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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Joss Whedon

05.04.2015
Last week, we took at look at the career of Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas. This week, we're going behind the camera to look at the varied career of a writer/director/producer who's made his presence felt on the big screen and small screen in a big way...
Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon

It's crazy to think that while Joss Whedon's run of shows from the late-nineties/early-aughts always struggled for viewers, two out of the four movies he's directed occupy the number one and two slots on the list of top opening weekends of all time. The entire budget of a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer probably wouldn't have paid for the catering on The AVENGERS, much less AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Sure enough though, Whedon went from a guy who was a kind of geeky-cult sensation to one of the most in-demand producer-director-writers in Hollywood, and while his days with Marvel may be over for now, he was clearly an essential creative ingredient that helped establish the Marvel films as one of the biggest money making franchises of all time.

Joss Whedon the avengers

Despite his new status, it's worth remembering that the fifty-year-old Whedon has been around for decades and that before (and even during) all of his success on the small-screen, many of his big-screen vehicles didn't quite work out. Long before it was ever a TV show, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER was a low-rent teen flick that seemed more like an attempt to launch Luke Perry as a big-screen heartthrob (it never happened) than kick-start any kind of franchise. After that, Whedon worked mainly as a script doctor, famously rewriting movies like SPEED and WATERWORLD, while getting credited for movies like ALIEN: RESURRECTION, a film which Whedon has sensibly distanced himself from over the years. Sure, he did co-write TOY STORY, but rather than chase big-screen gigs that didn't pan out, Whedon become one of the first big-time screenwriters to establish a little fiefdom for himself on the small-screen, a path that's become more popular as the caliber of TV has gone through the roof.

Joss Whedon sarah michelle gellar

In many ways, Whedon himself is partially responsible for that shift, with his reactivated Buffy the Vampire Slayer being one of the early breakout hits on what was then The WB. Whedon was able to take his thwarted film and turn it into a creatively rich, highly serialized action/horror/drama hybrid, that set the pace for the serialized dramas we worship today. Thanks to his work on shows like this, Angel and Firefly, long before he ever started working with Marvel he had a devoted cult of fans called “Whedonites.” Truly, he's traveled a unique path, but the work he's consistently put out over the years speaks for itself.

His Best Work
sarah michelle gellar

Given that a large part of Whedon's career was spent working for the small screen, rather than choosing a film as his major achievement I'm going to go with my gut and pick the TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sporting a truly great ensemble cast of characters, the entire run of the show is Whedon at his best. Based on the success he had mixing action and character development, and his flair at directing ensembles, it's easy to see why Marvel went to him for THE AVENGERS. The show was so good that even TV critics who wouldn't be caught dead watching The WB had to admit it was one of the best things on TV, even though it was famously snubbed in the major categories by the Emmy's and Golden Globes. Some of the concept episodes, such as the silent 'Hush' or the musical “Once More, with Feeling” were absolutely jaw-dropping in an era where TV was considered a lesser art, and along with The X-Files, it proved that genre TV not only could be smart, but that it should be. Also, Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy Summers is a heroine for the ages. In this era of sequel series, it's a shame we haven't gotten a new season of Buffy yet. Surely all the principals would be game?

His Most Underrated Work
cast of angel

Again, another TV show, but not Firefly like I'm sure many of you are expecting. While I love that show, it's not exactly underrated anymore with such a huge cult (called 'Browncoats”) behind it. For me, Whedon's most underrated work remains the unappreciated Angel. While it never had the crazy concept episodes Buffy had, it was just as consistent, especially in the later seasons. David Boreanaz, who was mostly a pretty boy on Buffy, really came into his own as the eponymous hero, but like Buffy, the title character was only one piece of the puzzle. The ensemble here was just as good, from Charisma Carpenter's Cordelia (nicely humanized from her bitchy Buffy days) to Alexis Denisof's terrific Wesley (his overall arc was the best) and Amy Acker's cute and tragic Fred, the storytelling was always excellent. Given the HUGE cliffhanger it ended on, another season of Angel would be most welcome.

His Most Overrated Work
Joss Whedon clark gregg agents of shield

Again, not a movie. As much as I liked THE AVENGERS and even (to a degree) the uneven AGE OF ULTRON, I'm not at all a fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The idea for the show was cool, and I love Clark Gregg's Coulson, but for me it's never worked. It's just – dull. Nothing important ever happens. It's just filler to tide everyone along until the next Marvel epic. I gave this show a chance. I hated the first few episodes, but I tried again following THE WINTER SOLDIER and again at the beginning of season two, but to me it's just very boring and a curious misfire for Whedon, although I assume his duties on the big screen Marvel adventures kept him from investing too much time into the series.

His Most Memorable Scene

One of the things most Marvel fans have appreciated about Joss Whedon is his light touch. He's able to incorporate humor without it being too goofy – which is something that I think has actually really allowed the films to cross over beyond just the fan-boy crowd. There's no finer example of this than The Hulk's now-classic treatment of the always braggy Loki in THE AVENGERS.

His Five Best Films/TV Series


5. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
4. Firefly (Series)/ SERENITY
3. Angel (Series)
2. THE AVENGERS
1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Series)

Up Next

Whedon's earned himself a bit of a break following AGE OF ULTRON, but don't forget – right after the first film he came out with MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Is there a super-secret Whedon project on the way? Could be, but whatever the case I'm sure whatever he commits himself to fully next will blow us all away. Personally, I'd love to see him try STAR WARS, but I could certainly understand that he might want a break from tent-poles for awhile. Given last weekend's take at the box office, I'm reasonably sure he could do whatever he wants now. JOSS - BRING BACK BUFFY!!!

Source: JoBlo.com

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