So, Joss Whedon is out of the Marvel business after Age of Ultron hits the theaters. It’s been an incredible run for him with Marvel – in addition to the two Avengers films he directed he’s been one of the drivers behind the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe and a major reason for it’s success. For him the past few years have undoubtedly been the most any filmmaker could ask for from their career. It’s also a good time to move on if he’s so inclined. Age of Ultron concludes Phase Two of Marvel’s cinematic endeavors so if you want to leave you can do it with a sense of having finished what you started. I have to say I was surprised when he got the gig in the first place; his best known stuff was on television and I figured he just wouldn’t get this kind of chance for feature films especially since his most successful stuff (Buffy and Angel) didn’t really draw that big of an audience in the grand scheme of things. But it was obviously a good move for he and Marvel at the time and I think it’s a good move for them to wrap things up together now, too. A few reasons:
There’s no way he isn’t fried right now. Writing and directing two huge projects like the Avengers films and setting up a weekly television series (Agents of SHIELD) while consulting on some of the other films in the MCU, all in the span of five years. That’s a lot. And there’s no end in sight; Phase Three starts in July with Ant-Man and continues on with Civil War and Doctor Strange in 2016 culminating in a two part Avengers: Infinity War epic spanning 2018 and 2019. If he’s tired now he’d be dead after directing that one. The man has other projects he wants to do and needs the time and energy to do them, so sticking with Marvel would quickly become more of a barrier to that than a means of getting the chance to do them through gaining more Hollywood cred.
Sticking with Marvel when he’s so thoroughly is only good for bringing on the eventual mailing it in that can kill every successful entertainment career or venture. And if you start getting lazy just around the same time as your competitors, real or imagined, start to ramp up their efforts then you can look real played out real fast. The only real way to avoid that is to get away from it, whether it’s for a short time or permanently. And with the schedule Marvel has coming up exhaustion isn’t a threat it’s a promise.
The tide will turn
One of the many great lines in the Dark Knight was Harvey Dent’s “you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain”. That applies perfectly to the entertainment business. If you don’t get out of a certain vehicle in time the same people who were once hailing your every move will not only start bashing your new stuff, they’ll start re-examining what you did to draw them in the first place. Look no further than George Lucas. Had he never made another Star Wars film himself after Return of the Jedi and let others take their crack at it he would have kept his lofty perch among those of us who grew up on those first three films. But after the disappointment of the prequels people like me were cheering when he sold everything to Disney and got out while others have gone back and picked through the original trilogy and harped on every little thing to the point where it’s in vogue to call them all overrated (and to call Jedi trash, which is ludicrous).
The last thing Whedon should do is stick around long enough to develop real creative differences with Kevin Feige over new projects, or see all the people he loves working with move on to other jobs, or get repetitive to the point where he’s mailing in scripts or going all “I’m an artist!” and creating some weird Tim Burton-esque departure from what we want from the MCU in an effort to keep it fresh. All of those things become more likely the longer he hangs around.
Right now people are still singing “Everything is Awesome” when it comes to the MCU; that won’t last forever. Cynical critics who never liked Comic Book Films to start with are looking for any kind of chum to sink their teeth into and the clickbait pieces are being prepared as I type this about Marvel falling off. And even if nothing happens to justify them those pieces are going to get published eventually.