I’ve interviewed Joss Whedon a couple of times, and on a few of those occasions he has talked about something I find incredibly interesting: the difference between moves and moments in storytelling. For Joss a moment is the culmination of things - character as well as plot based - that pays off what came before. It’s natural, organic, growing out of everything that came before. A move, though, is when the filmmaker reaches into the movie and makes things happen - a weird character choice, a random outside influence, a series of belabored scenes - intended to get to a payoff. A moment is something you find, a move is what you do to desperately get to that moment.
In my review of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I mentioned that the film didn’t have many of the fist-pumping moments that made The Avengers special. But it wasn’t always that way - the original script had a Hulk moment that was so good it would have been THE fist-pumping moment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It wasn’t in the final movie, and I didn’t know why. So I asked Whedon when I interviewed him a few weeks ago. But first, a note from Joss that explains why I won’t tell you what this cool thing was:
I don’t talk about it specifically because I said to Marvel, ‘You can use this in another movie! Hold on to that!’
So with the knowledge that this cool bit could still pop up in a Marvel movie, and that it would suck to spoil it, here’s Whedon giving the hard-edged explanation for why it’s not in Age of Ultron:
Sometimes what seems like a moment turns out to be a move. That turned out to be a move.
It’s a great gag, but I couldn’t justify it. We were building a lot of the final battle around it, and it was killing us. Even when we were shooting. We had to stutter-step everything else, and eventually in post I convinced them we need to jettison this concept. I knew I could write a conclusion for Bruce and Natasha that I thought would be much better storytelling, and would be a real moment.
This made me respect Whedon even more. The scene he cut was amazing on the page, and he had to know that - whether it read as a move or a moment - it would be huge with the audience. But he opted instead for the integrity of his storytelling, of making sure the whole worked instead of letting the whole suffer for the sake of one great scene. Kill your darlings, they say, and he did.