What’s Next For Joss Whedon?
Coming off his second Avengers film and one that “nearly killed him,” Joss Whedon is ready to head in a new direction. “This was the hardest work I’ve ever done,” he shared with Vulture earlier this year, “and at some point, when it’s that hard, you just feel like you’ve lost.”
It’s no secret that the man who successfully orchestrated two mega superhero pictures was burnt out. As the Avengers: Age of Ultron has now been released on DVD and Blu-Ray, we can take an even deeper look into what happened and where Whedon is likely to go next.
Any careful observer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) can see that the films are becoming an increasingly complex entanglement of plots, subplots, character connections, and crossovers that connect the films in a variety of ways. The strategy is one that comes from the very top, not just Kevin Feige of Marvel, but all the way to parent company Disney. From a business standpoint, it’s hard to argue against the value of such a complex strategy. By connecting its characters (properties) through a massive shared universe, Marvel is able to capitalize on the popularity of one character while still utilizing another. Consider whether or not, for example, an “Ant-Man” movie ever gets made if not for the ability and intention to quickly cross that character into play with other (more popular) characters in the MCU. Ant-Man on his own would not be a good bet for a film franchise … but if we can pair it with other Avengers, now you can reap revenue off a property that’s otherwise not very valuable.
One of the keys to pulling off a larger universe approach is being able to put a batch of your most popular characters together and create a “super” superhero team up film. That’s exactly what Whedon did successfully for the first Avengers film which made over $1.5 billion in worldwide box office revenue. The problem with the strategy, from a filmmaker’s standpoint, is that it is increasingly difficult to tell a cohesive story the more layers (characters) you are required to add. And have no illusions, at Marvel, directors are told who must be in films and some scenes are filmed for them and added to their picture during editing (these scenes are usually the mid or end credits scenes that further connect the MCU).
The Avengers: Age of Ultron Blu-Ray shows us that Whedon had a very different vision for the story than the one that was ultimately told. For the criticisms that the film took regarding its disjointed plot and some confusing sequences, all can be answered with the addition of the scenes left on the cutting room floor. That doesn’t relieve Whedon of final responsibility (his first cut of the film was reported at nearly three hours long) but it does lend a viewer to be sympathetic to him. He did have a plan as to where he wanted to go in telling the tale of Ultron, but ultimately the needs of the shared universe got in his way.
It was before the theatrical release of Avengers: Age of Ultron that Whedon let it be known he wasn’t coming back to direct the next two installments of the Avengers series. He and Marvel have essentially parted ways (at least on the film side) and Whedon has even taken some shots at them by interview for what he considers his lowball price for his services (he did make $34 million for Ultron per Forbes). He’ll have a hard time getting much sympathy even from his more ardent fans on that point.
During his appearance at the New York Comic-Con, Whedon shared with the audience more details on his next project. He is writing a six installment comic series called Twist. The story centers around a “Victorian, female Batman” and will be published by Dark Horse Comics. The series is set to be published sometime next year and at this time no plans for a film adaptation have been announced.
As for his next film project, the creative mind behind Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse is staying tight lipped. Whedon had been linked to helm a future Star Wars installment, but that rumor has been all but debunked. It’s possible WB and DC might try to pull a coup d’etat and lure him over to helm one of their upcoming films (Joss Whedon’s Batman anyone?). But like the Star Wars connection that’s only speculation and rumor at this point.
What seems most likely to those who have followed the director’s career is that he’ll actually go back to something of his own. Rather than work from someone else’s source material and within the constraints that creates, it makes sense his next project would be something of his own creation. After two Avengers films, he’s widened his fan base enough to launch his own franchise. He was able to create unique stories and cult classics without major studio support and budgets. With the ability now to command more resources and to be billed as “the director of the Avengers” it’s easy to see where a project purely original could find a broad appeal that may have alluded it in years past.
Whatever is next for Joss Whedon, fans and audiences will wait eagerly.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is now available on demand, DVD, and Blu-Ray