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.