Joss Whedon: Mixing Fascism With Heart In Superhero Movies

Some wise words on the challenges of blockbuster movie making from the director of THE AVENGERS.

Are you sick of seeing cities blown up? Joss Whedon thinks you are. 

"People have made it very clear that they are fed up with movies where entire cities are destroyed, and then we celebrate," he tells Huffington Post. But at the same time that destruction is kind of what they crave, and it's what makes for the trailer moments that bring audiences into theaters in the first place. As Whedon works on The Avengers: Age of Ultron where robot villain Ultron schemes to wipe out humanity, he understands the dichotomy. 

"You're in a constant state of being pulled both ways at all times," he said, "You're trying to make a populist film with fascist iconography that is just bigger, and better, and longer, and trying to break that down and find a weakness and humanity."

I like that self-awareness, that he sees both sides of the coin. As much as we might complain about 'destruction porn,' we like seeing things blown up... artfully. And with meaning. Too many filmmakers just level a city because the FX house will let them do it. Look at the destruction of London in GI Joe: Retaliation - it's a fucking cutaway! It's a visual FX sequence they had in the can and so they barely worked it into the movie. Or look at Man of Steel, a movie that has become the centerpiece of the 'destruction porn' debat - it has a humongous amount of chaos and destruction but seems unwilling to actually give it any weight. There's no sense of what all of that means in the movie, it's just cool visuals. 

What does this mean for Age of Ultron? Well, there's plenty of destruction in that film, and some of it is so comic book-y your head is going to spin. But I think Whedon showed in The Avengers that he understands the line - by having Cap saving civilians and Iron Man 'sacrificing' himself to keep the nuke out of New York, he made it clear that he was aware of the collatoral aspect of a superbrawl. And he also made it clear he loves superbrawls. As he put it in his HuffPo interview:

"Now, I watched 'The Dark Knight' and I thought of that as riffing on the genre. That was a superhero movie as 'The Godfather.' And I was like, 'But I just still want to see a superhero movie!' We had just gotten the technology to make it awesome, and I wasn't ready to be post-modern about it yet."