The inevitable Avengers: Age Of Ultron press train has left the station and reached top speed, now that critics have begun reviewing the film – due to arrive for mass consumption on April 23rd in the UK, and May 1st in the US. In amongst the cacophony of interviews and photo calls, writer-director Joss Whedon has been reiterating his choice to exit stage-left from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having left it all on the screen, as it were. At the recent press event for the European release of the sequel to his 2012 Avengers behemoth, Whedon confirmed that his priority now is to simply do nothing.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get that far away from it. I plan a rest – a longer rest – perhaps an eternal rest. I have no immediate plans.”
While it is entirely understandable that Whedon might have avoided lining up prospective projects to follow Avengers: Age Of Ultron, fans could be forgiven for being a little sceptical about how long that rest might ultimately be, in reality. This is, after all, the filmmaker that delivered a five-star film version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing – shot in just 12 days, in his own home, during a break from the first Avengers film. At this stage, however, only time will tell how long it takes for the next story to begin nipping at his heels, what that might look like, and which genre it might fall into.
With Whedon having been such a key figure in the development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the past five years, it is unsurprising that his final instalment for the endeavour be accompanied with questions about his vision for the future of the franchise. Never one to disappoint, the filmmaker reassured the assembled journalists that Marvel is most certainly continuing to play the long game.
“[Kevin Feige is] not interested in making a formula; he’s interested in creating a universe. How long will he do it for? Erm, until he dies? He’s interested in creating new versions of the superhero movies – something that doesn’t fall into a pattern. So it’s going to be around for quite a while.”
These comments, in particular, are quite fascinating, because they give an insight into what the Marvel Cinematic Universe looks like to those inside, building it. Whedon has never been one to fawn over the studio that hired him for The Avengers – even going so far as to publicly lament the departure of Edgar Wright from the director’s chair of Ant-Man – but here, he is praising the Marvel franchises as being non-formulaic.
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has certainly re-invented the genre with unprecedented success, one of the main criticisms of them – particularly now that we are seven years on from Iron Man – is that the cohesive nature of the series makes the films necessarily formulaic, to a certain extent. We are, however, at the beginning of a new phase for the MCU, so it may well be that Joss Whedon is implying his Avengers: Age Of Ultron heralds an imminent change of pace. If so, now would be a good time to strap in.