Back in December, Avengers director and Marvel Studios Phase Two consiglieri Joss Whedon stopped by the Oxford Union to talk about a range of topics, from his work’s impact on the lives of his fans to the lack of female representation in Marvel movies. (He blames the “money men.”)
The whole chat is worth watching, but around the nine-minute mark, the conversation turns to Whedon’s future with Marvel Studios, or lack thereof. With the hiring of Joe and Anthony Russo for the two-part Avengers: Infinity War, it became apparent that the Whedon Era had officially ended, and the Buffy and Firefly creator makes it clear that the break was amiable, along the lines of “We can still be friends.”
“I sort of had my finger in all of the films in the second phase but then I just had to concentrate only on Ultron and sort of know that when it was done, I was just going to stop. So I made a completely clean break — not because we had a falling out, just because if I was still there going, ‘Well, here are my thoughts on this film,’ I’d be there every day,” he said.
But it’s Whedon’s explanation for why the separation needed to happen that’s fascinating. Instead of rambling off a few canned talking points, he offers some insight into what drives him creatively and what it means for him to create.
“It’s important to me, not just to have my own thing and do something smaller, but also to create a new challenge for myself because I will start to repeat myself. I think Steven Soderbergh during one of his ‘I’m retiring’ moments said, ‘I’m finding the same solutions for problems. I found myself in the same way. I need to increase my vocabulary because I’m now at a place where enough people know what I do and I’ve done it enough where I could just sort of vaguely do that, and that is how you become old and obsolete. As an artist … I need to make it harder for myself, so I’m working on a few personal projects that I can’t describe. But I can tell you that they’re really hard, and I’m totally failing, and it feels great.”
That’s a much better explanation than “It was time.” For all of the Whedon fans out there, this should be incredibly exciting news. No, the Avengers’ witty repartee probably won’t be as witty, but this is the mindset of people who want to continue to make great art. The Whedon moments that shocked and delighted us didn’t come from complacency, and neither will the ones in the future.