As writer/director Joss Whedon prepares The Avengers: Age of Ultron for summer 2015, the 49-year-old geek icon might set up The Avengers sequel movie to be the darker middle portion of a movie trilogy. Ever since the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1981, almost every sequel that followed tried to go dark, just like the Star Wars sequel, which is regarded by many as the best film of the franchise. But while Joss Whedon likes Empire , he also thinks it has one glaring flaw.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Whedon’s conversation ranges from The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the new S.H.I.E.L.D. series on ABC. He also calls The Empire Strikes Back and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II two sequels that “got it right.” But the element of Empire that rubs Whedon the wrong way is its half-hearted ending. Here’s Whedon:
‘Empire committed the cardinal sin of not actually ending,’ Whedon noted to EW. ‘Which at the time I was appalled by and I still think it was a terrible idea.’ To which the EW interviewer blurted: ‘You think Empire had a bad ending?’
‘Well, it’s not an ending,’ Whedon explained about the 1980 film, which had a cliffhanger leading into the next entry of the series, Return of the Jedi. ‘It’s a Come Back Next Week, or in three years. And that upsets me. I go to movies expecting to have a whole experience. If I want a movie that doesn’t end I’ll go to a French movie. That’s a betrayal of trust to me. A movie has to be complete within itself, it can’t just build off the first one or play variations.’
Is Whedon right about the ending of The Empire Strikes Back? I didn’t watch The Empire Strikes Back until well after the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, so I can’t weigh-in on the three-year cliffhanger. I can imagine it being frustrated to see our group of heroes’ storylines unresolved at the end of the film, but I don’t think it takes away the power of the movie.
The Empire Strikes Back is a darker film and shows that not everything will work out at the end. Director Irvin Kershner, screenwriters Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, and George Lucas did a great job managing the film’s story against audience expectations. That said, I don’t think you could get away with something like that today.
The Wachowskis did something similar with the ending of The Matrix: Reloaded. The ending of the film is even more of an abrupt (and unsatisfying) cliffhanger than Empire‘s ending. However, that cliffhanger left audiences hanging for a considerably shorter period, with only six months between the release of The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions. If Revolutions wasn’t going to be released for another three years, it would have been even more disappointing than how The Matrix sequels did turn out.
But taking the above quote from Joss Whedon into consideration, the ending of The Avengers: Age of Ultron will probably not have an abrupt, unresolved ending like The Empire Strikes Back. But seeing how Whedon’s film is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the window between films will also be much shorter than three years. Movies from Marvel Studios are never meant to stand completely alone, but rather fit together into one cohesive, ongoing experience.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron will hit theaters everywhere on May 1, 2015, in 3D.