Joss Whedon is as responsible for the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as anyone (and that includes studio president Kevin Feige). Reports started to surface even prior to the release of presumptive box office behemoth Avengers: Age of Ultron that Whedon was giving up the creative reigns to move back to his own endeavors.
Now that the film is in theaters and has made nearly all the money, there is a new interview with Whedon that is stoking the fires of controversy. Writing and directing two of the biggest blockbuster movies of all time, creating the first TV show for the studio, and creatively guiding the other MCU films along the way is a very reasonable list of reasons for anyone to want to back away and take a deserved break.
Empire Magazine interviewed Whedon as he stumped for the new movie and a few choice quotes might instead point to friction in the relationship between the director and studio. Regardless of your feelings on the movie, I think it’s always interesting to hear from the perspective of the person in the director’s chair.
First, it appears the studio wasn’t too pleased with Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) farmhouse. I won’t say exactly what those scenes entail to stay spoiler free but Whedon admitted Marvel wanted those scenes removed from the movie. Not only that, the studio also wanted the dream sequences created for each Avenger excised. They were much more on board with creating a sequence in which Thor travels to a cave in the middle of the movie.
“The dreams were not an executive favorite either. The dreams, the farmhouse, these were the things I fought to keep…With the cave, it really turned into: they pointed a gun to the farm’s head. They said, ‘give us the cave or we’ll take out the farm.'”
The cave scene is a pretty big head-scratcher and seems more like a plot contrivance than an actual creative choice. I’ve seen mixed reaction to both the dreams and the farmhouse as more and more people comment on the movie but those sequences do seem the most “Whedon”. They sort of remind me of slightly less successful versions of the season four finale episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer“.
The other quote that really raises eyebrows involves the inclusion of two additional characters to the Avengers lineup. At this point it is well known that a deal was made to bring Spider-Man into the MCU and the studio also has a Captain Marvel film slated for release in 2018. Whedon was interested in including both characters in a cameo capacity but at the time of filming, neither of these deals were set it stone. Later on though, the studio broke some news to the filmmaker:
“We’re making a Captain Marvel movie and we’ve got ‘Spider-Man’ as a property,’ and I’m like, ‘I’ve already locked my film you fuckers! Thanks for nothing.'”
There are other tidbits to come out of the interview and it’s worth a listen (just hit play at the bottom of this post) but these don’t seem like the comments of someone that is still happy with his role and creative flexibility. Mostly it’s interesting to hear a director speak so candidly about behind the scenes drama so soon after the film was released and it seems likely he is unconcerned with perhaps burning his bridge with Marvel.
Added to all of this, Whedon also just shut down his Twitter account. It’s possible he is going into creative hibernation or he may be trying to escape the hyperbolic (and frankly over the top) complaints about the newest movie being directed his way. As he wraps up the publicity tour and retreats from public view, the future of Marvel Studios and Joss Whedon himself become much more uncertain.