Whedon, Wright, And DuVernay: A Brief History Of Marvel’s Directorial Troubles

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Joss Whedon and Marvel have experienced a lot of success together. As a director, Whedon can proudly claim the third and sixth spots on the top grossing film list (not adjusted for inflation) for Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, respectively. Outside of writing and directing those films, Whedon has been involved with just about every Marvel film since 2010 in some way or another.

On Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor: The Dark World, he was brought in to polish the scripts, inserting a few more character moments while helping the Cap and Thor find their voices. And then there’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which Whedon created. In short, Whedon has been integral to Marvel Studios’ climb up the mountain over these last five years. But, over that same period of time there have been a few cracks in Marvel’s shield — whispers that have gotten louder about Marvel’s issues with other strong directors.

It started back in 2011 with Thor: The Dark World when Patty Jenkins left the production citing “creative differences.”

Last year, Edgar Wright and Marvel parted ways after they couldn’t agree on how to make Ant-Man. This split was especially surprising as Ant-Man was seen and initially sold to eager fans as “Edgar Wright’s movie,” with the Shaun of the Dead director rumored to have been involved with the project as far back as 2006. Hell, Whedon even said it was the best Marvel script that he had ever read, but Marvel had Paul Rudd and Adam McKay polish it and Peyton Reed took over directorial duties on the film, which opened to an 80% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a solid but unspectacular $58 million at the US box office.

Most recently, when speaking out about a relationship that never got far enough down the road to cite creative differences, Ava DuVernay shed light on why her marriage with Marvel didn’t work out and why she wouldn’t be directing Black Panther.

Granted, there are two sides to every story and Marvel has been a fruitful creative partner for other filmmakers, but even the best relationships have caused wear — this much is obvious when you listen to Joss Whedon.

Recently, Whedon said that there would be no Avengers: Age of Ultron director’s cut and he seemed mostly positive about the experience, but this followed comments that he made earlier about the production of the movie getting “really, really unpleasant”, with Marvel essentially holding some of his favorite scenes hostage unless he included certain plot points. There’s also reportedly been friction between the movie branch of the Marvel Movie Universe and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

As you surely know, Whedon isn’t going to direct Avengers: Infinity War, calling it a “young man’s game” and he’s gone on the record about being exhausted from all the Marvel work he’s been doing. It seems that the workload and the restrictions have all taken their toll on Joss Whedon. Is this the natural crash following a breathtaking period of productivity or is it about power earned and power given? Can’t it be both? Couldn’t it be neither?

It’ll be interesting to see what Marvel does without Whedon and the Whedon-voice moving forward and how his comments will be viewed when bundled with the other rumors and whispers by prospective Marvel filmmakers; and if any kind of perception matters when weighed against the scope of the cinematic world and the opportunities the studio can offer — partly because of Whedon.