Professionally speaking, it’s hard to imagine things getting much better for Joss Whedon.
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “What have you done for me lately?” Well, lately, Mr. Whedon has done a lot for Hollywood. The cult icon responsible for creating such beloved television series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly has dabbled in film before. He collaborated on the screenplay for the original Toy Story, penned a disappointing Alien sequel, and resurrected Firefly for the feature-length Serenity.
This year, his career took off. In March, Lionsgate released Whedon and Drew Goddard’s horror send-up The Cabin in the Woods to critical acclaim. And the storytelling whiz is about to up the ante once again with The Avengers, Marvel’s long-awaited ensemble thriller that unites Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk on screen for their first time in their storied careers.
And it’s spectacular.
But while everyone waits for The Avengers to open on May 4, I want to take a moment and look ahead to the inevitable sequel … and Whedon’s potential involvement. Without spoiling anything for fans, I can say that there is a mid-credit tease at the end of Whedon’s Avengers that concretely establishes where a second Avengers film will go. Now the question remains: Will Whedon be the director who takes the franchise in that direction?
His schedule appears to be free at the moment. Whedon is putting the finishing touches on a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The writer-director is a rabid fan of "The Bard," and probably viewed this as the perfect antidote to a massive-scale summer blockbuster. Nothing is expected to be in theaters by the end of 2012, capping off the most productive year of Whedon’s career.
Beyond that? Who knows. At the very least, Whedon earned the right to be asked to return, and Marvel would be doing its Avengers franchise a serious disservice if they didn’t try their hardest to lure Whedon back into the fold. Again, without spoiling anything, he proved with The Avengers that his tendency toward operating in large ensembles of charismatic characters works perfectly for Avengers, as he knows how to get each hero his or her time in the spotlight. And the one area of concern I had going into the Avengers – Whedon’s handling of big-budget action sequences – was answered. Basically, he knocked each of his sequences out of the park.
Will Whedon return for The Avengers 2? That’s the question. In the past, Marvel’s directors have chosen to move on. Only Jon Favreau helmed two Iron Man installments. The Hulk has had two directors (in Ang Lee and Louis Leterrier). Kenneth Branagh passed on Thor 2, and Joe Johnston isn’t expected back for Captain America’s sequel.
That might be part of the problem. Marvel already has Iron Man 3 and sequels for Thor and Cap in the pipeline. The Avengers 2 might not go into production for years. Does Whedon want to wait? At the very least, he could use that downtime to direct passion projects before shouldering the enormous load that comes with directing a sequel of this scale. And maybe in two years, he’ll get that itch to reunite with his Avengers cast and try to recapture some of the superhero magic they put on screen in this first film.
We’ll see how this plays out, but I’d love to see Whedon back in the director’s chair for the inevitable Avengers sequel. Let us know your thoughts. In the meantime, check out this in-depth CBS News report on Whedon and his Avengers work. Around the 6-minute mark, you get a tease of his Much Ado adaptation, and a lot of great insight into Whedon’s creative process. He’s one of a kind, and we’re lucky to be here while he’s clicking on all cylinders.