Color me intrigued by this choice.

When word first broke that Joss Whedon was a possible director for "The Avengers," it was April 1st, so there was little or no chance I was going to reprint the story.  I'll give credit where it's due, though, because now, almost two weeks later, it looks like Whedon has pinned the job down, and as with anything related to Joss Whedon or Marvel Comics or, in this case, the combination of the two, expect there to be controversy in a big ol' way.

It's not hyperbole to say that "The Avengers" is the single most important film on the Marvel Studios agenda.  Everything they've done for the last few years has been about laying the right groundwork for this film.  That means they've had to focus on getting each building block right.  "Iron Man" was an unexpectedly robust hit for the studio, and even if "The Incredible Hulk" wasn't a megahit, it re-established the character in a way that fans seemed pleased with following Ang Lee's nearly experimental take on the property.  This summer, "Iron Man 2" seems poised to be one of the biggest films of the year, and work is well underway on "Thor" for a release next year, with "Captain America" about to start shooting.

For those not familiar with comics, "The Avengers" is a supergroup, basically, assembled under the watchful eye of Nick Fury, called into action when there is a global threat that no one hero can face alone.  This is not a group that lives and works together a la the X-Men or the Fantastic Four.  These heroes all have individual lives, and other things to occupy them.  The Avengers is an occasional thing, a last resort.

It is also, if done right, permission to make the biggest superhero film ever attempted.

After all, if the threat isn't amazing and epic, then there's no reason to put this much firepower in one film.  You can't just have a regular superhero movie bad guy show up and monologue about some real estate scheme or stand around and glower menacingly.  You need to put together a threat so powerful that no single hero could stand against it convincingly.  What could possible require the joint force of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk?  What could be so potentially catastrophic that this team is called into action?

That's the fun of it, isn't it?

Joss Whedon is a polarizing figure in fandom, and no matter what I think of "Dollhouse," his latest effort, or the creepy culty fanbase that canonizes him all out of proportion, I quite like "Buffy" and "Angel" and "Firefly," and I thought his first film as a feature director, "Serenity," was a pretty great little SF action film with a sense of style and energy.  Whedon's gifts lie in the way he directs ensembles, and "The Avengers" is perfect for that.  And to be handed a dream team like Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth (trust me on this one... the dude is Thor) and Chris Evans, all of them already familiar with the roles they're playing, is pretty much a perfect situation for a filmmaker.

Marvel knows this is the big one.  They're planning to make this an event on top of an event, so expect it to not just be the biggest-budget thing that Whedon's ever touched, but one of the biggest-budget superhero films ever attempted.  Right now, Zak Penn is hard at work on the screenplay, and I'm sure Whedon's going to be a great sounding board during that part of the process.  Whedon's been playing in the Marvel sandbox for a while now on the comics side of things, writing an acclaimed run of "X-Men" stories and also chipping in for "The Runaways," created by Bryan K. Vaughan.  He's demonstrated a real knowledge of the characters and the universe, and now he's going to try to channel that love into something that walks and talks, taking on the biggest challenge of his career in the process.

Good luck, sir.  See you in the theater for "The Avengers" on May 4, 2012.  Now... AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

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