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May 01, 2012 - Image 3

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10

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, May 1,;2012
The Michigan Daily - michigarndaily.com

13

Avengers revamps tired genre

Whedon's script to
breathe new life into
comic book heroes
By KAYLA UPADHYAYA
Senior Arts Editor
An unofficial leader of the nerd
realm, Joss Whedon has estab-
lished himself as a prolific and
venerated screenwriter on tele-
vision with the dynamic duo of
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and
"Angel" - as well as the short-
lived but ever-loved "Firefly" -
and on the big screen with cult
favorite "Serenity" and the more
recent, self-aware "Cabin in the
Woods." It's fitting that a man
with the super skills of Whedon
has stepped up to write and direct
Marvel's "The Avengers," the
much-anticipated culmination of
four years of box-office-exploding
Marvel superhero movies.
In a recent conference call in
which The Michigan Daily par-
ticipated, Whedon explained that
this is not the first time he has had
to work with pre-existing charac-
ters and stories, as he worked on
an "X-Men" movie and wrote one
of the "Alien" installments.
"Even on a TV show, even if
you're the one who established
them every time you write a
script, you're dealing with an
established universe," Whedon
said. "So it's not hard for me to fall
into the cadences of these people.
In fact, it's a lot easier when you've
already seen them being acted in
the other movies."
In "The Avengers," S.H.I.E.L.D.
director Nick Fury (Samuel L.
Jackson, "Pulp Fiction") has to
bring together a bunch of heroes
who all have superhuman pow-
ers and superhuman egos. Having
to direct a cast made of a slew of
acclaimed and talented actors,
Whedon's job as director was sim-
ilar.
"I felt very much like Nick
Fury," Whedon said. "He's the
director of S.H.I.E.L.D., literally,
and that puts him at a remove from
everybody, even if he likes them
... I'm not nearly as intelligent or
manipulative as Nick, and I didn't
have as many problems because
my actors actually wanted to be
together. They enjoy each other."
Whedon explained that he dif-

fers from Nick because he never -
at least he hopes - put his actors in
harm's way as Nick has to do with
his team.
"You do feel that responsibility
that you've gotta get all of these
people to give their best," Whedon
said. "You know, for him it's in bat-
tle and for me it's when we're roll-
ing to really, you know, come up
with their best stuff and play off
each other as well as possible. And
you have a great responsibility to
service them with your camera at
the same time. So I definitely felt
some of the pressure, but I can see
out of my left eye."
Because the film had such a
large cast, Whedon noted that
unfortunately not every pairing
got screen-time. He had difficulty
choosing a favorite combination of
characters.
"I love the Bruce Banner-Tony
Stark relationship," Whedon
explained. "Bruce Banner's the
first guy Tony Stark's come across
really who operates on his level
intellectually, who isn't a villain.
... Tony's particular attitude about
the Hulk is endearing and cool.
But I also love Tony and Steve and
how much they can't stand each
other. And I'm very invested in
Natasha and Hawkeye and their
deep, deep friendship, so ... oh, I
love them all."
In explaining how he became
attached to the project, Whedon
said he has known Marvel Studios
President Kevin Feige for a while
and has been reading comics for
even longer.
"I think Marvel has a great nose
for a director who has a passionate
vision, who's not famous for turn-
ing out big-budget hits, but will
bring something a little bit fresh
to the concept of a hero movie, and
it's one of the things that I respect
the most about them ... it just
seemed like a good fit," he said.
Though the characters and cast
will be familiar to moviegoers,
Whedon said his directorial style
is distinct and that his film won't
necessarily look like the other
Marvel movies that preceded it.
"There's no way you could make
a movie that looked like a Jon
Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joe
Johnston, Louis Leterrier movie,"
Whedon said. "I do think, you
know, the DNA of the Marvel movie
begins with 'Iron Man,' and that's

AUSTEN HUFFORD/Daily
President Obama waves to the crowd during a speech for a campaign stop at Dearborn, Mich.
Obama calls to prevent rise
in student loan interest rates

Wait ... seriously, I love you guys.
very grounded in the real. I tend to
be a tiny bit florid with my camera
work and my dialogue, but hopeful-
ly in a way that feels like a realistic
version of a comic book universe."
The more sci-fi and fantasy ele-
ments of "The Avengers" were
what drew Whedon - who has
incorporated everything from
vampires, to space cowboys, to
all-powerful evil gods in his past
work - to the story.
"Marvel was known for it's gritty
realism, and 'Spider Man' was sort
the template for 'oh, they could just
be people in New York,' " Whedon
explained. "And even though the
Avengers made their home in New
York, they were so often out in
that space and dealing with artifi-
cial intelligence, and grand beings
from another world, and gods and
monsters. And I love that element.
That's definitely a part of the film."
Whedon described the writing
process for the film as very organic.
For him, when writing a script, fig-.
uring out how things are going to

look and feel are just as importantas
the actual dialogue. Because he and
his crew were working on a tight
schedule, some of the set pieces and
action sequences had to be worked
on before the story was-put to paper.
This made it difficult to piece it all
together, but he again emphasized
the organic- and teamwork-based
nature of the process.
With dozens of larger-than-life
action films hitting the box office
this summer, Whedon explained
that he hopes his movie is a bit
more reminiscent of what summer
movies used to represent.
"I think 'The Avengers' is the
kind of movie that I grew up want-
ing to make and thought they had
stopped making," Whedon said.
"When I grew up, the summer
movie was literally created as a con-
cept, and all my life I wanted to do
something like that, something like
the first 'Indiana Jones,' something
that was steeped in character, in
love of the genre that it was por-
traying, had intelligence, had real

MARVEL
acting, had a story that unfolded
and wasn't just a sort of big premise
that you already knew going in - or
isn't based on, you know, Parcheesi
or something just because it has a
name."
About more recent summer
flicks that are more about the
spectacle than the story, Whedon
is critical.
"More and more summer movies
have felt a little cynical," Whedon
said. "There are .very, very big
exceptions to that, but that has
been the case when people throw so
much money down. ... They're not
interested in a story, they're inter-
ested in just barraging you with
excitement, and imagery, and brand
names."
He added: "Marvel doesn't
operate that way. They care about
the people. That's why they hire
some of the best actors in the busi-
ness to play their heroes. And this
is an old-fashioned movie: It's a
little bit bigger than life, but it's
very human."

President says the
issue is personal, he
graduated with debt
By JACOB AXELRAD
Editor in Chief
En route to Boulder, Colo-
rado, President Obama hosted a
conference call from Air Force
one on Tuesday with reporters
from college newspapers across
the country.
During the call, he explained
that if Congress fails to act in the
coming months, interest rates on
student loans will double by July
1.
Obama said that as many
as 7.4 million students could be
affected if the interest rate jumps
from its current 3.4 percent to an
estimated 6.8 percent by July. He
explained that for many Ameri-
can families, the increased rate
would make college unafford-
able.
"For the first time now we've
got Americans owing more debt
on their student loans than they
do on their credit cards," Obama
said.
The President said his cur-
rent tour includes the University
of North Carolina-Chapel Hill,
the University of Colorado-Boul-

der and the University of Iowa.
Obama said by visiting campuses
he hopes to reach out to students
directly on an issue that has
"never been more important."
- Obama explained that this
issue is personal for himself and
First Lady Michelle Obama.
"Students who take out loans
to pay for college graduate owing
an average of $25,000 a year," he
said. "And I know what this is
like, because when Michelle and
I graduated from college and law
school we had enormous debts,
and it took us a lot of years to pay
off (the debt)."
Obama explained that he
views the potential interest
rate rise as an issue of class and
said it is the duty of Americans
to help stop the middle class
from shrinking more than it has
already in previous years.
"We've got to build an econo-
my where everybody is getting a
fair shot, everybody is doing their
fair share, everybody is playing
by the same set of rules," he said.
"That's ultimately how the mid-
dle class gets stronger."
Following the main segment
of the conference call, Cecilia
Munoz - Assistant to the Presi-
dent and Director of the White
House Domestic Policy Council
- and Roberto Rodriguez - Spe-
cial Assistant to the President

for Education Policy - answered
questions from listening univer-
sity newspapers.
In Munoz's response to a
question from the Minnesota
Daily, she referenced the Presi-
dent's address at the Al Glick
Field House last January when
he discussed the importance of
a college degree and his plans to
alleviate student debt.
"(The President is) somebody
who understands what college
debt means in a student's life,"
Munoz said. "It hurts us eco-
nomically when students finish
with an average of $25,000 of
debt and you have to delay things
like buying a home or starting a
business."
When Spelman College asked
how Congress benefits from bat-
tling an increase in interest rate,
Munoz said it's an opportunity
for the House to demonstrate
bipartisan cooperation between
Democrats and Republicans.
By gathering support in
upcoming weeks, the White
House hopes to prove to Congress
that it has the necessary time to
pass this proposal with support
from both parties, according to
Munoz.
"The case that we're trying to
make here is that this is the kind
of thing that can get done in a
bipartisan way," she said.

COMMENCEMENT
From Page 1A
team in competition with the Wol-
verines, then some 500,000 alumni
will hunt you down and paint you
maize and blue," Gupta said.
He also said the graduates should
drink a beer at Ashley's, which was
met with applause from listeners
and prompted Gupta to offer to buy
drinks for anyone he saw out on the
night of commencement - and the
cheers continued.
Gupta told anecdotes about
his children and his experiences
reporting abroad that have put his
life at risk.
He spoke about a time when he
was in a war zone in Afghanistan
and his camp was being invaded by
enemy soldiers. He was instructed
to write a letter to his loved ones in
case of his death. He suggested the
graduates think about what they
would write in such a situation.
"I don't know what you'd write,
and maybe you've never thought
two seconds about it, but lesson
number five graduates, make sure
you can write this sentence: 'I am
who I always wanted to be,"' he
said.
As the speakers in the stadium
were still echoing Gupta's final
words, the crowd erupted with a
"Go Blue" chant. University Presi-
dent Mary Sue Coleman paused to
laugh before continuing with the
ceremony.
During a press conference after
the speech, where Gupta donned
a navy blazer and maize socks, he
said Coleman asked him to be the
commencement speaker at a foot-
ball game.
"It was a tremendous honor," he
said. "I think it was particularly
exhilarating just being in the Big
House ... because this place has pro-
found memories for me."
After the ceremony, Gupta also
said that while the current econ-
omy is challenging, he feels the
graduates have an advantage when
it comes to finding jobs with their_
degrees from the University.
"I think Michigan graduates
are pretty uniquely prepared in
our collective society," Gupta said.
"It's tough (with) the economy, but
I think Michigan grads probably
have a leg up just because of the
education they have and also the
resources in terms of the alumni."
Gupta explained during his
speech the ways he defines the
Michigan tradition, telling the
graduates to never forget what the
tradition means as they go forth in
their lives.

"It's a Michigan tradition to take
risks and, in the process, blaze new
trails," Gupta said. "It's a Michigan
tradition to always read the direc-
tions but not always to follow them,
to always prepare but sometimes
throw that preparation in the trash
allowing yourself to be surprised,
honest and genuine. It's a Michi-
gan tradition to make history and
change the world, to be immortal
not as in living forever but as never
being forgotten."
Other speakers who addressed
the crowd of about 50,000 before
Gupta's speech included LSA Asso-
ciate Dean Philip Deloria, who
spoke in place of LSA Dean Ter-
rence McDonald who was unable to
attend, Engineering graduate Julia
Brennan and Coleman.
In Deloria's remarks, he
explained the word "gumption"
to the crowd, saying all of those
graduating have it. He said though
having gumption gives one "guts"
and "wits," it is not the only aspect
graduates will need in life as they
move forward.
"Mix one part gumption with
equal parts knowledge, commit-
ment, patience and the willingness
to take a risk," Deloria said. "Stir in
a healthy portion of liberal arts and
sciences education and you have
before you a recipe for success - a
recipe to become truly one of the
leaders and best."
Brennan, who was the selected
student speaker, asked the students
to never forget their first days at
the University, which she said was
a shared experience between all of
the graduates.
"Celebrate that unsettled feel-
ing," Brennan said. "Celebrate
Michigan for instilling in us the
confidence to thrive in everything
we choose to do."
Coleman was the last to speak
before the granting of the honorary
degrees. She spoke about creativ-
ity and said the graduates will need
to adopt new ways of thinking to
change the future.
"Simply put, we expect you to
raise a few eyebrows," Coleman
said.
Honorary degrees were awarded
by the University's Board of Regents
to five University alumni, including
Gupta, who received a Doctor of
Humane Letters.
J. Ira Harris, a financier, received
an honorary Doctor of Laws, and
Richard Sarns, a biomedical engi-
neer and entrepreneur, received an
honorary Doctor of Engineering.
Susan Orlean, author and writer
for The New Yorker magazine, and
Chris Van Allsburg, author and
illustrator, received honorary Doc-
tors of Humane Letters as well.

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