various books and characters. What about cinematically? Director Joss Whedon, long credited as the creative mastermind who's been able to take producer Kevin Feige's master plan and make it come alive, says that Avengers: Age of Ultron has been a bit of a nightmare. Not only does he have to weave in the stars of four separate franchises, but he's got new heroes to introduce/develop, and he has to sew the seeds for another Marvel epic, Captain America: Civil War.
"Shoot me in the face! It is a nightmare. I long for the simple movies like Serenity!" Whedon told SFX. "This is the hardest juggling act I have ever, ever tried to pull off." The primary challenge? Weaving together characters and mythologies that are so different, and making them feel like they can exist in the same world. "They’re very disparate characters. The joy of the Avengers is they really don’t belong in the same room. It’s not like the X-Men who are all tortured by the same thing and have similar costumes," he explained. "These guys are just all over the place. And so it’s tough. Honestly, this is as tough as anything I’ve ever done, and I haven’t worked this hard since I had three shows on the air."
That's not to say that he's not having fun getting to play with all of these neat toys in his playpen. One character, in particular, that he's had fun bringing to life is Mark Ruffalo's Hulk. The director points to advances in technology, and in budget, that have allowed him to really work the fan-favorite character into the DNA of the movie.
"There is more Hulk in this movie than there was in the [first one]. But what I’m excited about is we shot this movie very differently. I was running a lot of cameras, I was shooting long lenses, which I don’t usually do," Whedon said. He's referring to the fact that rendering the character was such an endeavor on the first one that he had to treat his Hulk shots sparingly and for maximum effect. "What I love is we have the opportunity, because we went in with this mission statement, to shoot the Hulk like a character in a movie, and not like a ‘Look what we’ve got!’ We have ‘overs’ – blurry ‘Hulk’s over there!' Bits, very quick shots," he enthused. "Everything isn’t ‘We built the Hulk so for god’s sake you’re going to watch him in this long take, full frame, the whole time!’ We really got to make him one of the characters in the movie. And that was a gift."
So while this has been a tough assignment, it still sounds like Whedon is relishing the perks of the job and is as engaged as ever. Still, it's not a surprise that he's ready to take a breather. When asked if he'd be back for the Infinity Wars films, he famously said back in January, "I couldn't imagine doing this again. It's enormously hard, and it would be, by then, a good five years since I created anything that was completely my own." While he's stated he would like to stay involved in some capacity, there's a strong likelihood that Avengers: Age of Ultron will be the last time we see Whedon in the driver's seat of a Marvel film for a while.