Per the good folks at ComicBookMovie.com, who base their reporting on a Disney investors’ call, Joss Whedon, who co-wrote and directed The Avengers, will return for the movie’s sequel for Marvel, and also will be developing the planned ABC Marvel superhero show. It’s about as perfect a fit as I can imagine, giving the artistic and commercial success of The Avengers. And if the ABC show centers on a woman, it would fit beautifully with Whedon’s brand, given his success with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, arguably the best successful superhero show of the last two decades, and his terrific expansion of Black Widow in The Avengers. Such a move would also help expand make Marvel’s on-screen universe more balanced, making this continued pairing an especially good fit.
Stories tagged with “Joss Whedon”
I’m literally hopping up and down with excitement to talk to y’all about The Avengers—I’ll have a review on Friday that can act as an open thread for discussion over the weekend and spoilerific post about the movie on Monday. But to pass the hours until the movie hits theaters, and to continue our conversation from yesterday about The Avengers and The Dark Knight it’s worth checking out Adam Rogers’ long piece on Joss Whedon and the process of making The Avengers, perhaps the first time Whedon’s been able and allowed to relax into a well-oiled machine that had no interest in letting him hoist himself on his own petard. He also has an overarching theory of why Marvel movies are working, while DC Comics movies, with the exception of Batman, have had such trouble:
Not incidentally, these were all characters from comics published by Marvel. The characters from competing comics company DC—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Superfriends—were lying fallow, even though the corporation that owns DC also owns Warner Bros. Pictures. Marvel, on the other hand, was doing so well with its A-list characters that in 2005 the company took the bold step of financing its own theatrical releases. It would translate its characters its own way.
Spider-Man had been indentured to Sony, and the X-Men and Fantastic Four were already at Fox, but the remaining roster of potential movie heroes was still plenty deep. First up: Iron Man, an alcoholic gazillionaire playboy who builds his own rocket-powered exoskeleton. Then there’s the Hulk, a brilliant scientist who turns into a massively strong, uncontrollable green monster. Oh, and Captain America—a supersoldier from World War II brought into the present—and Thor, a hammer-wielding Norse god with superpowers and family drama that makes the real housewives of Atlanta look like the Osmonds. Unlike the gleaming, godlike DC heroes, Marvel characters are more likely to regard their powers as a curse than a blessing; great power has a pesky tendency to come with great responsibility. And that makes for pretty good movie plots.
I think there’s something to that. But of course, Marvel movies do have gods in the form of Asgardians, and some of the pleasure of watching Thor and Loki duke it comes from seeing gods behaving badly, of seeing these brawls play out on the largest possible scale. I wonder if the secret overall is that, on-screen at least, the Marvel heroes have tended to be funnier and more self-deprecating than the DC heroes, which is not precisely the same thing as angsty. There’s something inherently ridiculous about a god in a pet store, or a rich kid reacting in amazement and pleasure to his new toys, to the fact that he can fly. Acknowledging that absurdity is a useful nod to people who aren’t lifelong geeks, but are letting themselves be talked into drinking the Kool-Aid. And the transmutation of anxiety and darkness into comedic gold is basically Joss Whedon’s sweet spot.
Batman’s owned the flip side of that joyful ridiculousness, a sense of deviance: Gotham residents may not be right about the precise ways in which Bruce Wayne’s head isn’t right, but they’re not wrong that there’s something wrong with him. That comfort with painting the hero as a bit too dedicated, acknowledging our unease, may be why it’s worked better than say, Green Lantern or Green Hornet. One way or the other, the movies seem to require a deep tonal commitment to work.
Once upon a time, rumor had it we were going to get a show called Ripper that spun off Anthony Stewart Head’s character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer that would follow the former Watcher back home to England where he’d get up to a variety of supernatural skulduggery. The Buffy Season Eight and Nine comic books have seemed to have foreclosed that possibility—Angel, Buffy’s vampire-with-a-soul sometime lover did kill Giles by snapping his neck. But the Mary Sue makes it sound like a Ripper show, or even just a show with Anthony Stewart Head and magic, from Whedon might be a possibility again, this time on the BBC. The project, if it ever were to happen, actually sounds like the kind of thing that Netflix ought to be all over.
Currently, Netflix has been all over continuation of cancelled series like Arrested Development, remakes of well-regarded programs with high-priced talent attached like House of Lies, and deeply random original series like Lillyhammer, which just got renewed for a second season. It’s a combination of daring shots in the dark and utterly conservative programming. Something like a Whedon-Head reteam would let Netflix walk a middle path. The show would attract a dedicated fan base, but it would also be an original project, one that wouldn’t absolutely require hardcore membership in the Buffy or Angel fandom. It’s the kind of project that might work well with a shorter order than a network season, something that Netflix seems to be focusing on. And unlike Netflix’s other original projects, this would be one that critics actually created a buzz around. The whole project may be a pipe dream. But it would be less silly than Netflix spending even 30 seconds considering keeping Terra Nova alive.
The dialogue looks great and quippy. Mark Ruffalo may prove to be the first plausible on-screen Hulk. We’ve got a fun look at Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, though every time I see her on-screen I keep expecting the next scene to be set in MacLaren’s Pub:
But Peter Suderman notes something that’s got me anxious: The Avengers doesn’t have a rating or a run time yet, which means with a May 4 opening date, it’s not actually done (by contrast, The Dark Knight Rises, which isn’t out until late July, has its PG-13). Do we think there’s last-minute studio agita at work here?
It’s difficult to talk about The Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s much-delayed, highly mysterious horror without spoiling it altogether. And while I’m not the world’s most spoiler-averse person, I am going to hold off on discussing the film in any specific detail, though this post will affirm that certain elements are present in the movie, until it’s in theaters, and I’ll revisit it once folks have had a chance to see it. This post is spoiler-safe if you are only concerned about specific plot points. But if you don’t want to know anything about the movie whatsoever, hold off.
In very general terms, it turns out I was right that the movie is about the bureaucracy of evil. And in a lesser way, it’s a sustained exploration of another major theme in Whedon’s work: the beauty in evil.
Over the course of Whedon’s career, he’s shifted from writing purely about the people who escape from bureaucracies and started to spend more time on the people who participate in running organizations, some of whom commit significant evil in the course of their work. We see the Watchers largely from Buffy’s perspective, and the ones who are allowed to have stand-alone stories, and whose perspectives and growth we have access to, are apostates. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is fired for incomepetence, and Rupert Giles defies the council before he is dismissed. Maggie Walsh is murdered as a direct result of her manipulation of the Initiative beyond its original parameters. Riley’s struggles against the Initiative, first as a reformer and then a flawed revolutionary, are as important an aspect of his character arc as his relationship with Buffy. He finds peace when he finds a role that suits him within the government, and that new organization becomes not just the source of his job, and his family. In Firefly and Serenity, we see the same pattern again: we see the agents of the Alliance through River Tam’s memories, or through their encounters with the crew of the ship. And the Operative is redeemed when he accepts the truth about the creation of the Reavers and calls off the agents of the Alliance.
Dollhouse, however, spends substantially more time with the agents of both the U.S. government and the Rossum Corporation, tracing the damage that they do to other people and that participation in the system does to them as well. Corporations, it seems, are self-replicating machines. And fully half of The Cabin in the Woods is spent with and told from the perspective of the movie’s bureaucrats. They get to be just as quippy as the average teenage Whedon hero or heroine, and they get to be tragic in a way that’s compromised and adult.
That’s not the only way the movie feels like it’s different in degree, if not in kind, from Whedon’s past work. It’s also got some of the best monster design in his ouvre. Whedon’s always been very good at creating novel monsters—the Mayor’s demonic form, the gods breaking through from Glory’s ritual. But often, he creates unease by implanting monstrous behavior and worldviews in extremely beautiful human forms. We’re disturbed by seeing David Boreanaz, James Marsters, or Clare Kramer behave in ways that are horrifying particularly because we’re taught to equate physical beauty with goodness. The monsters in Cabin in the Woods can, at times, be much more foreign than that. The loveliness in some of that moster design is impressive, an inverse aesthetic subversion. I found some of the monsters genuinely moving. And for someone who suffers from unusually bad nightmares and has low tolerance for horror, that’s saying something.
The bridge is yours.
-More music from Stew is always good news.
-Dystopian teen fiction: still the big thing.
-Joss Whedon’s approach to the Hulk.
-The News International hacking scandal has apparently driven two journalists to attempt suicide.
-Woody Allen and John Turturro will play Hasidic gigolos.
So, we’ve got a new trailer for Joss Whedon’s upcoming horror movie The Cabin in the Woods. And is it me, or is there a faint whiff of the Initiative, the research lab and paramilitary team gone somewhat wrong, in all of this:
It may just be the underground lab and the secret conspiracy vibe getting to me. But one of the things I think Whedon does very well is debunk the dangerous pretentions of people who believe they have exclusive access to esoteric knowledge and have built up bureaucratic structures to help them maintain their hold on power. The Watcher’s Council is the first example of this: they’re a group of men who have very little empathy for the young women they’re supposed to be training and helping, and who have turned the existence of the Slayer into a justification for them to accumulate knowledge and authority rather than a cause they’re genuinely dedicated to. When their headquarters is destroyed at the beginning of the seventh season of Buffy, it’s simultaneously tragic and semi-irrelevant. That they couldn’t find a way to modernize, work with Buffy, and move into a model where the goal is to make sure the Slayer lives beyond her early twenties is genuinely sad, both for an institution that broke rather than being willing to bend, and because it denies Buffy and the new Slayers generations of knowledge that could have made their fight more effective and less dangerous.
Then, there’s the Initiative, which is a perfect example of what happens when you have a government operation without effective oversight (side note: I would love to see a dorky spin-off of the Inspector General’s report about the Initiative). Maggie Walsh gives her soldiers drugs that ultimately undermine their long-term efficacy. Her Adam project ends up resulting in a huge number of casualties and no discernible benefit. And the program’s only shut down after it’s incurred an enormous amount of waste, fraud, and abuse. There’s a clear analogue for the creation—and coverup of—the Reavers in Firefly and Serenity.
Now, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with those cameras, and that force field, and those creepy hydraulics in Cabin in the Woods. But I’m hoping to find out on Friday at SXSW. Either way, being very suspicious of people with a lot of power and unlimited resources is very much a Whedon hallmark.
The bridge is yours.
-The EFF is pushing to get device jailbreaking exempted from copyright law.
-The room of one’s own problem is still a problem.
-If Showtime wants to dominate my mid-season TV calendar, they are making a pretty effective pitch
-Ahh, the nerd economy.
-Given the way he treats characters, getting all his favorite actors and subjecting them to terrible things in a haunted cabin seems like an inevitable destination for Joss Whedon.
I still can’t quite believe this thing is real, but I guess it is. And newly-out Sean Maher is talking about the decision Joss Whedon made to cast him as Don John in his Much Ado About Nothing adaptation — and to turn the character into a serious ladies’ man:
It’s so funny because I had talked to Joss about my choice to come out – he was so supportive. He just wanted me for this because he saw me in this role of a villain. A very mean-spirited, mischievous, manipulative villain. What Joss did was write don John’s associate, who is a man in the play, as a woman – and we have some very promiscuous sexually-charged scenes together. So during this whole coming out process, with all the press asking me if I could ever be seen as a heterosexual man on screen again, I so badly wanted to say, “well, Joss Whedon just cast me as the guy in between Riki Lindhome’s legs.” But he asked me to keep it a secret, which I did.
I said, somewhat flippantly yesterday, that Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing remains the gold standard for me, and as much as I love Whedon, I’ll want to see how he approaches the material. And now that we’ve heard about this, I’ll be curious to see what other changes he’s made to the plot — Keanu Reeves didn’t have to have a love interest written into Branagh’s adaptation to evince a strong sense of sexual danger around him.
But all of that aside, it’s nice to see Whedon continuing his commitment not just to writing good, non-stereotypical gay characters, but to making casting decisions that challenge stupid stereotypes about whether good actors can sell good characters no matter who they are in real life. And I hope that his Much Ado About Nothing gets a release wide enough to be seen by people other than the core Whedon fandom, who I think are largely on board with both of the messages I hear about here. One of the reasons I’m sorry to have seen The Playboy Club be so bad and fall apart so fast is because I think it’ll be important not just to see gay actors nailing straight roles, but to see them go back and forth between gay and straight roles. It’d be a good thing for mass audiences to have a chance to see Sean Maher playing a gay political leader and a gay man with an active love life on network television and to see him steam up multiplexes with a woman. And it would be good to see Neil Patrick Harris break up his string of hetero lotharios with a gay character. Bad actors won’t be able to sell much beyond things they’ve experienced themselves. Good ones can inhabit multitudes, no matter who they are or where and what they come from.
The bridge is yours.
-I do love the Whedonverse, but Joss’s Much Ado About Nothing will have to be something crazy special to beat Kenneth Branagh’s.
-Was Google Reader really that important as a social network?
-Fictional characters Occupy Wall Street.
-In praise of soaps.
-Please, please, let’s not have a Watchmen 2.