Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones have all proven themselves as worthy entries into Marvel’s pantheon of shared live-action properties. But in a new interview, Avengers and Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon says that the world of Marvel film and TV isn’t quite as connected as it is at first glance.
We covered Whedon’s comments during an Oxford Union Q&A about his departure from the Marvel movies this morning, but the full interview, which you can find embedded below is packed with interesting nuggets of information... information that paints a picture that the connective tissue between the Marvel movies and Marvel TV is a lot sparser than you’d imagined (or, frankly, Marvel would like you to think for the sake of its “all-connected” Cinematic Universe).
The interesting comments first appear around the 11-minute mark, when Whedon responds to criticism of comments he made during the press tour for Age of Ultron last year, where he unequivocally said that Phil Coulson—who perished at Loki’s hands in The Avengers, only to be resurrected as the star of Agents of SHIELD—was, in the realm of the movies, dead as a Clark-Gregg-shaped dodo:
You know who loved hearing that was Clark Gregg [audience laughter]. He was super thrilled. I do think that there is an element for somebody who consumes all the Marvel product that it might take the punch out, but generally I feel like the SHIELD audience and The Avengers audiences are not actually the same group, necessarily. No, I don’t regret bringing back Phil Coulson because he’s Clark Gregg, and he’s so bad ass.
That was an aspect of it that became a headline in the internet, because that’s what they do. It was sort of, ‘Oh, that’s the meanest thing he’s said, let’s use that.’ You have to go, ‘Well, okay, if you take it back in TV, does it take it back in film?’ That was the the thing, because it came from, ‘Why wasn’t he in the second film?’ I’m like, ‘Because I have time to explain that.’ It’s like, ‘In addition to introducing nineteen new characters, this guy’s alive again .’ I couldn’t do that, so… It’s an aspect of it, but it’s a small one. It’s not how I feel about it.
Even if you didn’t appreciate the bluntness, Whedon is right—so far, much of the actual sharing between the two halves of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been elements from the films having an impact on TV, rather than the other way around.
Later on in the Q&A, Whedon gets even less subtle, stating that the TV shows essentially get the scraps left over from the films, while revealing that at some point Agents of SHIELD planned on using Loki’s staff as a major plot point:
With a TV show, you just have to... you just have to be careful. Which, unfortunately just means the TV show gets, you know, leftovers. One of the first things they said was ‘We got a great idea! We’ll use Loki’s scepter!’ And I’m like ‘Yeah … um, hold that thought.’
It’s the most tacit acknowledgement of the gap between Marvel film and TV we’ve had so far, but definitely not the first. After all, according to former Daredevil showrunner Steven DeKnight, the series planned to use the Linda Carter incarnation of the comic character Night Nurse, only to be told that she was off limits (most likely for use in Doctor Strange), leading to the use of Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple instead:
The feature side had plans for her down the road so that was the only time we ran into a conflict. So we just used another name.
And more recently, the Russo brothers discussed the difficult logistics that might leave the Netflix heroes—Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, collectively known as the Defenders—out of a possible cameo in the Avengers: Infinity War duology:
When we start to serialize the telling of stories it’s difficult. You have to have a lot of control and focus on the course of history. The films are controlled by a group led by Kevin Feige, so they function as a unit. Other products, even if they are from Marvel, are controlled by others.
But Whedon has definitely been the most open when it comes to the acknowledgement so far—and outside of official word straight from Marvel, it seems like this will be the most we get on the matter. It’s a shame that it has to be like this, but it ultimately makes sense; to Marvel, it’s the films that are the driving force of their successes. The TV ventures are simply a happy bonus, as much as they might try to (and, in terms of quality, have the right to) position themselves on an equal level.