Joss Whedon is on a roll, you can’t deny it.
After years of slowly developing a loyal following with cult shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, Whedon is about to break through into mainstream success with the ensemble superhero film The Avengers, and his horror film The Cabin in the Woods.
A lot hinges on The Avengers. Not only will it possibly make or break Whedon’s career, Marvel is banking on it to be their biggest franchise endeavor yet. They’ve dedicated much screentime in Iron Man 2 (which sadly suffered from this) and Thor (which thankfully did not) to build up hype for the film. After years of painstakingly adding Easter Eggs and short after-the-credits scenes in movies like Captain America and The Incredible Hulk, we’ll finally be able to see the results on May 4.
Hype withstanding, it’s about time Whedon has had his big break. Although his TV shows are much loved by their fans, the ratings are often abysmal to say the least, and don’t often see more than two seasons. The critically-loved Firefly suffered this fate, as well as 2009’s Dollhouse. And when Whedon tried to break through in the big screen with Serenity, it was a box office failure, despite the consensus on it being generally awesome.
Despite his rocky record, Whedon is set for success. Both he and Marvel have their own built-in fanbase, so The Avengers is sure to make waves at the box office. And with the star power behind the movie, including big names like Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, it at least has the public’s attention.
The only possibility for failure is the oversaturation of stars. Not only are there established actors, like the ones mentioned above, but rising stars like Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Tom Hiddleston. We all know what happened with big ensemble movies where things couldn’t possibly have gone wrong because “they are all such great actors!” only for the films to crash and burn (cough, She’s Just Not That Into You, cough). The only time that has ever worked is with Love, Actually and the Ocean’s movies. So you need a skilled hand. Is Joss Whedon that hand? Maybe. Probably.
Whedon has an impressive history with ensemble casts; most, or nearly all, of his shows and productions have had a large cast of characters, each of them unique and loved by the fandom. Whedon has a fantastic ability of finding the niche for each character in the group, so that the show runs as a well-oiled machine, powered by the likeability and chemistry of the characters. He also has an unfortunate habit of killing off many of these much-loved characters, much to the chagrin of the fans, but we won’t go there.
Now the actors in The Avengers are not Whedon regulars (a large number of actors which include Nathan Fillion, Eliza Dushku, Alan Tudyk, Amy Acker and others), but they each have their own individual charm that Whedon could potentially weave together. And from the looks of the trailer, it looks like he’s succeeding.
But if some of you hardcore Whedonites may feel alienated by Joss Whedon’s foray into the mainstream, fear not. Whedon is going back to his B-movie horror roots (Buffy was famously a commentary on horror genres) with The Cabin in the Woods (April 13), complete with Whedon regular Fran Kranz (Dollhouse) and plenty of genre-savvy snark. While the plot sounds a bit tired and cliche (the title is pretty self-explanatory), the film promises to deliver some of Whedon’s trademark pop culture commentary with a little horror thrown in for fun.
Whedon may finally get the big break he deserves this summer, and maybe from now on each brilliant TV show idea he puts out won’t get shot down. TV may not be ready for Joss Whedon, but it looks like the cinema is.