As the new year begins, full of promise, beginnings, and lists of resolutions, it’s good to know that some things will stay the same. The sun still rises in the East, George R.R. Martin still won’t finish a book, and Joss Whedon would still rather be dragged over hot coals than return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As he confirmed during a Q+A session with the Oxford Union Society in the final weeks of 2015, the all-consuming labor of working for the superhero juggernaut—not to mention having lots of fights with executives eager to shoehorn his talent for storytelling into their passion for cross-promotional synergy—simply exhausted him physically and creatively.
I’ve gone off the reservation for a while. It was five years that I was working on either an Avenger [movie] or S.H.I.E.L.D….That was an enormous gift they gave me; they handed me several hundreds of millions of dollars and said “do what you do,” which is very rare and I was very lucky. But at the same time, 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.
And then, possibly because the Oxford Union Society loves irony, the moderator basically forces Whedon to repeat himself, getting the writer-director to stress that no, he won’t be involved on any level with future projects set in the MCU. “I had my finger in all of the films in the second phase,” he says, emphasizing that he decided to “make a completely clean break” after Avengers: Age Of Ultron, not simply due to conflicting creative visions, but also because being the “consigliere” of the MCU is too seductive. “If I was still there, going, ‘Eh, here are my thoughts on this film,’ I’d be there every day. I wouldn’t do anything else. Because there’s a lot of films—and it’s a lot of fun…when you can just put a little fairy dust on things, improve them slightly, and have them listen to you.” Presumably, legions of Marvel fans who practically drool at the thought of being paid vast sums to sit in a room somewhere and bat around fun ideas for mega-budget superhero movies, then call it a day around 2 p.m., will be more than happy to submit a resume as Whedon’s replacement.