An analysis of Joss Whedon's new three-year deal with Marvel Studios
|NEWS - NEWS ANALYSIS|
A deal so good, not even Fox could cancel it...
In the wake of the recent awesome news that Joss Whedon is set to make both The Avengers 2 and a live action TV series for Marvel, there's an unsurprising but welcome extension to this collaboration. Marvel have announced that:
“Joss Whedon has signed an exclusive deal with Marvel Studios for film and television through the end of June 2015. As part of that deal, Whedon will write and direct Marvel’s The Avengers 2 as well as help develop a new live action series for Marvel Television at ABC. He will also contribute creatively to the next phase of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.”
Yes, Joss Whedon is going to spend the next three years putting superheroes on our screens, making movies and TV shows about comic book characters. That’s awesome. It’s like signing a contract with the Dollhouse, only kind of the opposite.
(Maybe if someone in one of these contracts messes up, they simply send them to The Attic...to read more comic books.)
Apart from the fact that they neglected to give him the official title "Grand Overlord of Marvel", or something similarly grandoise, this is quite cool news. Joss Whedon is awesome. Marvel is awesome. Superheroes are awesome. Movies are awesome. TV is awesome. Everybody wins.
There are two possible slight drawbacks to this deal, however. The first is the potential to get in the way of Joss' other projects. But since the deal only specifies film and television, presumably that means Joss will be free to pursue his own projects in web video (Dr. Horrible 2?, Wastelanders), comics (more Fray?), cameos in other people's YouTube videos, interviews, posts on Whedonesque, and just generally being awesome. The only barrier would be time, but that's never stopped him before.
The second possible drawback is the vague-but-ominous-sounding word "help" (in this context, at least; in most contexts, "help" is a very good word). In this context, it might imply something less than "be creator and showrunner". However, Joss Whedon has typically (and very reasonably, given some of his experiences in Hollywood) opted for more creative control rather than less. However, he's also learned to delegate to his trusty (and also ridiculously talented) lieutenants when needed. So he wouldn't have agreed to make the show (which marks his long-awaited return to TV) without being happy with whatever his level of involvement would be. And besides, out of all of Joss Whedon's shows so far, he had the least involvement with Angel, and that's nevertheless an excellent show.
On the subject of Angel, there are perhaps parallels to be drawn between Joss' career path and Wesley Wyndam-Price's character arc.
[Possible slight Angel S1 spoilers follow]
After his initial involvement with Marvel, you can just imagine Joss Whedon sort of anxiously waiting for their call, maybe dropping hints every now and again; a bit like Wesley awkwardly hanging around after having helped Angel Investigations fight evil all night long, hoping to be invited to stay for breakfast, and possibly longer. And then he is.
(Actually, it was probably more the other way around; when Marvel initially approached him about The Avengers, he just thought they wanted a bit of feedback on what they’d got, like one might normally ask a writer to consult on a project, before realising that they actually wanted him to write and direct the film. And then, once they’d made the offer, he had to go away and think about it until he could come up with a take on it with something to say; which, as it turned out, was the counter-intuitive yet vital dynamic of the wildly different Avengers coming together to form a team. And then after the success of The Avengers, it was obvious that Marvel wanted him to return for the sequel, but he wanted to make sure that he had a story that he personally loved and had to tell, rather than just a bunch of cool ideas, before committing to it. So presumably he now has an idea of what that story will be. Based on what he’s said previously, it would have to be “smaller and more personal”.)
[Possible Angel S3 spoilers follow]
Continuing the Wesley analogy (well, okay, I don’t have to…it’s just funny), one can imagine Joss saying: “I’ve been made the head of our group…well, as permanent as these things get…”
Hopefully now he’s not going to misinterpret the prophecy (which, in its original form, is: “The Fox will cancel the show”), and try to make his own version of the X-Men movies, even though 20th Century Fox, not Marvel, have the rights. That way lies lawyers. But X-Men: Days of Future Past is being directed by Matthew Vaughn, and The Wolverine is being directed by James Mangold, so they’re both in good hands, and Joss probably has nothing to worry about.
The phrase from Marvel's press release, "He will also contribute creatively to the next phase of Marvel's Cinematic Universe", brings to mind some interesting possibilities. I love the idea of Joss Whedon storming in to the offices of some Marvel executive and demanding…something. That they cast Nathan Fillion, for instance (maybe in one of the sequels, leading up to him being in The Avengers 2). Or maybe that they bring Joss trays of truffles on set, or something. Or maybe shawarma, to help the cast and crew bond even more. Well, okay, instead of ‘storming’, it would probably be more like ‘approaching sheepishly, head bowed, knocking respectfully, then waiting ridiculously long before finally being invited in’, and instead of ‘demanding’, it would probably be more like ‘quietly suggesting, followed by mumbled explanations of why it might be a good idea’. (“He’s famous enough if you’re me…”)
In addition to the two years Joss Whedon has spent working on The Avengers, this will make five years of his life he’ll have spent in the service of Marvel Studios.
It’s almost like Star Trek: “These are the voyages of the Starship Whedon. Its five-year mission: To explore strange new plot twists; to seek out new character nuances and new storylines; to boldly go where no movie has gone before.”
And since the Prime Directive is not to interfere with less advanced cultures, the equivalent of this would be "put all the toys back in the box". I.e., don't kill off all the characters. As for the events of The Avengers? Well, there are potential ways round that.
(This is not a knock on Marvel, by the way. It's just if you're comparing creative talent with Joss Whedon, any competitor, however good, is always going to be *second* best.)
The question is, will this ever change from “five-year mission” to The Next Generation’s “continuing mission”?
Only time will tell. Time, and internet rumours, though the latter perhaps with less accuracy.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.