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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"There's no judging in the Dollhouse."
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May 06 2012

Thanking television for the success of Avengers. That's what Maureen Ryan of the Huffington Post does, and then she goes on to ponder just what Joss could do with that success.

I really fear she is right with one thing. While nobody who is in this forum for some time, will instantly break into the dance of joy, I really feel that joss will be off the small screen for well let's say forever.
As always, Maureen says, especially with:

"As a years-in-the-planning tent-pole film, "The Avengers" was about as commercial a project as could be, and yet, with this film, TV fans got what we have wanted for years: Whedon was left more or less alone to do his thing. Note to entertainment industry (especially clueless television executives): That seems to have gone pretty well."

What I want Joss to do now is what I've always wanted him to be able to do: what he wants the way he wants it. I sure would love Universal to FREE GONERS, or more of other Jossian work I love, but mostly: after some much-needed R & R, whatever calls to him next. That's always the Best Joss: those characters that won't stop talking to him. (Very Dickensian.)

Just. So. Proud.
and yet, with this film, TV fans got what we have wanted for years: Whedon was left more or less alone to do his thing.

Well not quite. Marvel did lay down the three main things* they wanted and Joss has said

“But I’m also telling Marvel’s story. Much Ado allowed me to realize that taking away some of the Joss is going to make this a better Avengers movie.”

*for the life of me I can't remember what they are.
I think Marvel's 'main things' probably led to the thinness of the plot, which seems very un-Joss-like to me. (I remember that one of them was the stipulation of who the villain/s were.) But apart from that, it really does feel like Joss got to do things his way - which obviously I am in favour of.

Really enjoyed reading this. Even when I don't agree with Maureen Ryan (and I do here), she's one of the tv critics whose opinion I always respect.

(Alan Sepinwall, who is another, put up his own review of the film yesterday. Not entirely surprisingly, he loved it.)
But isn't that the point, Simon? That Marvel gave Joss the basic guidelines of what they needed to see happen with The Avengers but then trusted him enough to let him do his thing within the parameters of what they wanted? And it worked!

If that level of trust had been shown with Firefly or Dollhouse, and the suits had not assumed that they knew how to tell a story better than a born storyteller, we might have much larger boxsets of both shows to add to our DVD collections right now. If nothing else, I hope this proves that when you ask Joss Whedon to deliver, your best bet is to step back and interfere as little as possible, because you'll get what you asked for and then some.
I think Joss still wants to make TV, he just needs a network to treat him right and let alone to do what he wants on his own terms. A bunch of networks do that, they're just on cable.
Yeah, he's made it clear more than once post-Dollhouse that he's not abandoned TV forever, because you can tell stories there in a way you can't in two hours. But he's not given any indication that he's necessarily champing at the bit for it just yet.
The Avengers is what happens when your movie calls for the exact Whedon skillset and the execs actually respect those skills. Which is not the same thing as "leaving him alone to do his own thing." His work on the film was most definitely constrained. I believe one of the things Marvel specified up front was a big fight between team members in the middle. Something about the battle at the end was one of the other two.
@Simon: The three Marvel mandates (from the article):

You know, it strikes me that this is the mirror image of Dollhouse: They let him have an absurdly outlandish premise, then micromanaged his implementation. Here, Marvel gave him an outline, and free rein to work within those boundaries.
Exactly. Whedon's brilliance in this case is taking a work for hire assignment and not only giving the execs exactly what they want, but doing it in his own style. It really was a near perfect match and probably the best hire Marvel ever made (next to RDJ as Iron Man).
Having some limitations, whether of form, resources, or audience expectation, usually leads to better art, because limitations are a challenge to ingenuity. There's a famous quote from a poet (I don't remember who it was) saying that free verse is like "playing tennis with the net down."

Limitations that the artist knows about at the outset are very different from interference and change orders after the creative process is underway.
janef: "Limitations that the artist knows about at the outset are very different from interference and change orders after the creative process is underway."

Exactly. The first is like having the structure in place, like a sonnet, or an outline; the second is micromanagement, like telling you what words to use in said sonnet, or, say, a page of notes from management on what a performer's dress should look like - usually expressed after the dress has been designed or purchased.

Joss has embraced the former, with Marvel on The Avengers, and suffered under the latter, in so many ways in so many other projects.
Nobody does their best work when they're micromanaged. It ALWAYS diminishes the end product.
I know what I'd love for Joss to do besides the next Avengers movie: write and direct the Black Widow prequel to The Avengers.

Please Joss, make it happen.
Yeah - I suspect she's right about it no longer being tv time for joss. The fact of the matter is, though, that - as much as I have loved his past work in the tv realm - his chances for success in movie land certainly seem to be riding high at the moment, and I'd hate to see that kind of an opportunity go to waste.

Here's to joss milking his success for all it's worth - I just can't wait to find out what he's going to do next!
I wouldn't write off a Joss TV show, it doesn't just depend on what offers he gets, but the ideas he has. And if he happens to come up with a great TV idea soon I can't see the medium turning him down.
I want to see a Black Widow prequel that has her meeting Hawkeye, fighting together with him in Budapest and preventing WWIII.
Spielberg still does TV projects. So does J.J. Abrams, Bryan Singer, etc.

Part of getting pull means getting pull to do whatever you want, and TV hasn't had the "not as good as movies" stigma for a long time.
Spielberg still does TV projects. So does J.J. Abrams, Bryan Singer, etc.

As I'm sure (assuming the medium of television still exists in the slightly distant future) joss will as well. I would have to concur, though, with the prediction that he'll have his hands full with film stuff for the foreseeable future. But fingers crossed, of course...

Also, RE artistic limitations - to quote the late great Orson Welles:
The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.

Yeah, Joss had restrictions from Marvel. I'm not sure which of them made the movie better, and which made it more, for lack of a better word, digestible. It's a summer release superhero movie, and there are certain expectations that go hand in hand with that. Joss has said that a "director's cut" would have included material that had to be cut for timing reasons. While I don't think it's necessarily bad to have trimmed it down, I think pacing may have suffered as a result. One criticism I read about "Avengers" (and the only one I agreed with) was that the first act felt sluggish. I have to wonder if part of that is because Joss set out to do a movie with a certain purpose, and by trimming the excess, altered the tone and flow of events from being cohesive.

But as far as the rest of the article goes, HELL YES. What made Whedon's shows great is what makes The Avengers great, and it's indescribably awesome to sit in a theater full of people enjoying those qualities that I've loved for years.
Joss has said that a "director's cut" would have included material that had to be cut for timing reasons.
I remember it differently. Didn't he actually say he's a big fan of having the release version be the director's cut, and what's cut is cut because it ultimately doesn't drive the film forward?
Re: director's cut, I found this, from CinemaBlend:

(J) And so there’s a lot of good work on the floor, but there isn’t anything on the floor that I feel we gutted the movie.

{CB} So this is the director’s cut.

(J) Yes. You know what, and someday this may bite me and I may not be able to accomplish it, but it is always my intent to put the director’s cut in theaters. I don’t like to have different versions of a story, it kind of tweaks me. I like to know this is the story, this is it.

Also, while I was at it, I found this, from AintItCoolNews:

(AITN) Okay, so when you make a film like this that’s going to be a huge gargantuan hit, there’s the expectation that this buys you maybe a little bit of freedom, that maybe you get to make a larger film that you’ve kind of always wanted to do. Do you have that project?

Whedon: I don’t have like, “Here you go, studios!” (Mimes handing over a screenplay) I have a lot of ideas about dream projects, and I haven’t landed on the idea of if there’s one I’d like to parlay this particular moment into. Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a track record. People are still going to be looking over your shoulder. The freedom that I’ve had doing things like DR. HORRIBLE and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is like a drug. It’s very hard to imagine to not going back to some of that.

Joss understands story structure and the beats that Marvel wanted are no different from the ones you'd find in nearly every classic team comicbook story arc, ever. What Joss did was apply a level of craftsmanship that's knowing, specific, and subtle (as opposed to presumptuous, generic and obvious).

As for what he'll do with his newfound box office super power, there's nobody who knows better than Joss that "with great power, comes great responsibility."

Maureen Ryan's right, I think, to hope that he'll encourage a new generation of storytellers on tv. Hell, he's already done that indirectly. Quite a few of the Mutant Enemy writers have gone on to be successful showrunners in their own right. The things they could do, oh my!
Maybe they could edit the scenes back in and called it the Extended Cut instead of the Director's Cut. Hell, even go so far as to instead of labeling it 'Theatrical Version & Extended Cut' call it 'Director's Cut & Extended Cut'.

But, as long as it's on there in the form of the deleted scenes, I'm happy with that :o)
I'm beginning to think that Joss is, at least for a while, going to play small. (Small is a limitation, too, and often a useful one.) He's made this huge hit; why not walk away from the big studios and exit "on top," by certain measures? With his name as a moneymaker and Dr. H as proof of concept, I can see Joss blazing his own trail for a while. And more power to him if he does, though I agree with Ryan that I'd also like to see him foster other projects.

In fact, I imagine Joss would be absolutely delighted to democratize the studio process for the next generation. Has anyone mentioned Kickstarter to him?

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