It’s so nice when our parents make up after a big fight, or at least that’s what it feels like when you hear the news that both Joss Whedon and Jon Favreau are gravitating back toward the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well, Whedon’s at least open to a return whereas Favreau is flat out consulting on Avengers: Infinity War. Still, these are two of the architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms. Now, bridges can be built back up, due to either the passage of time or leverage-granting successes outside of the MCU (The Jungle Book for Favreau) or both.
The pertinent quote from Favreau:
In an interview with Digital Spy, Favreau revealed the extent of his involvement with Avengers: Infinity War 1 & 2.
“I’m going to be executive producing the Avengers films with the Russo brothers, which I’m very excited about. I talk to them about it all the time. I’ve worked both in front of and behind the camera with Marvel and I really love what they’re doing right now. It’s a really exciting time to be over there. I’ve seen a rough cut of Civil War and it’s fantastic. We’re constantly looking for things to do together. And now I’m freed up.”
Now flash back to 2010 when Joss Whedon was announced as director of The Avengers. Rumors spread that Favreau was passed over for the gig because Marvel shorted him on money (i.e., they wouldn’t pay his requested fee), and that Favreau actually wanted out anyway after he’d been forced to turn Iron Man 2 into a glorified Avengers prequel.
Later in the year, Favreau claimed he opted against directing either The Avengers or Iron Man 3 because he felt a deep need to find something which lit a creative fire in him. At the time, that was supposed to be Cowboys & Aliens and a potential Magic Kingdom movie at Disney. However, neither went exactly according to plan. In fact, Magic Kingdom obviously failed to leave the development stage.
The “Marvel’s penny-pinching, micro-managing ways chased away its original auteur” stories make for juicy gossip, but Favreau was probably telling the truth about his creative wanderlust. He expressed as much in Chef, which is pretty much an autobiographical snapshot of his post-Cowboys & Aliens mindset if you simply replace “chef” with “film director”, “restaurant” with “major film studio” and “food truck” with “independent cinema.”
On top of that, it appears as if Favreau never completely parted ways with Marvel. Captain America: Civil War is the first Marvel movie to star Iron Man and not grant Favreau an Executive Producer credit. Apparently the only reason this time was different was because he was simply too busy with The Jungle Book to have any kind of role in Civil War. Otherwise, he’s an EP on both Avengers movies and Iron Man 3.
I’d always assumed his EP credits were ceremonial, contractual obligations, but it’s cool that he’s actually consulting on Infinity War, especially since it is set to truly bring an end to the Marvel superhero saga he started with Robert Downey, Jr. back in 2008. This doesn’t mean he’s about to direct another Marvel movie, though. However, he’s being kept in the loop as a producer. At least he’s getting to tell the Russo Brothers, “Yeah, that all sounds really cool, but what if there was this one scene where…” to which the Russos nod politely, under no obligation to do anything with his recommendation. But when it’s coming from the guy who just made The Jungle Book they might be more inclined to take his notes.
The pertinent quote from Whedon:
Speaking briefly to Deadline at the Tribecca Film Festival, Whedon was asked if he’d consider a return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He didn’t say no, but he did lament how working back-to-back on his Avengers movies was “five years of my life.”
This question was only proposed to him because earlier in the evening he’d delivered the following mea culpa about Age of Ultron, a film whose various failings he had previously appeared to blame on unwanted interference from Marvel Studios:
“Ultron, I’m very proud of. There were things that did not meet my expectations of myself and then I was so beaten down by the process. Some of that was conflicting with Marvel, which is inevitable and a lot of that was about my own work and I was also exhausted, and we right away went and did publicity. I created the narrative — wherein I’m not quite accomplished at– and people just ran with (about Ultron) ‘Well it’s OK, it could be better, but it’s not Joss’ fault’ and I think that did a disservice to the movie, and to the studio and to myself. Ultimately, it wasn’t the right way to be because I’m very proud about it.
The things about it that are wrong frustrate me enormously, but I got to make an absurdly personal movie about humanity and what it means in a very esoteric and bizarre ways for hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact that Marvel gave me that opportunity twice is so bonkers and beautiful and the fact that I come off as a miserable failure is also bonkers, but not in a cute way.”
Flash back to last summer when a clearly sleep-deprived Whedon was groggily mumbling about Marvel holding a gun to certain beloved parts of Age of Ultron and threatening to murder them if he didn’t agree to put in the nonsense sequence setting up the Infinity Guantlet. “You can have your stupid farm house, Joss, just as long as we get our shirtless Thor in a magical pool,” one imagines it going. He’d later say that he’d spent so long playing with someone else’s toys that he needed to get back to creating his own toys, and at Tribecca yesterday he teased his next, as-yet-unidentified project by promising it’s “super good.”
You could cynically look at this mea culpa as damage control, but perhaps it’s genuinely coming from a place of wanting to re-take ownership of Ultron, flaws and all, telling his fans, “Stop blaming Marvel if you didn’t like it. That’s on me, not them.”
Similar to Favreau, Whedon left day-to-day operations with Marvel Studios, but he just couldn’t stay completely away. Since Ultron came out, he wrote a new Captain America comic book as part of Marvel’s celebration of the character’s 75th anniversary. However, also similar to Favreau it’s not exactly like he’s angling to direct another movie for them. This might just be his version of “It’d be nice if you called more.” If this leads to him consulting as a ceremonial producer like Favreau that’d be fantastic as you just know there’d be some awesome joke or character moment no one would think of but him. He could do that and still have the free time to make another season of Dr. Horrible or create something awesomely original.