Why I’m Glad Joss Whedon Doesn’t Want To Direct Catching Fire

why I'm glad Joss Whedon is not directing Catching Fire The Cabin in the WoodsNow that we know that Gary Ross won’t be returning to direct the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, the hunt is on for the next director willing to take on the daunting franchise. And in a stroke of good timing, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard‘s whip-smart horror film The Cabin in the Woods is being released by Lionsgate tomorrow. So it’s no surprise that Variety caught up with the creative team — both wrote the script, and Goddard directed — to ask if they would take a stab at the world of Panem.

Both handled the potentially awkward question with grace; after all, they couldn’t very well badmouth the studio that finally brought Cabin to theaters after three years. But you know that this question came about only because of the fortuitous timing; neither of their styles really fits the movie. Whedon summed it up well:

“You know, I love the books and I really love the movie. I think Gary Ross [did] them all beautifully, and who wouldn’t want to work with that cast, honestly? And I think the second book is really exciting. But I’ve been walking in somebody else’s world for a long time.

I’ve spent the last two years doing that and watching Cabin reminds me what it’s like when something comes purely from your own brain, how much fun that is. It’d be tempting as hell, not that they’d necessarily ask, but no, I feel like it’s time to go back into the ‘Insane-o’ place and see what else comes out.”

He’s of course talking about the upcoming superhero epic The Avengers, which he also wrote the screenplay for. I believe that Whedon works best as a director when he’s had some part in constructing the script; and we already know that Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) is writing Catching Fire. I just don’t believe that their styles would mesh well if Whedon hadn’t assisted with the words.

Furthermore, there are already Whedon influences in the first Hunger Games film. I got such a Firefly vibe from the twanging score in the District 12 scenes, contrasted with the so-shiny-it-hurts Capitol. Those I read as homages, but for Whedon to actually try to mold those characters and scenes would just come out disingenuous.

In the same vein, it would feel wrong to try to match up Katniss Everdeen with Joss Whedon, like when you force together two friends you think would be perfect together but who actually hate one another. Although Katniss easily deserves to join the ranks of Buffy Summers and Echo — a list that may, after this weekend, also include Cabin‘s protagonist Dana (Kristen Connolly) – I worry that she would become swallowed up by Whedonesque tropes. His characters are necessarily self-aware, but part of Katniss’ appeal is that she lacks that insight and struggles against the labels that others plaster on to her: volunteer, tribute, one-half of a reality-TV power couple, Mockingjay.

That’s not to say I would be upset if Whedon took on the mantle. But unlike Katniss and Peeta, this is not a star-crossed match.

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