Can you guess which movies Whedon said inspired The Avengers?

Joss Whedon's projects are such a whirlwind of pop culture that it's sometimes hard to pin down exactly where his influences lie. That's not a bad thing, but when it comes to The Avengers, Whedon's willing to tell us in advance which films he looked to for inspiration. Hint: they're not sci-fi.

A big part of The Avengers was always going to be finding an effective way to put the team together, and that's what Marvel wanted from Whedon from the moment he began work on the project. To illustrate his approach, he brought up one of the great team-up films of all time.

"The first movie I referenced when Marvel asked me what I'd do if they gave me the script was The Dirty Dozen," Whedon said. "People forgot, but that movie is an hour and a half of training and 20 minutes of Nazi fighting. It helped me to say, you can have time to let these people get to know each other; their conflict can be as interesting as their conflict with the villain."

But that doesn't mean Whedon's skimping on the action to make way for the strain of team-building and the angst of learning to work together. When it came time to take Earth's Mightiest Heroes into battle, he had another powerful influence in mind: Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down.

"That's when I realized we needed a war movie," he said. "With this many heroes, the only way you can really earn them—earn the idea that they are heroes—is that you put them through a meat grinder."

In the same interview (which will pop up in the May issue of Total Film), Whedon took the time to address the film's own references to the rest of the Marvel universe. There's no doubt The Avengers is a watershed movie with big implications for the rest of Marvel's cinematic world, but Whedon promises it's not a flick that's all about cameos and inside jokes.

"This isn't the kind of movie where we're going to wink at the audience," he said. "There's a great deal of humor, and there are a couple of things where people will go, 'Oh!' if they're very into Marvel. Here and there I've thrown references, tiny things I remember [from the comics], but it's not one of those things where you look at and go, 'Oh, that guy and that guy! It's not Where's Waldo?"

And, though he's already denied it once, Whedon emphasized that his no-winking policy also goes for Spider-Man.

"There is no Spider-Man in this movie!" he said. "I feel so bad for Jenny [Agutter]. I think she just slipped on a name and the reporter ran with it. It's not like she goes to Comic-Con every year ..."

So, will a superhero team-up inspired by two classic war films (and lots and lots of comics, of course) deliver on the greatness? Find out May 4, when The Avengers hits theaters.

(via Comic book Movie)

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