What Should Be Next for Joss Whedon?

Now that The Avengers is a Hulk-sized hit on North American shores as well as overseas, the big question is what will Joss Whedon do next. As seen in this interview with Collider, the man appears to be pretty damn tired from this monster film that officially wrapped only a couple weeks ago.

But Hollywood moves fast, and Marvel Studios moves even faster. Acolytes of Whedon are sounding the charge as if a revolution has occurred that makes the later seasons of his shows pale in comparison. The question is will Whedon be courted by the inevitable Avengers 2? Will he resurrect his TV series onto the big screen? Will Neil Patrick Harris be involved in any way?

Here are the main options Whedon has before him.

Avengers 2 and More Blockbuster Options

This is the biggest and most obvious choice right now. According to the Collider interview, Kevin Feige has made it clear that Whedon is welcome back behind the camera for Avengers 2. But Whedon’s not just being coy in the interview; he’s clearly exhausted. First things first: he needs a vacation.

It’s not impossible for Whedon to helm Avengers 2. Directors of game-changing comic book movies often work on at least one sequel. Richard Donner did it for the Superman series in the 70s (until he was scrapped from the project during production). Tim Burton did it for the Batman series two decades ago. Christopher Nolan did it for the new Batman films. And Jon Favreau did it for Iron Man. However, problems seem more likely when the director hasn’t been given time to decompress between movies. The obvious success here lies with Christopher Nolan, as he directed The Prestige between the first two films and Inception between the Dark Knights.

Whedon’s decision to return might hinge on Marvel Studios’ eagerness to get a sequel in place. They rushed Favreau on Iron Man 2, and we all know how that worked out. A shift in directors for fast-tracked sequels has become commonplace, as evidenced by the Twilight series and now The Hunger Games. With Thor 2, Captain American 2 and now a rumored Hulk film in 2015, it’s likely Marvel Studios is locking in a 2014 release date and won’t be content with the Nolan standard of three or four years between pictures.

Still, after the success of The Avengers, the world is Whedon’s burrito. Don’t think DC hasn’t considered giving him a call about developing The Justice League, or at least floated the possibility of resurrecting his Wonder Woman movie now that the David E. Kelley TV pilot is dead in the water. And let’s not forget other Marvel properties. Imagine Whedon directing an Ant Man film with Nathan Fillion (or at least producing with Edgar Wright in the chair).

Or dare I say… The Astonishing X-Men: The Movie?

A Return to Television

Whedon’s greatest financial and mainstream success is obviously The Avengers, but his greatest fan success has been on the small screen. Could Whedon be considering a trip back to television for a new genre series, or something completely different in the non-genre market? This is unlikely because he now has bona fide film success, which is what he was going for with Serenity seven years ago.

The reality is that while Whedon grew his fanbase in television, it’s been a harsh mistress. The most obvious example of this is prematurely-canceled Firefly (for which fans still hold a grudge against Fox). Even Dollhouse’s modest success was crippled by an imperfect concept and fledgling ratings.

Whedon might be a better fit for cable, which would treat him better and with more freedom than the big networks ever have. This would be closer to the treatment he got from the WB when he was producing Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. However, Whedon has expressed reservations about cable in the past.

Plus, who wants to start showrunning for USA Networks on the heels of a billion dollar movie?

Serenity 2 and Whedonverse on the Big Screen

This is the Whedon fan’s wet dream. True, Whedon could march into the offices at Disney and demand they fund a new installment in the Firefly theatrical franchise. However, this would be a big mistake. As integral as he was to the success of The Avengers, he wasn’t the four-quadrant draw. According to Deadline, “About 31% chose Iron Man as the film’s biggest draw, followed by The Hulk (23%); Thor (15%), and Captain America (12%).” No mention of Joss Whedon in any of those polls. So yes, Whedon was instrumental in making this film awesome. He’s just not a household name that will draw $200 million in ticket sales over three days. He might as well direct John Carter 2.

If Whedon wanted to make a theatrical feature of his TV work, he’d be better off wrestling control of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake (which would amount to ripping open a scarred-over wound and pouring pickle juice on it).

The more likely possibility is for Whedon to make a new wholly-Whedon film from scratch and get a wider audience. However, if he did this, he’d want to avoid a $220 million Avengers-sized budget on it, of course.

Dr. Horrible 2 and Other Web Work

Whedon has wrapped Much Ado About Nothing, which is technically a feature film, but it’s made with the same micro-budget mentality of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Whedon likes working on these smaller projects, and he’s got others in the works. For example, his work on the web series Wastelanders with Warren Ellis was put on hold so he could direct The Avengers.

He might be craving something smaller to relax a bit with before moving onto another big project. Plus, Whedon has teased fans with the promise of Dr. Horrible 2 for years, and it’s one of the few properties he has utter control over from a creative standpoint.

He could use these smaller web projects as a launching pad into smaller-budget films. Imagine a $1 million budget theatrical release of Dr. Horrible 2: Electric Boogaloo. It’d only have to be a modest success to score Paranormal Activity-sized numbers and make him a star of the indies as well as a star of the blockbusters. Still, if this is Whedon’s game plan, he should be careful to not disappear for too long. To do so might cause him to lapse back into cult obscurity.

Prediction: Due to the tremendous amount of Avengers burnout Whedon seems to be suffering, he will likely step away from the massive spotlight to collect himself. Much Ado About Nothing will get released, and he’ll look for another smaller project before taking on something else huge. If Marvel Studios pushed for the expected May 2014 Avengers 2 release date, Whedon will likely just be heavily involved as a writer and producer. However, his next potential blockbuster will come soon after, likely dipping back in the comic book genre.

What do you think Joss Whedon will – and should – do next?

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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