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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!!!

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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5:51PM on 05/04/2015
Joss Whedon is an entertainer, first and foremost. He's not the most original writer, but he's got a definite feel for what will make audiences happy. As someone else said, it's his own independent projects that really thrill me. Dr. Horrible'sSing-Along Blog, A Cabin in the Woods, and his TV work. The guy loves to toy with genres to make us happy. I say this, even though I'm not a die-hard Whedonite. I don't look at most of his work and say "Masterpiece." I say, "That's fun!" And in some ways
Joss Whedon is an entertainer, first and foremost. He's not the most original writer, but he's got a definite feel for what will make audiences happy. As someone else said, it's his own independent projects that really thrill me. Dr. Horrible'sSing-Along Blog, A Cabin in the Woods, and his TV work. The guy loves to toy with genres to make us happy. I say this, even though I'm not a die-hard Whedonite. I don't look at most of his work and say "Masterpiece." I say, "That's fun!" And in some ways I think you could call that an even higher compliment, since I believe it's always been his goal to entertain first.

I do have a soft spot for the original Buffy, but a lot of that has to do with Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, and Paul Reubens. Swanson and Sutherland had some good back-and-forth. I was really surprised how serious the show took itself by comparison.
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9:16AM on 05/04/2015
I am actually surprised at some of the tepid reviews of Avengers Age Of Ultron is getting. With a description like "uneven" etc. I absolutely loved it, and it ranks up there as one of my favorite Marvel movies now. I can't wait to see it again.
I am actually surprised at some of the tepid reviews of Avengers Age Of Ultron is getting. With a description like "uneven" etc. I absolutely loved it, and it ranks up there as one of my favorite Marvel movies now. I can't wait to see it again.
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12:00PM on 05/04/2015
Yeah it kind of annoyed me. Seems to me a critic should be more focused on giving an accurate review and not on showing off their intellectual skills.
Yeah it kind of annoyed me. Seems to me a critic should be more focused on giving an accurate review and not on showing off their intellectual skills.
12:06PM on 05/04/2015
But then again, some critics I think have been unfairly dismissive of other films were over the moon on this one.
But then again, some critics I think have been unfairly dismissive of other films were over the moon on this one.
9:13AM on 05/04/2015

A real game changer

A large portion of TV's current Golden Age can be attributed to Joss Whedon's work on Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly. It really forced TV producers to up their game since audiences began to expect more from shows.

For me, it's his one-offs like DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-A-LONG BLOG and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING that really show off his creative energy. The guy truly is unstoppable.
A large portion of TV's current Golden Age can be attributed to Joss Whedon's work on Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly. It really forced TV producers to up their game since audiences began to expect more from shows.

For me, it's his one-offs like DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-A-LONG BLOG and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING that really show off his creative energy. The guy truly is unstoppable.
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9:01AM on 05/04/2015
I'm a Joss Whedon guy. Always have been. I'd like to throw out some love for Dollhouse too. That show starts slow, but gets rolling in the middle of the first season and for awhile was extremely entertaining. Very creative ideas, but the show didn't have enough time to really show the full bag of tricks.
I'm a Joss Whedon guy. Always have been. I'd like to throw out some love for Dollhouse too. That show starts slow, but gets rolling in the middle of the first season and for awhile was extremely entertaining. Very creative ideas, but the show didn't have enough time to really show the full bag of tricks.
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+3
5:47AM on 05/04/2015
I'm so happy for Whedon, and in turn, myself :D. It always felt like Hollywood never got him, that whatever studio work he did was always put under the normal studio microscope of "How do we sell this" "we need to make this actor famous from this" "give me more action" etc. And it was always evident that actually, Whedon just wanted to make his cool little stories with well defined characters busting genre expectations, that selling something to an audience was never the point, but that it was
I'm so happy for Whedon, and in turn, myself :D. It always felt like Hollywood never got him, that whatever studio work he did was always put under the normal studio microscope of "How do we sell this" "we need to make this actor famous from this" "give me more action" etc. And it was always evident that actually, Whedon just wanted to make his cool little stories with well defined characters busting genre expectations, that selling something to an audience was never the point, but that it was always about the story. To me he's always felt like an independent spirit trying to work within the "system". Buffy is incredible, it finding a rabid audience feels less to me about it being "cool and sexy" television, and more like like-minded people attaching to some of the best characters written for the medium. To see him being accepted by Marvel (a company who, for all their money, does still feel like they want to do their cool little stories with their nerdy little characters) was just the perfect platform considering he's been adapting their stories into his shows for years, unbeknownst to the general public. It was just the perfect marriage of the underdog nerd, working for a company of underdog nerds who somehow had captured the imagination (and money) of the world.
I will watch anything Whedon makes, because I will without a doubt enjoy it. Not force myself to enjoy it, but genuinely sit back and let the characters, stories and independent joy take me away. You either get him, or you don't.
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5:25AM on 05/04/2015

Joss Whedon is an excellent "safe" filmmaker.

As a filmmaker he is excellent at creating populist movies and shows. He knows how to write stuff for a mainstream audience. But he's not a guy who will challenge the audience. He is safe. I don't get excited to watch his next movie, but I know that his next movie will most likely be well made and fun with a slice of well-intentioned cheese over it. His mass fan following affords him a lot of goodwill as well, which seems to elevate the perception of his work, I tend to think.
As a filmmaker he is excellent at creating populist movies and shows. He knows how to write stuff for a mainstream audience. But he's not a guy who will challenge the audience. He is safe. I don't get excited to watch his next movie, but I know that his next movie will most likely be well made and fun with a slice of well-intentioned cheese over it. His mass fan following affords him a lot of goodwill as well, which seems to elevate the perception of his work, I tend to think.
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5:38PM on 05/04/2015
While I may agree that Whedon is ultimately a populist, that is in no way a bad thing in my book. We need our populists. While I'm all for the auteur doing their thing, Whedon is an entertainer. And a damn good one at that.
While I may agree that Whedon is ultimately a populist, that is in no way a bad thing in my book. We need our populists. While I'm all for the auteur doing their thing, Whedon is an entertainer. And a damn good one at that.
3:44AM on 05/04/2015
The man is a genius as far as I am concerned who has really shown this huge film and television fan some of the best, most entertaining content he's ever seen on the big and/or small screen.
The man is a genius as far as I am concerned who has really shown this huge film and television fan some of the best, most entertaining content he's ever seen on the big and/or small screen.
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2:44AM on 05/04/2015
I think it's testament to Whedon's talent as a script doctor and director that Avengers didn't collapse under its own weight. We take it as given now, but remember, there was a time when Zak Penn wrote a script that was regarded as unusable, there was no director attached, and Marvel were almost 2 years from the release date. Whedon swept in, wrote on the run, and delivered the 3rd biggest flick of all time. The Avengers concept would buy some bums on seats, but if the film didn't hit the mark,
I think it's testament to Whedon's talent as a script doctor and director that Avengers didn't collapse under its own weight. We take it as given now, but remember, there was a time when Zak Penn wrote a script that was regarded as unusable, there was no director attached, and Marvel were almost 2 years from the release date. Whedon swept in, wrote on the run, and delivered the 3rd biggest flick of all time. The Avengers concept would buy some bums on seats, but if the film didn't hit the mark, then it would have done nothing close to what it did.

I've been a fan of his since Buffy (the TV series) and love what he does. He's not perfect, but when he creates new worlds and characters, there's always something to enjoy. I'm glad to see he's stepping back from bigger fare to create something of his own again after 4 works in a row that were remakes or franchise works (Avengers, Much Ado About Nothing, Agents of SHIELD, Age of Ultron).
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2:32AM on 05/04/2015

Awesome

Great writer, directer, producer, sandwich maker etc. Loved his work since Buffy introduced me to him.
Great writer, directer, producer, sandwich maker etc. Loved his work since Buffy introduced me to him.
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+1
2:12AM on 05/04/2015

Whedon is OVERATED. He's done little to prove himself.

Best thing Whedon's done was Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, and that's it.
Your list of "His Five Best Films/TV Series" is a hilarious, because you can't even have a top five list naming 5 feature length films Whedon's directed. He hasn't shown us much at all! I didn't see Alien Resurrection or Waterworld on that list....oh yeah, cause they sucked! Also, Whedon did not direct The Cabin in The Woods, he produced and co-wrote the film with the film's REAL director Drew Goddard. By the way,
Best thing Whedon's done was Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, and that's it.
Your list of "His Five Best Films/TV Series" is a hilarious, because you can't even have a top five list naming 5 feature length films Whedon's directed. He hasn't shown us much at all! I didn't see Alien Resurrection or Waterworld on that list....oh yeah, cause they sucked! Also, Whedon did not direct The Cabin in The Woods, he produced and co-wrote the film with the film's REAL director Drew Goddard. By the way, good film until it's awful WFT ending. The Gods? Really?
Whedon told us back on Feb. 25 2013 that the Avengers 2 would be "Death, Death, and More Death", I saw Avengers 2 and that promise from Whedon was total a crock of shit. He's a hypocrite! And don't get me started on his dislike of the endings to The Empire Strikes Back, The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Two Towers, cause he hated these endings.

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2:34AM on 05/04/2015
I'm sad for you.
I'm sad for you.
2:52AM on 05/04/2015
Appreciate you're not a fan, so all good - I do think it's a touch unfair though to say he hasn't shown us much at all. The guy has been working in Hollywood for more than 20 years, had directed dozens of TV shows, written a few movies, directed 3, and created 5 TV shows.

As for Alien Resurrection, if you are interested to read Joss's script (before the director hacked into it), you'll see he wrote a very different film than what turned out. Regarding Waterworld (which certainly sucked),
Appreciate you're not a fan, so all good - I do think it's a touch unfair though to say he hasn't shown us much at all. The guy has been working in Hollywood for more than 20 years, had directed dozens of TV shows, written a few movies, directed 3, and created 5 TV shows.

As for Alien Resurrection, if you are interested to read Joss's script (before the director hacked into it), you'll see he wrote a very different film than what turned out. Regarding Waterworld (which certainly sucked), it's interesting to know that in the process of rewriting that script the studio told him to "fix act 3 and make it cheaper" and he made clear that the problem with the script was acts 1 & 2, but he was given no authority to change any of act 1 or 2. Can't do much to polish a turd under those circumstances.

Not trying to change your mind here - just think it's worth noting the facts.
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