Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Joss Whedon knows his comic books and has a sense of humour – just what the director of The Avengers will need

It’s the news every fanboy has been wanting to hear: Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, is reportedly on the shortlist to direct the forthcoming Avengers movie, the Marvel studio venture which aims to unite the publisher’s best-known characters in a colourful clash of superhero might. Reports on iesb.net say that Whedon is vying with the likes of The Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier and other candidates for the chance to bring the highly anticipated ensemble superhero flick to the big screen.

There are myriad reasons why appointing Whedon to take on the movie would be a very, very good idea. Firstly, he’s a comic book geek who probably knows more about the characters – most likely Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk and Ant-Man – than any other mainstream film-maker on the planet. He’s written some of the best Marvel comic book material in the past few years in the shape of his foray into the X-Men universe, Astonishing X-Men, and was even set to bring DC’s Wonder Woman to the big screen a few years ago.

Secondly, Whedon has a sense of humour, and God knows, The Avengers is going to need that. The film needs to follow Iron Man’s breezy, bombastic tone while avoiding too much camp: never an easy task when dealing with multiple multicoloured superhuman types in shiny costumes. It must avoid the brooding tedium of the two Hulk movies, yet maintain a sense of tension: whoever takes this on will have to ground this fantastical set of characters in some sort of believable reality, and do it without hamstringing them. It’s a spectacularly tough task, and an even harder one in the wake of Matthew Vaughn’s revelatory Kick-Ass, which is going to make a number of future superhero efforts look drastically earnest and horribly dated.

Third and finally, Whedon deserves a proper directing gig. He may be best known for his writing work, but this is a film-maker capable of balancing exciting action sequences with cool dialogue and strong characterisation: just watch Serenity, his full-length follow up to sci-fi series Firefly – probably the finest space opera film since The Empire Strikes Back, if you need convincing. The Cabin in the Woods, his forthcoming self-penned horror movie, looks like a fascinating postmodern take on the Evil Dead mode, but Whedon really sings when he’s given the chance to take mainstream fare and put an unconventional spin on it: this is the guy who co-wrote Speed, lest we forget. He also pitched himself as the man to save Terminator last year – what an interesting proposition that would have been. Marvel should let him fiddle with the screenplay too, while they’re at it.

Personally, I would avoid plumping for Leterrier, the latest graduate of the Luc Besson school of hacks (see also Pierre Morel). No doubt the success of Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans remake, which arrives in cinemas this weekend, will determine the Frenchman’s chances, but a more considered guiding hand is surely required. A Leterrier Avengers would tick all the right boxes and look decent enough, but the film needs those little touches of class that only a Whedon-type can deliver if it is to open up the golden age of comic book movies that Marvel desperately wants. The publisher-turned-ministudio hopes to cross-pollinate its characters on film in the same way it does on the page, but as Sam Raimi found out to his cost with the ill-fated Spider-Man 3, too much Spandex tends to spoil the superhero soup.

Do you agree that a Whedon Avengers might be the only way to stop The Avengers going the same way as the Fantastic Four? Or would you plump for a more orthodox director?

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