Because “Watchmen” and “The Avengers” exist on these opposite poles, it may not seem like they have much of anything to do with one another. However, Patrick Wilson, speaking on the Reel Blend podcast, put it rather well when describing how “The Avengers” could only feel like a needed relief:
“I knew Zack [Snyder] was kind of, he was ahead of the curve, you know. It’s weird to say that audiences weren’t ready for it, but you need a movie like that […] You need movies to go so dark that then ‘Avengers’ can go so light. I do believe in that.”
Now, I disagree with Wilson that “Watchmen” was “ahead of the curve.” I’d argue it’s more “completely misunderstanding the story,” but that’s a story for another day. But I do think he’s right about the dichotomy of lightness and darkness. “The Avengers” came at a time where the “dark and gritty” superhero movie was all the rage, as the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman films were the pinnacle of the genre. Snyder pushed that darkness even further in “Watchmen,” and while I disagree with how he did it, that doesn’t mean he didn’t do that pushing. Once “Watchmen” comes out, it’s hard to go deeper into that hole. The only response is to pivot 180 degrees, and it doesn’t get more light and glib than Joss Whedon.
Patrick Wilson would go on to appear in a comic book movie that I feel got the balance of all the different superhero tones correct: “Aquaman.” “Watchmen” may be the only movie of his he’s “watched front to back since a premiere,” but if I want my Patrick Wilson superhero fix, I’m throwing on James Wan’s Atlantean epic 100 times out of 100.