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Joss Whedon regrets that he brought back a character he killed

Clark Gregg in The Avengers
Clark Gregg in The Avengers

Avengers: Age Of Ultron director Joss Whedon has gotten tired of the old shtick about how he’s obsessed with killing off his characters. After all, if he’s going to bring something back, he’d much rather it be via the noble tradition of doodles on the backs of napkins. That being said, he has spoken often and repeatedly about the need for actual risks in a story, lest films lose any emotional stakes for the characters and thereby not carry weight with an audience. So it’s no surprise to hear the following news: io9 reports that Whedon regrets the fact that Agent Phil Coulson was brought back from the dead, as he feels it “take some of the punch out of it [his death scene] for me.”

Which is a statement that would probably sound more critical if wasn’t for the fact that Whedon is the one who brought Coulson back to life. And, to be fair, Whedon himself equivocates a bit on the issue: He claims that at the time it “seemed inoffensive”—which is a great way of damning with faint praise something you participated in—and says he was OK with it, “as long as it wasn’t referenced in the second movie, which it isn’t.” Of course, this being the Marvel Cinematic Universe, pretending someone is dead in a single movie doesn’t carry much weight when almost everyone in your audience knows he’s running around on television, alive as can be. Which is probably why Whedon immediately launches into a tirade familiar to anyone who has read or seen more than a couple of interviews with the director , only this time, with a nice juicy subtext of self-criticism:

There’s a thing where you can do that so many times and there’s nothing at stake. But it’s difficult because you’re living in franchise world—not just Marvel, but in most big films—where you can’t kill anyone, or anybody significant. And now I find myself with a huge crew of people and, although I’m not as bloodthirsty as some people like to pretend, I think it’s disingenuous to say we’re going to fight this great battle, but there’s not going to be any loss. So my feeling in these situations with Marvel is that if somebody has to be placed on the altar and sacrificed, I’ll let you guys decide if they stay there.

He also references bringing back characters that have been killed as part of a “grand Marvel tradition,” which is true, but the comics usually wait at least a little while before resurrecting someone they made a big production out of killing. Perhaps this is all just prelude to The Adventures of Tara, Anya, Doyle, Fred, Wesley, Shepard Book, Wash, Topher, and Paul, a future Whedon-Marvel resurrection collaboration he can also regret making a few years down the line.

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