Three Cheers For Joss Whedon: King Of The Geeks, King Of The World

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Joss Whedon rules. This truth is celebrated in many disparate swaths of the internet, from Buffytown to Fireflyville to Dr Horribleopolis.

As a writer and director, Whedon has mastered the art of twisting and re-imagining bits of genre junk that we love — Cowboys! Vampires and witches! Supervillains! Horror movies! — and infusing them with universal themes and fantastic characters. His writing is idiosyncratic and kind, his worldview is guided by warm optimism but grounded in a clear-eyed realism and an acceptance of the tragic curve-balls life can throw. He's created several of pop culture's great female characters and will make no bones about telling you why that's important. Thanks to him, we've fallen in love with unlikely heroes and heroic villains, vampire puppets and charming werewolves, librarians and prostitutes, Kaylee Frye and Xander Harris.

And yet for the longest time, it seemed like the dude couldn't catch a break.

Despite its too-good-to-be-true cast, Firefly was schedule-punked and rearranged by Fox, then shuffled off to an early cancellation. Dr Horrible never made it beyond cult status, and to this day plenty of people have never watched it (though they really should). Buffy flirted with cancellation multiple times and wound up limping through its final few seasons with a limited budget on a different network. The Buffy comics suffered steadily declining sales after they were released and, it must be said, have fallen into a bit of a vortex of nonsensical self-indulgence. His fabulous Firefly film Serenity was a box-office disappointment.

Time and again it's seemed like Joss was going to finally get his big chance to hit one out of the park, and time and again it hasn't worked out. Dollhouse should have been a great show, but questionable casting and other creative fumbles left it directionless for long enough that it never won an audience. Whedon was long rumoured to be taking the helm of the Wonder Woman movie, a franchise that seemed uniquely well-suited to his talents. Yet he parted ways with the project due to creative differences with Silver Pictures and never came back.

People want Joss to do well. Often to a weird degree, if we're being honest. His cult following is legion, hundreds of thousands of passionate people who get into screaming arguments with their friends who refuse to watch Firefly. "You just don't understand," they shout, righteously. At every gaming event I've ever attended, 90 per cent of conversations eventually turn to the Whedonverse. It seems there's always something new to talk about, some new insight to share or favourite line to quote.

There has long been a sense of vague indignation among Joss' fans. Every time one of his projects falls short of mainstream success or has its plug pulled, there's an outpouring of internet support and outrage. And with good reason — it's simply hard to look at his oeuvre and not think, "This guy — this guy! — should be cranking out the biggest blockbuster hits in the world." And yet he's only enjoyed only modest, inconsistant success.

This past weekend, that finally changed. Whedon's The Avengers just pulled off the highest-grossing opening weekend in film history, shattering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' standing record by raking in an estimated $US200.5 million in domestic returns, putting its estimated global box office gross at nearly $US650 million.

$US650 million! Made by a Joss Whedon movie!

See ya later, Hunger Games. So long, Harry Potter. Rest in peace, Dark Knight and Avatar. Joss Whedon, champion of the library kids and crown knight of the nerds, just become the most successful film director in the world.

It's about time.


Comments

    'At every gaming event I’ve ever attended, 90 per cent of conversations eventually turn to the Whedonverse' I'm with you 100% on that one. I don't account myself among the Whedon fans and I do tire of the attention his varying middling projects receive..... especially at conventions.

    I liken the post humorous love for Whedon's stuff to the kids I see now wearing Kurt Kobain shirts or back when I was in high school Hendrix/Morrison shirts etc. When it came down to it most of the time if I pushed some of these people I would find they didn't listen to the music much less like it but it’s great to be able to lament how these people were cut down in their prime etc even if you’re not interested in what they actually contributed.

    Whedon ‘fans’ certainly love to lament over various projects how they were ill handled but actually watching the programs or liking them at all... not so much in my experience. When I see the cult of Whedon in full swing I just see kids wearing Hendrix shirts who couldn’t tell you a name of one of his albums if you smacked them in the head with it ;)

      I love Joss Whedon for 2 shows only, Firefly and Dr Horrible.

      The first time I watched Firefly I laughed at it and thought it was rubbish, then I actually watched it from the start and I really really enjoyed it, that and Battlestar Glactica (the new one, except the ending) are the only 2 sci-fi series that I have enjoyed since I was a teenager (I thought Earth 2 was great when I was 8 ; D ).

      Dr Horrible is fantastic...I have watched it like 30x at least ; D

      I hated Buffy and I didn't like Dollhouse (but if I saw it on tv I would watch for a bit because it had some damn hot women in it ; D )

    The Avengers sucked, and this guy is overrated.

      Agreed. Watching the action in 3D was entertaining, other than that it sucked.

      Django sucks, and it's overrated. I mean, a derivative of Python? That's like a derivative of a derivative, jesus. Why not pick a real framework like Ruby, idiot.

      Pleas, please. Permit me.

      ahhem heem hemm......."Puny troll"

    In all fairness though, it's The Avengers - it's the equivalent of geek mecca as far as films go, and can thank the films preceding it for setting the mood and the excitement. Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America - all these things paved the way for it's success (or at the very least getting people into the cinemas to see it). I'm not going to get into a debate about Whedon's talent but you have to concede the film has had a bit of a handicap straight off the line.

    This could have been the biggest steaming turd cinema has ever witnessed and it still would have made a crapton. It's The Avengers.

      That's all true, but I haven't found a single person (except for trolls like Django, but are trolls really people) who has seen The Avengers, and not liked it. Taken objectively, it's still a fantastic movie. Many films have had a fanbase advantage, with many people invested in it and watching it, but still flopped critically and in the eyes of their fans. The Avengers is not one of those movies.

    What about Avatar, didn't it make more at opening than Avengers? and maybe more all up? I don't know

      Opening weekend and total gross are 2 different figures, but are both essentially what is determined a movie to be a success.

      Avatar:
      Opening Weekend - $77,025,481
      Total Gross -$2,782,275,172

      The Avengers:
      Opening Weekend - $207,438,708
      Total Gross - $654,838,708 and counting

      The Avengers also had the advantage of opening in nearly 1,000 more theaters than Avatar did.

        Thank you Cakesmith for clearly that up as I thought Avatar made more at opening than $77 million but I prefer to see the final count at the end and compare the two then. I think Avengers will make more :-)

          It will be interesting to see if The Avengers has legs.

          Generally, 40% of a films profit is made in it's opening weekend. There are exceptions of course, but movies like Titanic and Avatar had people seeing them multiple times. I'm not sure if The Avengers will get that same response.

          For the record, I like The Avengers a lot more than Avatar. I found Avatar to be an excellent tech demo.

            Yes! I agree. Avatar was a brilliant tech demo. Avengers was way more entertaining.

    Marvel kept him on a tight leash so he couldn't screw up the universe like he did with Alien resurrection.

    He is way over rated, doll house was dull as ditch water & bombed massively. Firefly was cliche as fuck & super predictable and had some of the dumbest design ideas ever filmed. I mean humanity has discovered the secret to interstellar travel yet have regressed to riding horse back & using lever action rifles.

      Alien Resurrection?

      That was directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet.

        Joss wrote Alien: Resurrection

          I did not know that. Wow. He just went down a notch in my book, that story was outright ridiculous.
          I discount that film from the series completely. Apart from the awful story, Jeunet was not the man to direct it - his arthouse stuff is fantastic, but his style does not suit the Alien universe.

            Yes Joss wrote it. But he has also gone on record saying that much of his original script was scrapped by the director and the studio.

              It's because of things like this and the first Buffy movie that he is so adamant to his cast that there be no ad libbing. I watched a talk with Moreena Baccarin at Supanova and she said they were basically puppets. Joss would tell them what to say and how to move and they did it. This is why Firefly and Serenity were so brilliant.

      I thought the people that 'regressed' was because of the lack of resources and money in those areas. Places like Earth or central planets had all the updated tech but we never really saw those places. Only the outer planets. I don't think it's uncommon for an advanced race to find a new place and have to rough it until the next load of people/tech arrives, have a look at Australia when it first started. Take what you can to live for so many months/years until the next arrival. That is my take on that whole thing

    I love the guy, but not nearly as much as most geek culture seems to, I agree he's overrated. I genuinely think his ... uhh female issues, detract from his work, SPOILER from Avengers, the fact the Whedon was directing meant that entire scene with Black Widow and Loki was a farce for me from the first line, it's not good when I don't pick up she's putting on an act because of subtle direction, but instead simply because Whedon is the director and there's no way someone is going to get the better of his idolised tough female lead, ESPECIALLY not a man. Add in some general plot flaws, and that moment of realisation somewhere halfway through Buffy that's it' s basically Home and Away with Vampires... and while I enjoy his work, he's hardly the Chris Nolan of TV directing >_>

      Yeah the guy keeps ramming this feminism down our throats, reversing the gender roles of men and women.

        Yeah, cause watching men and women play the same tired roles over and over is far more appealing than seeing someone mix it up. Maybe it hurts your opinion of the movie because you know so much about the director already and his ideals have filtered your vision. For example, I'm a fan of Joss Whedon's stuff, but i never payed much attention to his feminist views and the 'issues' there and i fully believed Black Widow was getting pulled over by Loki until the moment it was revealed she wasn't. And who cares if there are strong women featured in his work? They aren't in any way devoid of strong male leads, i mean the whole Avengers movie was basically about Iron Man's internal struggle - he's a strong intelligent man-type who doesn't ever talk about 'mommy issues'.

      I thought those two scenes were really good and added a fair bit of comedy to the movie and added the extra bit of "The Trickster God was tricked"

    The internet. Home of the word "overrated" and enemy to objectivity.

    Great Article. and great movie!

    Some excellent pacing in it and its not just about the movie though, its timing and other factors which lead to commercial success.

    Josh Whedon.
    I too am a big fan of his stuff. When it comes together (firefly, serenity, dr. H) it's sublime. When I heard he directed Avengers was when I decided to go and he didn't dissappoint.

    As for feminism issues....? He has what?
    All his characters are memorable strong characters. Male and female. That's his job. You want him to write pathetic "ankle twisting" victims for female characters I think it says more about your issues than his. Hey! The 1950's called and they want their chauvanism back. :P

    Ashamed to admit I haven't seen Firefly or Serenity yet - though I really want to. Buffy, Angel and Dollhouse are awesome though - and Dr Horrible is really awesome, and The Avengers was an excellent film - perfect cinematic entertainment.

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