After all, the Marvel movies previous to Avengers Assemble may have been decent-sized hits, but they weren’t mega hits. They didn’t send shockwaves through the zeitgeist like Avengers Assemble has. Although it wouldn’t have been too much of a punt to predict that any Avengers movie from any old director had a good chance of being the biggest Marvel movie so far, it takes something more than clever marketing to create a film that’s already nearly doubled the gross of the previously most successful film in the franchise ( Iron Man 2 ).
If Spielberg was the master of “ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances”, Whedon has shown that he’s the master of “extraordinary people coming across like ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances”. Not as catchy, but true. He can take “trashy” subjects and treat them in new and exciting ways to produce both crowd and critic pleasers.
And now Hollywood knows that too.
Which puts Whedon in a very powerful position. Question is, now that he’s in the Hollywood premiere league, what does he do with the power?
Of course, everyone expects his next big step to be Avengers 2 (aka Avengers Reassembled in various territories… probably). Though Whedon himself has been voicing some doubts , it seems inconceivable that Disney wouldn’t be courting him for a repeat performance. And as great as Avengers Assemble was, it did still have the feel of a “setting up” exercise about it, with a lot of housekeeping to do. As such, the sequel – though it will still have to be tied into the whole Marvel movie continuity – would presumably have more wriggle room for a writer/director like Whedon to provide his own input and ideas, especially having proven his mettle and aptitude. And that’s something I would love to see; Whedon building on what’s he’s already set up and deepening the characters even further.
Besides, despite Whedon’s misgivings (devoting another two years of his life to characters he didn’t create and doesn’t have total control over), he’s also admitted that he already has a ton of ideas for a follow-up, so clearly Avengers isn’t stifling his creativity to any insufferable degree.
I’d be surprised if he doesn’t do Avengers 2 – and mightily happy if he does – but conversely, I wouldn’t be majorly upset if he departs the franchise. I think there are other directors out there who could have fun with what he’s set up, and Marvel have been making some interesting and canny choices with their directors.
So, what if Warners decided to woo Whedon to the DC side with a promise of Wonder Woman movie to play with? I’ve got to admit, if I were forced to choose between the two (yeah I can live in a fantasy world where I get to decide these things) I would, with some regrets, plump for a Whedon-directed Wonder Woman over a Whedon-directed Avengers 2 .
But you never know, maybe he could do both: Avengers 2 , then Wonder Woman . Except there’s that interview where he says he wants to get back to his own characters. I can completely understand he wouldn’t want to become typecast as “that superhero director”, churning out Marvel and/or DC movies one after the other. We might get the benefit, but he’d probably find himself stuck up a creative dead end.
It’s also worth remembering that while he was working on Avengers Assemble he also managed to direct a version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (starring a lot his favourite recurring actors) and write the script for another SF romance – In Your Eyes – both for his own low budget production house Bellwether Pictures. Would committing to the Hollywood blockbuster treadmill get in the way of these side projects? Or could they be the key to getting more of them funded? If Whedon is making movie for Hollywood, the suits may well be more interested in backing his more esoteric pursuits as well.
He’s also planning a webseries with comic writer Warren Ellis called Wastelanders , which he describes as, “ Glengarry TimeCop … a drama about people who save the world and how unbelievably unhappy they are. It's very dark and very grown-up.” Whedon has said in a few intreviews now that it’s his “next project”, but Warren Ellis said at Kapow! this weekend that the scripting stage hasn’t even started yet. So far, it appears, it’s an outline they came up with in a bar, or some such. The truth is Ellis and Whedon were getting ready to make Wastelanders two years ago, but then The Avengers “came in an usurped my life for two years” (Whedon’s words).
Then again, if can he direct a Shakespeare movie in a weekend who’s to say he can’t get this written and filmed in his lunchbreak? It’s sound great, so let’s hope other projects don’t keep causing it to slip… Oh, which reminds us – Doctor Horrible 2 ? You beginning to see why Avengers 2 is not a shoo-in for Whedon – it stops him doing stuff, and he likes doing stuff, goddammit! It’s one very big swing versus lots of very small roundabouts.
Of course, the internet already has a few suggestions of how Whedon should wield his new found Hollywood muscle. And, of course, it’s all very predictable. More Buffy ! More Firefly ! Faith The Movie! The idea of resurrecting Buffy seems unlikely, if for no other reason than all the key vampire characters would either have to be recast or given some ludicrous explanation for why they’ve suddenly aged so much. It’s not unthinkable that he could set up some new film or TV show set in the Buffyverse (maybe Fray ?), but maybe even that’s a little backwards-looking this late in the day. Now seems the right time for Whedon to launch new ideas rather than rehash old ones.
And if Whedon truly thinks that working on Firely was one of the highlights of his career, he’s probably best off leaving it as a cherished memory than trying to recreate it. It could all end in tears and tantrums.
Despite having had a pretty rough time with his post- Buffy TV shows, Whedon isn’t using his newfound movie success to turn his back on the medium that made his name. As recently as last month Whedon told Television Blend , “I’m not developing anything right now because I’m super tired, but I love TV. It’s an extremely thrilling way to work. It’s not thrilling on a guy’s schedule, but I absolutely want to go back. But right now I think I’ve had enough. I’m full. Please, may I be excused.”
I suspect there will be another Whedon created TV show, and maybe not in the far too distant future. He doesn’t need to be a day-to-day showrunner, and other movie directors (Guillermo Del Toro, Michael Bay, Ron Howard) are fitting TV into their movie schedules. As long as Whedon can assemble a good team (which is one of his greatest talents, after all), I’m confident he could back-seat-drive a new TV show to success, while calling the shots on a horror movie about killer kittens at the same time.
But, no, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Firefly 2 on TV or Buffy The Middle-Aged Vampire Slayer . This feels like a good time for Whedon to create anew. But you can bet whatever does he create anew, it’ll have some of the cast of Firefly or Buffy cast in it.
So what I’d personally like to see is Whedon directing Avengers Re-Assembled (unless the Wonder Woman movie becomes available), while setting up (and possibly scripting) a better-funded and better distributed sci-fi horror for Bellwether and creating and overseeing (but not showrunning) a new TV project for a cable channel (HBO preferably). Oh, and if he can whip up Doctor Horrible 2 one weekend when he’s got the chance, then that’d be tickety-boo.
But the real answer to “what does Joss Whedon do with his new-found Hollywood clout?” is, of course, “Whatever the bloody hell he likes.”