The biggest franchise in the cinematic superhero universe is The Avengers, full stop. A little more than a year from now we’ll have four of them to talk about (and you know we will). The Avengers films are truly unique; they collectively tell a single stand-alone story, and yet also comprise a set of broadly-connected, ensemble narratives spread over more than a decade.
One of the many interesting things about these mega-team-up movies is the fact that they’re the product of three men’s visions — and two of them are brothers — Joss Whedon and Joe and Anthony Russo. Together, these three men are responsible for billions — dollars are the box office and fans around the world.
That’s a huge burden for any creator to carry, but the evidence thus far shows that all three are, were, and will be up to the task.
A frequently-discussed topic around the LRM writing team is how will (or won’t) Whedon’s Avengers films and the Russo’s Avengers films fit together? Whedon is known for character and dialog, while the Russos have shown an incredible grasp of action and tension. All three know how to handle humor and relationships too. It sets the table for a fascinating (and geeky) discussion about what we can expect in the next two films, as well as how the previous two informed them.
Fortunately, we don’t have to answer this question. (Well, to be fair, we can’t… yet.) Elizabeth Olsen is one of a handful of actors who’s worked with all of these directors in the context of Marvel superhero movies, and she recently shared her insights with CinemaBlend:
“The biggest difference is that Joss wrote everything. When he writes them, he plays every single character in, like, a cabin, and he does the fighting sequences as much as he can and then he writes it. I think the main difference is that the Russos delegate, and they trust everything that they’ve delegated things to. Not saying Joss didn’t, but that’s a lot of pressure to be a director and then go home to also do rewrites for the next week. So I think it’s just as it gets bigger, things become more specific to different departments, and I think it allows maybe even a freedom within the dialogue sometimes.”
This is really insightful and might explain some of Whedon’s story and plot difficulties between The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The character count jumped significantly from the former to the latter, and Whedon struggled to balance everything (Thor, for example, had a strange and truncated arc in Age of Ultron). The Russos endured a similar jump in character count from Captain America: The Winter Soldier to Captain America: Civil War to Avengers: Infinity War, but their military-esque, distributed management style lends itself to shared roles and responsibilities in a way that seems to hold up better in bigger films — and Infinity War, as we know, has more than 50 characters.
Olsen expands on the differences between Whedon and the Russos:
“Not saying that one’s better than the other, because Joss knows these characters better than maybe each one of the individuals do, because he lives it and breathes it, and the Russos at the beginning of filming are like, ‘You’re in control of your character. If there are things you think we missed, please participate, please say.'”
Again, the Russo system seems to come out on top (and that’s not a slight against Whedon). By now, all of these actors know their characters far better than anyone else — including any single director, writer, or producer. But given the giant budgets for both of the Russo’s Avengers films it’s kind of amazing that they’d take such a hands-off approach; and yet, it makes the most sense. Imagine trying to single-handedly control every aspect of Infinity War given the scope? I’m not saying Whedon couldn’t pull it off, but if he felt “beaten down” — his words — by Age of Ultron, then Infinity War might have killed and buried him.
If Captain America: Civil War is any indication, Avengers: Infinity War will feel about as different from Avengers: Age of Ultron as the first Thor movie was to Thor: Ragnarok. Again, not a knock on Whedon, his two Avengers films are great on their own merits, but the Russos appear to have a lock on the making two of the biggest movies of all time… hopefully they’re not feeling too beaten down by the process.
Do you think it’s fair to compare Whedon’s Avengers films to the Russo’s Avengers films? Let us know in the comments down below!
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