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Should Joss Whedon Direct the Avengers?

It appears that releasing news that Joss Whedon was in contention for the gig as director of The Avengers on April 1st was just horrible timing – it looks like this particular story might not be a festive-themed joke and might just be something thiat may be actually happening. However, since Marvel’s somewhat shrewd business strategy seems to consist of mentioning a name and dodging the internet backdraft long enough to determine how fans will react, we thought that a Joss Whedon helmed Avengers film might merit some discussion.

Will Joss Whedon assemble the Avengers?

I’m not a rabid Joss Whedon fan. I watched bits of Buffy and was pleasantly entertained, didn’t really watch Angel and just finished Firefly at the weekend. I have never seen an episode of Dollhouse. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was perhaps the best Whedon-related viewing experience that I have had, and it was incredible. It’s one of those rare moments where a genuinely innovative idea is executed near-flawlessly. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

However, I don’t think I’m alone in observing that Whedon’s strengths come prodominantly from his work as a writer. He writes characters very well. And dialogue. And he is one of the most aware writers there is when it comes to clichés or tropes – he knows when to mock them, lampshade them, avoid them or play them straight. Even if he’s producing what should be a very straightforward (and probably boring) piece of entertainment, Whedon can manipulate it enough to make sure you’re smiling the whole time.

So I think we’d all be rejoicing if Whedon had been named writer of the film. Seriously, how cool would that be? Whedon is actively familiar with the Marvel Universe (and consciously favours it over that of rivals DC), with stints on Astonishing X-Men and Runaways, both of which were very well received. He knows this world and we trust him to write these characters.

On the other hand, the script is already written – by Zak Penn, the guy who gave us X-Men 3 and (the much better version of) The Incredible Hulk. Being honest, despite the suggestion from the deleted scenes that his script for The Incredible Hulk was much better than what ended up on screen, I’m not ecstatic about the choice of Penn as a writer. But, since the script is handed in, there isn’t much I can do about it now.

Now the film needs a director. And, while Whedon has proven himself a capable television director, with big and bold episodes of Buffy and Firefly, I’m not convinced that he’s the guy who you give a few hundred million dollars to to turn Zak Penn’s script into reality. There’s just such a huge leap in scale between what Whedon has done and what the project involves. Even if you factor in his long-due horror film The Cabin in the Woods, he’s still way out of his depth.

That’s not to say it’s a reckless choice. Christopher Nolan had only directed small films like Insomnia or Memento before being handed the reigns to Batman Begins. Bryan Singer’s biggest hit had been the indie The Usual Suspects before he helmed X-Men. And Sam Raimi was a cult film director before he was given Spider-Man. It would appear that the risky moves when it comes to superhero films are the ones which pay off. And Whedon would be a risk.

Truth be told, I’m far more comfortable with Joss Whedon as director than Louie Leterrier. Leterrier helmed The Incredible Hulk and was apparently, by his own admission, on Marvel’s shortlist. Despite the fact I liked The Incredible Hulk more than most (arguably much more), I don’t think Leterrier is able to handle The Avengers. He’s a fantastic action director and he always has been. However, for The Avengers to work, it needs to balance the character moments with the action. It also needs a director who can handle his all-star cast.

Reportedly Leterrier had to play middle-man between the film studios and Edward Norton over the final cut of The Incredible Hulk. Looking at the deleted scenes, he made a bad deal. All hint of character and mood was cut from the film. What we ended up with was a good-to-very-good film, but there was a great film buried under the surface there. I am sincerely hoping for a reissued ‘Norton cut’ sometime soon, because those scenes play well. But enough of that.

Whedon is a shrewd choice. He has geek credibility and experience. But not enough to overwhelm the show (or arguably the studios if they don’t like what he’s doing). He might not have a handle on blockbuster cinema yet, but there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t eventually wrap his head around it.

Chalk me up as cautiously optimistic.

8 Responses

  1. I must confess to being something of a Whedon-ite. I’ve watched everything he’s ever done with utter joy and abandon (save perhaps some episodes of Dollhouse). The idea of him helming the Avengers film pleases my inner-geek but my outer-geek is much more aware of the potential pitfalls.

    That said his last big-screen outing Serenity was damn fine sci-fi.

  2. Never been a big fan of Whedon myself, but this is in his wheelhouse.

    BTW you have the title for Memento wrong.

    • Good spot, Fitz – correcting now. And I think he’d write an amazing Avengers. Not so sure on directing someone else’s script.

  3. I could answer this before I even read it and the answer is HELL TO THE YEAH! Whedon can make a good big film… Serenity proved that. He knows the Universe and could bring the care of a fan to the project. Plus, he could punch up the script!!!
    AND I worried about Favreau with Iron Man and… well… 🙂

    • I am leaning towards (very) cautiously optimistic on this one – but it seems if Marvel is leaking this stuff to gauge fan reaction then Whedon’s Avengers should be a go. At least it wasn’t as harshly dismissed by the internet as John Krasinski’s Captain America.

  4. Sadly Dr Horrible was the only thing of Whedon I could enjoy…

    • Relly? I enjoyed a good deal of his work (even if I’m not in love with it), but I can imagine Whedon being a take-him or leave-him sort of guy.

  5. I’m completely in love with pretty much everything Whedon has done and have been more than wowed with him as a writer in particular. Attaching him to this can only end up well.

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