Deadline New York's Mike Fleming is reporting that Joss Whedon is in final negotiations to direct THE AVENGERS. Huge tip of the hat to IESB for being the first to name Whedon as a finalist for the project.
In many ways, Whedon is the ideal choice for this dream superhero project: starting with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (hell, even going back to writing in a reference to Gigantor in SPEED), he's been integral in the mainstreaming of geek culture; he's also been extremely active in the comic book world, launching ASTONISHING X-MEN and taking over for Brian K. Vaughan on RUNAWAYS. As a feature filmmaker, however, the jury is out: SERENITY may have been shot anamorphic, but it still played like TV on the big screen; as for the multitude of BUFFY, ANGEL and DOLLHOUSE episodes he's directed, I've yet to see him deliver something that has impressive physical scale.
And this is crucial because THE AVENGERS needs to be the biggest movie ever from Marvel Studios. It's the film they've been building towards since Nick Fury's post-credits cameo in IRON MAN. If they fall short, the Marvel Studios brand could be irrevocably diminished.
Another challenge for Whedon: managing egos, and not allowing THE AVENGERS to turn into IRON MAN 3 just because Robert Downey Jr. is the biggest star in the cast. This needs to be a true ensemble effort. If anyone leads the way, it should be Captain America. Though I don't know much about the script (Nick Fury allegedly plays a significant role in the narrative), I wouldn't be surprised if pressure is brought to bear on Zak Penn to beef up a role or two before the film goes before cameras in early 2011. Love Downey, love Tony Stark, but, as Harry said a couple of weeks ago, I'd rather this be the superhero version of THE PROFESSIONALS - with a slight emphasis on Cap. Or Henry Pym.