It's been well documented in recent weeks, but Joss Whedon's time as a writer, director and consultant for Marvel Studios is over. As of today, Whedon has written and directed the two biggest box office openings ever with 2012's Avengers and this weekend's followup, Avengers: Age of Ultron. The sequel broke records internationally and brought in $191 million domestically, falling short of its predecessor thanks in part due to the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao "fight of the century" boxing match that dominated everything from headlines, to pay-per-view parties and bars with televisions Saturday evening.
A lengthy series of followup movies post-Age of Ultron, including another pair of Avengers flicks, were announced long before this weekend, but Whedon made it clear to Marvel that he wouldn't be back to do a third Avengers. The journey so far and the work required to make such a large-scale movie and to meet so many demands and expectations (not just of fans, but of Marvel HQ and the talent) is clearly a crushing amount of pressure and it killed the spirit of Whedon. So much so, that today he shut down his Twitter account.
Whedon's press tour obligations to promote Avengers: Age of Ultron are seemingly over, and like he told us more than once in interviews, it's time for him to rest, rest some more, then get back to doing what he does best: creating. He explained a few months ago that after Avengers 2 he would get to work creating a "new universe" but we don't have any clue yet as to what shape that might take. A new movie? A new TV series?
We could see it on his exhausted face last summer when we met him on the set of Avengers: Age of Ultron, sitting across from him in full-size recreation of the top levels of Avengers Tower, inside the lab of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Our conversation was broken up into three smaller segments because he kept getting pulled away.
It started making sense when producer Jeremy Latcham revealed that actors (using Chris Hemsworth as an example) could talk to Marvel Studios president of production and general MCU mastermind Kevin Feige directly and express ideas or concerns with their characters in the script. That would trickle down to Latcham and then to Whedon - all during production of the film. Whedon must meet all of their needs, even while trying to manage everything else in the heat of the moment. It's part of the reason why Whedon was rewriting parts of the script on a daily basis, the other part being his general creativity. He always has new ideas.
Unfortunately, these types of ideas have just been closed off from the large Whedon fanbase.
Why Did Joss Whedon Quit Twitter?
With his work bringing Marvel's Avengers together twice on the big screen, Joss Whedon has reached the biggest audience possible, and before his journey at Marvel Studios began, the creator already had a amassed a fiercely loyal following for his cult hit TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly and his works writing Marvel Comics stories including Astonishing X-Men and Runaways.
As anyone familiar with social media will know, with a large audience comes a larger sampling of the worst elements of the internet: trolls. Whedon received the typical social media "death threats" for a variety of unjustifiable insane reasons relating to Age of Ultron and we can only imagine that this must wear down Whedon even further after a lengthy press tour where the common tune from his interviews was that he's happy to be on his way out and that it's very difficult to please everyone.
It's no secret that there was friction getting this movie made, from picking and choosing which sequences make the final cut of the film (see: Whedon's chat with Empire), how much Whedon could be involved on the TV side versus his film obligations (he created Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but Marvel Studios didn't really want that and so he couldn't serve as showrunner), etc.
And there are more complex, additional layers to all of this, too. One major callout that needs to be noted is the topic of sexism and how it's lead to some blowback for Whedon - someone who's widely known as an advocate of feminism. A few weeks ago Joss Whedon called out a clip from Jurassic World for being "70’s era sexist" and later deleted the tweet, telling Variety:
"I shouldn't have tweeted it. I don’t ever say things about other people’s work that are negative. That's bad form. It’s not what a gentleman would do."
Some critics (see: Blastr, Defamer, EW, and SheKnows) of Avengers: Age of Ultron took issue with the story arc of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), labeling it as anti-feminist, while others took it a step further, latching onto that Jurassic World tweet above to accuse Whedon of being a "hypocrite." There were a pile of out-of-place trolling tweets (see: here and click image below) about that too, but it all adds up to the same thing: Twitter is awful for Whedon's current purposes and it became a lot worse over the weekend.
But the biggest reason, the one that combines and builds off of all the others... he never really wanted to be on Twitter in the first place. This is what he told EW in 2013:
"I joined six months ago to specifically try to drive business to Much Ado About Nothing because I figured Much Ado needs all the help it can get. The moment I joined, oh my God, what a responsibility, this is enormous work—very fun, but it really started to take up a huge amount of my head space. I’m making a movie, I got a responsibility, this job doesn’t pay very well. It’s a fascinating medium, it’s a fascinating social phenomenon. People are like, ‘It’s like a drug.’ Yeah, and it’s like a job. It’s just another art form. Until I have a script I truly believe in or a tweet that’s really remarkable, I can just walk away and get back to the storytelling I need to do."
It was a job. The job's done.
I wouldn't be surprised if he returns in the future, whether to promote new projects or do what Twitter and other social platforms are best at, interacting with the fans.