There was already a rumour doing the rounds, but Deadline Hollywood confirmed yesterday that Joss Whedon is the man in the frame to direct Marvel’s much lamented and highly anticipated Avengers film. A surprise choice to be sure, but a very good one as far as i’m concerned. You see, i was in the process of writing an article about the lack of bold choices of directors for recent comic book adaptations when i heard the news, and Joss Whedon’s appointment, above all else, can be considered bold.
I think it’s important to start out by saying that i’m not one of Whedon’s loyal fans. I loved Buffy and Angel, but was distinctly underwhelmed by Firefly when i saw it. I didn’t much like the characters, and thought the storylines were a little dull. I didn’t really get the whole Doctor Horrible thing either, and only watched the first two episodes of Dollhouse. So why do i think Whedon is such a great choice? He has after all only directed one film so far, right?
I went into Serenity not expecting a great deal, as i said, i don’t really like the characters, and i wasn’t expecting a great story. What i got was a film that, though it will never make my top ten films, i considered in many ways to be the perfect movie. I still wasn’t a huge fan of the characters, and i didn’t think the actors were all up to feature film standard. But in terms of storyline, plot, structure and pace, Serenity is the most well constructed, tightest action movie you’re likely to find.
Every element, incident, joke and character moment is revisited and paid off by the end, and the banter and action carry the plot through at breakneck pace with not a wasted second. That Serenity didn’t do better business at the box office is a travesty, because it means millions of people missed out on seeing one of the most well conceived sci-fi films of all time.
If Whedon can bring the same brilliance to the Avengers movie, with the rich characters and talented actors involved, it could really be something special. He has worked on Marvel comics in the past, and the ensemble casts in both Buffy and Angel were really his own Avengers, his own X-Men, with each individual character bringing something different though equally effective to the table. He is also apparently taking a pass at the screenplay, which is more good news. He has an ear for great dialogue, and a great ability to draw a plot together by utilising all the different strands, which should make for a great, multi-layered piece.
Whedon is definitely a risk though. He lacks feature experience, and his TV work can be looked at as an even mixture of success and failure. He has never really had to deal with big actors, and therefore big egos before. His departure from the Wonder Woman project, and the subsequent collapse of the proposed movie is also potentially a bad portent. But a risky appointment, to me, is better than the safe option. A risky appointment brings the hope of a genuine classic, whilst the safe option is highly likely to lead to mediocrity. This is why i am worried about some upcoming comic book adaptations.
The Green Lantern movie is currently in production. Ryan Reynolds is, i feel, great casting. His cameo as Deadpool in last year’s Wolverine movie was the best thing about it, and he is looking to be on the verge of superstardom. My reservations about the end quality of the movie rest with the appointment of director Martin Campbell. Don’t get me wrong, Campbell is a very solid director. He was responsible for GoldenEye, my favourite Bond film, and Casino Royale, seemingly everybody else’s favourite.
Look beyond Bond, however, and there isn’t a lot to suggest he is capable of putting out a spectacular Green Lantern film. Remember, Green Lantern’s power is extraterrestrial in origin, and many of his stories take place away from Earth, with a wide variety of unusual characters. Campbell’s style is very gritty, very much grounded in reality. To be able to do justice to such an outlandish character, you need some real flair, and a big imagination. I’m just not sure if it is the right kind of movie for a director like Campbell.
I fear more for the Captain America movie. It has become obvious that Marvel are attempting to put this one together on the cheap. The list of actors being considered for the lead was alarmingly poor, but thankfully common sense won out, and i think Marvel can consider themselves lucky to have procured the considerable talent of Chris Evans, particularly given the limited salary that has been reported.
The choice of director however is even more alarming. The appointment of Joe Johnston is particularly uninspiring to me. His CV reads as the very definition of ‘bland’, and the problem is that in the wrong hands, Captain America himself can be a very bland character. He has the same ‘all American hero’ persona as Superman, but with a much more mundane origin. A director with far more flare and panache is required to bring this story alive, and considering the calibre of recent Johnston films like The Wolfman and Hidalgo, this could end in disaster.
Strange really, because i think the company has been pretty brave with their other pre-Avengers project. Kenneth Branagh hasn’t had a whole lot of experience with action, or done a great deal of feature directing in general in recent years. So his appointment as director of Thor was as much as a surprise as Whedon’s, if not more so. With a relatively unknown lead in Chris Hemsworth, it’ll be interesting to see how the movie looks to be shaping up when we start getting set photos.
Comic books have a rich history, the characters a huge, continually developed back story. It should be easy to put together a fantastic story for any one of them, and a lot of the burden for this will be carried by the screenwriters. If they pick out the right story elements, and construct an interesting plot, it will just be down to the directors to bring them to the screen in a compelling way. Both The Green Lantern and Captain America have the potential to be great, i just hope the writers and the directors make the most of that potential, and bring us the movies that these storied characters deserve.
Tomorrow i’ll take a look at recent past comic book adaptations, how some bold choices have resulted in great movies that comic book fans can be proud of, and some of the blander choices have produced comic book movies better left forgotten.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann