It was a little less than a year ago when Avengers: Age Of Ultron hit theaters, thrilling fans of the superhero team and making Zach Snyder say, “Hmmm, that could’ve used 100 percent fewer jokes.” At the time, director Joss Whedon dove into the press blitz with his usual mix of genteel good humor and sporadic candor, elucidating in heartbreaking detail the fights he had with Marvel executives over the film. In particular, you may recall his description of the batshit-insane Thor cave sequence, which nobody liked except for the corporate middlemen intent on servicing franchise synergy, but which Whedon was forced to keep in the final cut upon pain of losing some of his key story beats.
Well, with the distance that comes from 12 months and generally seeming to be an actual decent person, Whedon is diplomatically walking back the narrative he created during those long days of media pestering. Deadline reports that during a public discussion with Mark Ruffalo held as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, Whedon says he felt bad about what was said at the time—not that it wasn’t true, mind you, but that he feels it ultimately did a disservice to a film he’s still very proud of.
Ultron, I’m very proud of. There were things that did not meet my expectations of myself and then I was so beaten down by the process. Some of that was conflicting with Marvel, which is inevitable and a lot of that was about my own work and I was also exhausted, and we right away went and did publicity. I created the narrative—wherein I’m not quite accomplished—and people just ran with (about Ultron) ‘Well it’s OK, it could be better, but it’s not Joss’ fault’ and I think that did a disservice to the movie, and to the studio and to myself. Ultimately, it wasn’t the right way to be because I’m very proud about it.
Much like how a “faux pas” in Washington D.C. is secretly defined as “a politician accidentally saying something honest,” Whedon’s explanations ring true. But those stories of clashing with execs who wanted shirtless Hemsworth right this instant, damn it, made it sound like he wasn’t proud of the film. Clearly, that’s not the case, even if—like almost every artist ever—there’s plenty about his project that still bugs him. “The things about it that are wrong frustrate me enormously,” Whedon says, “but I got to make an absurdly personal movie about humanity and what it means in a very esoteric and bizarre ways for hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact that Marvel gave me that opportunity twice is so bonkers and beautiful and the fact that I come off as a miserable failure is also bonkers, but not in a cute way.”
Part of Whedon’s public regret over being grumpy about executive meddling with his “absurdly personal movie” may be because he’s is now doing the “never say never” routine about making another superhero movie. (Something he knows a thing or two about, having dealt with Firefly fans for more than a decade.) After being super-clear that he was done with the Marvel universe, Whedon is giving a more measured and magnanimous response—understandable, since that‘s also how he’s dealing with his previous criticism of the Ultron production process. He says he hasn’t closed the door on taking another Marvel project in the future, even though he’s very happy working on his current mysterious non-Marvel ideas. Deadline has more quotes from both Whedon and Ruffalo, including the actor saying he begged Whedon to make “Avengers 3 and 4, Hulk 3, Thor 3 and Quasimodo.” Still no word, however, on that Ripper miniseries. But hey, never say never.