It’s the third-highest grossing film of all time (and no, Dark Knight Rises is not going to overtake it) and one of the best-loved films of the year. The Avengers (whether they Assemble or not) blew us all away, and we were thrilled when we heard that Joss Whedon would return to write and direct Avengers 2. But what should he be thinking about as he starts work? Cheekily, entirely-unasked and utterly superfluously to requirements, we thought we’d come up with some advice for their second outing…
We call this “the X-Men pitfall”. The first X-film had a core group of six good guys and four bad guys (two of whom barely did more than growl). By the third film we were up to ten core good guys and six bad guys. X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, about that famous lone wolf Canuck, had 10 core characters, about eight more than we wanted to see. X-Men: First Class had 14 principals. The Avengers is already running with six team members and two (remaining) support staff, not to mention various love-interest hangers on from the individual franchises and whatever villains rock up to the party: we do not need more than that. The great strength of the first film was that it focused on character and the interplay between the team. Surely there’s more to play with there without adding new Avengers to the mix? But if you absolutely must add someone, make it a girl.
If there’s a criticism to be levelled at the first film (something of which this writer remains to be convinced) it’s that the bad guys were a little identikit. Maybe this time what we need is a more singular menace, something impossibly terrifying and clearly unbeatable. Thanos, hidden away in the end credits of the first film, is an obvious contender, but if he crops up in Thor: The Dark World or Guardians Of The Galaxy instead, Whedon could do worse than considering Ultron (the robotic creation of an Avenger, who decides to destroy all organic life) or Korvac (a rather tragic figure who starts human, turns cyborg, gains the Power Cosmic and ends up sacrificing himself for love after a huge body count). One stupidly powerful big bad, who can create or manifest multiple obstacles for the team to fight as necessary, is probably the way forward rather than armies of faceless foot-soldiers. And we don’t want a super-villain team up because it’s such a yawn to establish – even with two or three films between now and Avengers 2 to start the job.
Having said all that about streamlining and avoiding multiple bads, we don’t want to do without Loki, the sneering, manipulative yin to the Avengers’ yang. Arguably no other villain has proved so consistently troublesome to the team, and of course sidelining Tom Hiddleston’s character would result in the concentrated fury of his legions of Hiddlestoners landing on Disney’s head (well, he did always say he had an army). Also, he’s great fun. Loki’s mind games keep everyone on their toes, he has a way with words and – like any little brother – he is particularly adept at upsetting his big brother Thor’s equilibrium, which helps the balance of the story by keeping the most powerful team member (discuss) on edge. What’s more, this manipulative rotter is the kind of character that Whedon can sink his teeth into and play with brilliantly (consider, if you will, Buffy's Spike or Angelus). Finally, we're keen to hear what obscure rude words he can bring to the party this time.
The great joy of the first Avengers was that we’d all happily have sat and watched these characters bicker for two hours. So maybe focus on that, just a bit. Of course, there has to be action – no one’s going to make a $250m movie about off-duty superheroes eating shawarma – but the extent to which it’s the be-all and end-all can be overstated. There’s no question that you need one (or preferably two) genuinely jaw-dropping set pieces (see a few examples here) but you don’t need hours and hours of action. If you hit a couple well enough, that’s all anyone will talk about as they leave the cinema, and only the very curmudgeonly will quibble about the percentage of action to dialogue, before being told to shut up and go watch a Michael Bay film instead.
The best thing to do, as always if you’re a half-decent filmmaker, is to ignore all the advice and do your own damn thing. Which we’re pretty sure is what Joss Whedon is doing. The only person he really needs to be in discussions with is Kevin Feige (also an essential part of conceiving this mega-cross-franchise) and we can only hope that he’s ignoring advice from every other source going – including us. Not that he needs us to tell him that. He’s shown throughout his career that he’d rather do his own thing than compromise his story, which is why we love him and why we’re really rather looking forward to this movie. Rock on May 2015!