Joss Whedon

Hulkbuster in Avengers 2

Earlier this evening the first teaser trailer for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron leaked onto the internet. In a move that makes sense, but is still unexpected based on the way most studios handle leaks, they bypassed the chasing down of legal notices and getting leaks pulled from YouTube and just released the official version. What does this mean for me and you? It means we’ve got our first look at Avengers: Age of Ultron! Official, polished, and in glorious high definition. Overwhelming excitement is the appropriate reaction here.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

The release of Avengers: Age of Ultron may be nearly a year away, but that doesn’t mean that excitement for the Joss Whedon-directed Marvel sequel isn’t already at something resembling a fever pitch. Wait, no, that’s just the sound of Marvel fans presumably already lining up for the studio’s Comic-Con presentation. Hope you brought your best air mattress, guys. In anticipation of both the film itself and the sure-to-be-massive Marvel presentation, Entertainment Weekly has spent the past few days teasing fans with details from its newest issue, one that’s covered (literally) with Age of Ultron and that contains a bevy of Comic-Con information for fans to enjoy. The new issue is crammed with a ton of information about the film — including some compelling insights into characters both new and old, some tantalizing little tidbits about its plot, and plenty of new pictures — but we’ve distilled down the basics, in case you’re just really busy or something? If you haven’t checked your mail yet, or the idea of getting over to a bookstore or newsstand seems too complicated to comprehend right now (it’s Friday, you’re tired), we’ve gathered every bit of Avengers goodness to hit the web this week, thanks to Entertainment Weekly’s massive Comic-Con issue (a double!). Feel like picking this one up now? Yeah, you probably should.

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Avengers Age of Ultron Set

The camera zooms in on a hectic street scene as percussion-soaked discordant rhythms elevate your blood pressure. An eerie green sail is lifted to tribal beats. A human the size of an ant side steps the rubble and faces forward. Everything is blurry at first, but as the clouds begin to lift, we can finally recognize a figure efficiently, almost poetically, hosing down a street. Is it a commentary on the deep dichotomy between the hurry up and wait boredom of a movie set and the end product made of pure excitement? Is it a mirror held up to our own voracious fan tendencies? Is it an indictment of movie website culture where bold names are heralded daily and ad nauseam no matter how uninteresting their latest still shot or promotional video may be? Undoubtedly, yes. Like Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” Mattia Renaldo (the well-respected video artist who’s dabbled in special effects-laced political commentary) has gone behind the scenes of Avengers: Age of Ultron in order to show us how the spandex sausage is made. Not content simply to show filmmaking at its most naked, he’s placed intense backing music to underscore and parody how thrilling we often imagine the creative process to be, despite the eye-gougingly dull reality. The juxtaposition is striking in every frame.

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In Your Eyes Film

Let In Your Eyes be a lesson that not absolutely everything that Joss Whedon touches turns to gold, even the things the beloved filmmaker and character creator writes with his own hands. Although Whedon has recently found himself some big time blockbuster cred and some serious mainstream appeal – his The Avengers is one of the highest grossing films of all time, so that’s pretty mainstream – the screenwriter and director first earned his devoted fanbase with a bevy of more clever, character-driven television shows earlier in his career. That attention to character development, personal relationships, and big ideas is evident in Brin Hill’s directorial debut, which Whedon penned, but the rest of the film willfully and completely squanders its positive attributes. A supernatural romance with roots in the real world, In Your Eyes’ singular and ambitious idea – what would happen if you could literally see through another person’s eyes? – is taken in a number of clichéd and flawed directions, and the film eventually devolves from intriguing to embarrassing.

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In Your Eyes at Tribeca

Joss Whedon was a busy man with The Avengers. But in between the writing and the shooting and the wrangling of a real, live Hulk (I’m assuming that was the real Hulk, right?), he also shot Much Ado About Nothing on his days off. Apparently Much Ado wasn’t enough, because Whedon actually had a third project in the works at the same time. In the early months of 2012, Whedon’s screenplay for In Your Eyes was being shot in New Hampshire. Not by Whedon, mind you, but by Brin Hill – and before you say, “Who?” Hill is known mostly for writing the competitive b-boy flick Battle of the Year. Somehow, Whedon found a way to oversee the production anyway, even if it was just through a tenuous psychic connection. Which, conveniently enough, is the very same plot device at the center of In Your Eyes. Starring Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) and Michael Stahl-David (the lead in Cloverfield), it’s a love story touched by a vague kind of movie mysticism. Kazan and Stahl-David fall in love despite the fact that they’ve never met and live on opposite sides of the country. Somehow, a metaphysical, psychic-ish connection is to blame. The film premieres this Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival, and Entertainment Weekly has shared the first three minutes in case you won’t be in NYC but would still like to take a look. And why wouldn’t you?

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Thanos-The-Avengers

Captain America has come and gone. Now, it’s time for the great hordes of Marvel fans to shift their attention to the next film in Marvel’s two decades of future comic book films: Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a film we really don’t know that much about. Sure, we have a trailer, but it’s a single trailer from a month and a half ago, and since then we’ve gotten so precious little. Just a “new clip,” if two seconds of new footage sewn onto half a stale trailer counts as a clip these days. And Nathan Fillion, hinting that he might have a line or two. “Check the credits,” he says, coyly. I’d check the credits if I could, Mr. Fillion. But I can’t, so instead I will languish away into a husk of my former self. But Entertainment Weekly has a big expose on Guardians of the Galaxy, and like any big print media story, it’s been savaged by digital media and stripped of all the juicy parts, long before it ever hits newsstands. So without further ado, thanks to MTV News, here’s every juicy part (suck it, print media):

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Cabin in the Woods

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kretschmann

You didn’t think that Ultron would be the only villain in the next Avengers movie just because it’s called Age of Ultron, did you? Heck no. With the try-to-top-this attitude that these big, bombastic superhero movies—and really all summer movies in general—have fully embraced over the last decade or so, any movie you try to sell to a summer audience is going to have to be bigger, louder, packed full of more heroes, and more fully swarming with ever eviler villains. To that end, Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon has decided to super-size his superhero sequel by augmenting the evil robot at the heart of his film with one of the most despicable villains both in modern fiction and in modern history—the Nazi. Or, in this case, an ex-Nazi turned current head of HYDRA. That’s right, Age of Ultron is going to include that monocled, bald-headed, Satan-Clawed king of evil, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, and it looks like Whedon and company have found the actor with enough darkness inside of him to bring the guy to life.

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paxton2

Agents of SHIELD was the new fall TV show that premiered with the largest amount of hype and carrying the burden of the largest amount of expectations this past year, and to understand why that was the case, one needs to look no further than the Marvel in its title. Not only was this a show that was being based off of a series of Marvel comics that had decades of history behind it and legions of pre-existing fans, but it was also going to be taking place in the ongoing Marvel Movie Universe, which has been putting gigantic hit after gigantic hit in the world’s multiplex theaters. Even more than that though, Agents of SHIELD was spinning right out of the events of The Avengers, which is one of the most successful movies ever made. It even had Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon attached to it as a producer and consultant, and a handful of his old cohorts from his TV days acting as showrunners and writers. This was probably the most sure-thing TV show that geek-types had ever seen. A funny thing happened after the show debuted though. Turns out nobody really liked it all that much, and over the course of the following weeks it got discussed less and less here on the Internet, which is a communications platform that was basically created so that we could look at naked people and discuss things like Agents of SHIELD.

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Joss Whedon Impossible

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cc much ado about nothing

Joss Whedon and his friends started doing readings of William Shakespeare’s plays at his house (Whedon’s, not Shakespeare’s) as long as 10 years ago, and while the idea of making a movie was bandied about it only became a reality during the busiest and most high profile time in his life. And yet he was able to adapt Much Ado About Nothing without seemingly anyone outside of the movie knowing about it. Even more surprising? It just may be the best damn thing Whedon’s ever directed. The film (and the original play) is a mix of romantic comedy and drama, and Whedon and his cast infuse it with more of both. Smart visual cues and charismatic performances fill the screen alongside the Bard’s original words, and the result is a film that should leave you smiling for days. Now, thanks to Whedon’s commentary track, we’ve learned a lot more about Much Ado About Nothing.

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Agents of SHIELD The Asset

There’s an old theory by the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel that I’ve always been fond of: tragedy doesn’t arise from a battle between good versus evil, but from good versus good. That wrenching feeling the audience experiences having to choose between two noble actions is essential to the tragic. Though the end of “The Asset” wasn’t framed as a particularly tragic one, Coulson and Hall’s (Ian Hart) debate between the immediate versus the future-oriented plans to neutralize gravitonium lends credence to the power of Hegel’s definition. Hall, taking the long view, wanted to sink the island of Malta, along with everyone on it, so that the potent element would be out of reach, and thus couldn’t be exploited. But Coulson (seemingly) destroyed Hall to save himself and his team, opting to contain the gravitonium (ugh, that name) and lock it away forever in a vault. Which, in a superhero universe, means twiddling one’s thumbs until the villain breaks out of his cage or one of his allies launches a rescue mission to retrieve him at some future date. (Also, I know SHIELD doesn’t yet know that Hall is still alive, but how do prisoners in glass cages go to the bathroom? Do the guards just politely look away?)

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

It may be hard to believe, but there are still people out there — people with Netflix accounts, even — who’ve never seen an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A lot of these people are younger and missed its first run because they were in bed by 8pm when the series initially aired on the WB; others were put off by the vampires but later drawn to Joss Whedon via Firefly, The Avengers, Much Ado About Nothing (yes, really), or simply Whedon’s reputation as one of TV’s most beloved auteurs. Premiering two years before The Sopranos, Buffy pioneered many of the features of today’s prestige dramas: intense serialization; ambitious multi-year storylines (hi, Dawn!); self-contained, season-long mysteries; the now-common practice of having the season climax occur in the penultimate episode (see Buffy Season 4); and its own highly idiosyncratic vernacular. Despite its influence — and Buffy‘s status as one of my favorite shows ever — I find it increasingly difficult to recommend the show to friends. Whedon’s mediocre Agents of SHIELD doesn’t help, but the main reason is that each season contains so much filler, and each episode is structured so formulaically. Buffy‘s greatest strengths are the steady accrual of tension over a 22-episode arc and the wonderfully leisurely development of the teen characters (i.e., watching Buffy, Willow, Xander, even Anya and Faith grow up from children to adults). But the bigger pictures that make the show so wonderful are hardly visible in most episodes.

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Agents of SHIELD 084

I’m willing to be patient with Joss Whedon’s shows. The first seasons of Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse were each series’ worst. (Firefly, of course, only had the one season.) But Whedon’s intended pilots for his two most recent shows, Firefly and Dollhouse, were confident introductions to characters and a universe that we were joining in medias res, not still being sketched out from scratch. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s second episode, however, taught me to lower my expectations for this series. Written by Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell, “0-8-4″ was nothing short of embarrassing — from the hammy, cliched dialogue and the obvious plot twists to the forced, programmatic story arc and the paper-thin, never-not-yammering characters. The one improvement from the pilot is that the show looks slightly less cheap; unlike last week’s installment, this episode actually seemed to have a budget. (What is it about Whedon’s shows that they all have that bargain-basement look?)

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I can’t be the only one stricken with flashbacks to the 90s by the Agents of SHIELD pilot. When gruff G-man Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) self-seriously intones, “We protect people from the news they aren’t ready to hear,” I half-wondered whether he would grow up to be the Cigarette-Smoking Man in The X-Files. SHIELD dredges up the same debates between secretiveness, effectiveness, and safety on the one hand, and transparency and freedom on the other, that its paranoia-fueled predecessor fostered and thrived in. Those debates, which are more topical than ever, are framed in a whole new way, though: it’s the “good guys” who justify cover-ups and their antagonist, a bouncy hacker named Skye (Chloe Bennet), who fights for exposure. More than anything else, the pilot of Agents of SHIELD is a mission statement: there’s a battle between “the truth” versus “world peace.” (We can hash out in the comments how necessary or artificial this dichotomy is; I sure hope the show will address it at some point.) Also borrowed from The X-Files is a fear of government omnipotence and omniscience. Skye’s broadcasted questions — “How will you come at us? From the air? From the ground? How will you silence us this time?” — are legitimately scary, though the goofy-serious delivery softens the impact. Perhaps even more creepy, though, is SHIELD’s obsession with surveillance and identification, as when Mike (J. August Richards) is categorized as “an unregistered gifted.” And there are layers of secrets within SHIELD itself: though Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is the leader of his team, he himself suffers from […]

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James Spader

In news that makes perfect sense when you think about it, Marvel has announced that James Spader has been cast as the maniacal sentient robot Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This comes as a different sort of role for the actor, who generally plays maniacal human beings. Marvel did not reveal whether or not Spader would be performing motion-capture, as Mark Ruffalo does to play The Hulk or Vin Diesel will do for Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, or just providing his voice to the character. Regardless, it’s sure to be unnerving. Slap a cardboard box robot costume on Spader and it would probably still be an effective villain. Spader seems well-suited for the role, which writer-director Joss Whedon modified just a bit (as our own Scott Beggs recently wrote about). Think of Ultron as artificial intelligence with a God complex. He’s a robot with feelings. Horrible, horrible feelings. But he’s also no longer magical: “He’s always trying to destroy the Avengers, goddamn it, he’s got a bee in his bonnet, Whedon said. “He’s not a happy guy, which means he’s an interesting guy. He’s got pain. And the way that manifests is not going to be standard robot stuff. So we’ll take away some of those powers because at some point everybody becomes magic, and I already have someone [a new character, Scarlet Witch] who’s a witch. As a character I love him because he’s so pissed off.”

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Adam West Batman

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Avengers Animatics

A group of villagers trudging through the jungle, a convoy carrying some heavy weaponry and a mysterious quadriplegic, Iron Man causing vehicles to crash and guns to be drawn. This isn’t how The Avengers re-introduced Tony Stark to the world, but it could have been. Comic Book Movie has scored four fantastic animatics (which you can watch below) from Federico D’Alessandro who did the work of bringing the 2010 and 2011 script drafts to graphite life. There’s a thrilling tunnel chase, a devastating arrow from Hawkeye, an evil Jarvis, and an extended final battle sequence, but maybe the most bittersweet lost element is the brief glimpse we get at Joss Whedon‘s take on Wasp. She could have been a major part of the movie, but her inclusion was dropped as development progressed. She may be around for future Marvel adventures, but for now she survives in these scrapped sequences.

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elizabeth-olsen-cannes-festival-25

We’ve known for months that Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver would be newest addition to the Avengers in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Aaron Taylor-Johnson has been circling the Quicksilver role for what feels like years, but it looks like his superheroine sister has beaten him to the punch. Elizabeth Olsen, the younger (and far more talented) sister of the Olsen twins and star of Martha Marcy May Marlene and the upcoming Oldboy and Godzilla reboots, is now in final talks for the role. Scarlet Witch (who, along with her brother Quicksilver, have been a members of the Avengers since the 1960’s) has one of the most bizarre superpowers in Marvel Comics – specifically, the ability to cast hexes and manipulate probabilities. That sounds excruciatingly dull, I know; normally it translated into magically wishing bad luck upon her opponents via collapsing floors, exploding gas mains or misfiring weapons. In recent years she’s been upgraded a few times, to the extent that she can now alter the very fabric of reality.

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Ultron

In just about every comic incarnation, Ultron is Godlike in power. Imagine a structural ability, and Ultron has a heightened version of it — speed, strength, durability, laser eyes, flight, fighting tactics. After all, the thing is made out of adamantium, intelligence and rage. All of that is great when you’re looking for a villain to battle a group of incredible beings because 1-on-6 makes for an uninteresting story when the 1 isn’t crushingly formidable. At the same time, making your baddie too powerful is a recipe for disaster, and Joss Whedon understands the eye of the needle he has to thread the evil (misunderstood?) robot through for The Avengers: Age of Ultron. “I knew right away what I wanted to do with him,” Whedon told EW. “He’s always trying to destroy the Avengers, goddamn it, he’s got a bee in his bonnet. He’s not a happy guy, which means he’s an interesting guy. He’s got pain. And the way that manifests is not going to be standard robot stuff. So we’ll take away some of those powers because at some point everybody becomes magic, and I already have someone [a new character, Scarlet Witch] who’s a witch.” A fair point. You don’t want The Avengers fighting an angry version of Superman in a world without Kryptonite, but with Thor flying around, it’s clear that we’re over the science vs. magic debate concerning the “realism”-dedicated Marvel movies. Still, stripping away some of the circuits so that Ultron isn’t an inch […]

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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