Posted April 19, 2012 by Paula Hammond - Features Editor in Features
 
 

Joss Whedon


If you think that footballer Zinedine Zidane is a Marvel supervillian or that Rogers and Hammerstein are characters out of 2000 AD’s ABC Warriors, then you’re in good company. The Geek Star is in the ascendance and, in the last five years, geeks have stepped out of the closet and into the limelight.

If
you think that footballer Zinedine Zidane is a Marvel supervillian or that
Rogers and Hammerstein are characters out of 2000 AD’s ABC Warriors, then
you’re in good company. The Geek Star is in the ascendance and,
in the last five years, geeks have stepped out of the closet and into the
limelight. Angelina Jolie
has admitted that she once had a crush on
Star Trek’s Mr Spock. Mila Kunis famously
plays World of Warcraft. Jerry Seinfeld is
a Superman buff. Kevin Smith collects
comics. It’s official. It’s chic to be a geek.

The world wasn’t always such an enlightened
place. Remember those schoolyard taunts? The shame of those secret comic-buying
urges? How times have changed. In fact, this weekend, looks like being
Nerdvana. This weekend marks not just the annual Sci-Fi London costume parade, where geeks go forth in something
shiny and figure hugging, but the launch of Marvel’s newest and hottest super
hero movie – Avengers Assemble.

FilmJuice was at the official Press Launch at
Claridge’s, along with Producer Kevin
Feige
, Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man),
Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawk Eye), Chris Hemsworth
(Thor), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cobie Smulders (Agent
Maria Hill) and Gregg Clark
. However, according to Gregg (who plays Agent
Phil Coulson) the success of the movie is not so much due to the impressive
ensemble cast but the man he dubbed the “King of the Geeks”, Director Joss Whedon.

Whedon has achieved cult status, thanks to his
work on Buffy and Firefly, but unsympathetic directors
and unnecessary rewrites have plagued his relationship with Hollywood.
According to an interview in In Focus Magazine, just two of his lines remained
in the final rewrite of the X-Men movie.
Other work on Speed and Toy Story remained uncredited. So,
Avengers Assemble has been a huge leap of faith for both Marvel and Whedon. Thankfully,
the decision to let Joss unleash his inner geek, looks to have delivered
dividends.

According to Producer Kevin Feige one of the
reasons for choosing Whedon was his knowledge of comics, his ability to
appreciate the medium, and deliver what the fans want. “It starts”, Kevin
commented, “with wanting to replicate the experience that comic book readers
have had for years … and Joss recently described how his sense of pacing came
from turning the pages in a comic. How, every time you turn a page, there’s
something new, something else to catch your eye. His scene structure was
informed by that.”

The
task facing Whedon was vast.
Not only did he have
to assimilate 40 years of Avengers Comics back story, but he had to be faithful
to the movies already made, while allowing a cast, all playing big-personality
characters, to shine. “Luckily”, Kevin commented, “Joss Whedon, our Director
and Writer extraordinary, was really, really good at assimilating all that
material but … the best thing about Joss is, in all of his work, that the
characters rise to the top. And certainly when you look at the cast assembled before
you right now, we wanted them to shine more than the visual effects. More than
the explosions, which of course you need in a movie like this. Joss never loses
sight of that and frankly my favourite moments in this movie are just the
performances.”

Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki, agreed. “Yes,
the incredible screenplay is an achievement in itself. It’s simply phenomenal.
We weren’t sure what to expect. How do
you get all of these super heroes in one film? And I take my hat of him for
that because that was probably his hardest job. It must have made directing
seem like a walk in the park. Or, if not a walk, maybe a light jog!
But he
was incredibly open and that’s really all you want as an actor. You want to
collaborate. Everyone has a degree of ownership about the characters they play
and Joss is very respectful of that possession. He knows that we’ve all lived
under the skins of our characters for some time, so he was constantly asking
‘does this feel right’, ‘is this true to you’, ‘is this in your voice?’ But
most of the time I was just turning up and saying the very brilliant lines
which he’d written on my behalf.”

A film written and directed by the King of the
Geeks, and aimed squarely at the comic book market, is certain to attract
intense fan speculation and it’s been a mixed ride for those involved.

Tom Hiddleston again: “We’re lucky enough to
have a fan base. So often you put your heart and soul into a film, and you
really care about it, and you think it’s half decent and you turn up and no one
wants to see it. We’re lucky in that we already have people who love the
characters as much, if not more, than we do. And I find it thrilling that there’s a persistent passion for the
material
. It’s a privilege to have people who care so much. Rather than be
paralysed by what they think, it’s fun to deliver what you think they might
enjoy.”

For Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk, stepping
into Ed Norton’s shoes was more
challenging. “I was overcome by a moment of very poor judgement early on, by
going online and seeing the response to me stepping in for the new Banner. I
won’t do that again! It wasn’t
glowing and I found the fans exuberant passion to be very, very brutal. I hope
we’ve amended that.” Mark is also a comic fan and despite that initial fan
feedback, it was a role he relished, particularly as he will be the first actor
to play both Banner and the Hulk. A process he called “intensive … It was
motion capture … I was by myself most of the time … wearing a leotard.
Which makes all the wrong places look big and all the rights places look
small!”

Again, Mark was quick to cite Whedon’s influence
in helping bring his vision of the Hulk to life. “As a kid I was a Hulk fan,
particularly a fan of the TV show. I talked to Joss about it and he said he
wanted to return to the Bill Bixby kind of world. The charm of the man on the
run, but still trying to live his life, fall in love and have a sense of humour
about himself. I loved Joss’ take on it but I loved becoming the big green rage
machine.” It’s likely that, once they’ve seen Mark’s superb take on the
character, the fans will too.

For once, it looks like Joss Whedon has been
able to make the film that he wanted to, which is, surely, another sign that
geek power is on the rise. All hail the King of the Geeks!

Special
thanks to Chris Pattmore for his help on this feature.


Paula Hammond - Features Editor

 
Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com