Final Punch: Don’t Fear the Whedon

For I have become Whedon, Destroyer of Franchises

OK, let’s be honest here. Adam, you’re obviously chumming the waters hard and fast in hopes that we’ll need a bigger boat. And I have done my duty as a card carrying Whedonite (Except they took my card over the whole Wesley thing? Damn, I need to keep better track of my card) and defended my Fair Whedon’s honor.

But, I get where you’re coming from. And I understand your fear. Sequels, more often than not, suck nards. Even when a sequel lives up to its predecessor, there’s inevitably a crappy one that’s heaving into a bucket right behind it. For every “Godfather II,” there’s, well, “Godfather III.” For every “Aliens,” there’s, hmmm…”Aliens 3.” What about “Terminator 2!” That’s got…oh yeah, “Terminator 3.”

Here’s the rub, when Hollywood gets something shiny, they like to make more of it because of that whole “Money fuels our cocaine and hookers habit” thing. But it costs money to make things shiny over and over again. And big money upfront leads to truncated returns (trust me on this, I balanced my checkbook once in college, so I know ALL about money). So the best way to make money on the shiny is to get the audience hooked, start cutting off the expensive bits (like the original cast and behind-the-camera talent), and then get someone to come in and “reinterpret” things while keeping enough of the original to satisfy the fans. Something as CGI laden as “Avengers” is perfect for this, because computers don’t quit and digital properties can easily be reused.

So I fully intend on ranting hard and long about the cesspool that the Avengers franchise has become (most likely on this very site). But it’s not going to happen with “Avengers 2.” And the only reason I’m confident in saying that is because of Whedon.

He is a storyteller who will fight for control of his vision. He is uniquely able to wring subtlety out of what should be bombastic. When it’s his hand on the keyboard and his eyes behind the camera, something magical happens. This a man that creates worlds whole-cloth and makes us not just believe in them, but care about them. The catch, and this is a very big catch, is that Whedon has to have control of BOTH the story and the direction. Whedon’s scripts in someone else’s hands – train wrecks, there are nuances in those words that others don’t see, that are only in his head. Whedon’s direction with someone else’s words – passable; but hardly wonderful because he’s not nearly as invested.

You don’t want him on this project because he might get distracted from some side-story that may or may not fly? Let’s take a quick look at “Dollhouse.” The problem there wasn’t investment. It’s that he’s outgrown the small screen. He has bigger stories to tell. Dollhouse as a concept would have made a fantastic series of summer thrillers (think “Bourne Identity” with a post-apocalyptic flair). But it limped along for longer than it should because the medium demanded that it be stretched out over multiple seasons. Condense it down, hone the vision, and you’ve got something engaging. TV and its labyrinthine structures are holding him back. If anything, I’d prefer Whedon drop the TV series so that he can focus fully on the Avengers movies. But I have faith that it won’t distract him. “Avengers 2” isn’t a stand-alone movie. It’s the second part in a larger arc that he pitched to Marvel without any hope at all of them buying it. Except for the part where they did. So Whedon’s not just making another Avengers movie, he’s shaping the exact Avengers franchise he dreamed of. Marvel handed him all the crayons and said “Here. Go nuts.”

And in talented hands like that? I can’t wait to see what he whips up next.


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