Until 2012, if writer/director Joss Whedon was known by folks in the general population at all, it was likely for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and the short-lived, much mourned, twice referenced on The Big Bang Theory, Firefly. But, let’s be honest – before 2012, Joss Whedon wasn’t really known in the general population. Not by name, anyway. See, all of those shows I listed are, you know, our stuff…nerd stuff.
In a post-Avengers world, however, it is likely he will be best known by the masses as the director of the Mother Effing Best Super Hero Move Ever Made.
In other words: nerdy stuff that non-nerds like too.
And God-DAMN if it isn’t about time our man gets a gig like this.
We have been all but screaming for our friends to give him a shot for years. “Just watch Doctor Horrible for five minutes to see if you like it – It’s so good it broke the internet,” we cry. “If you come see Serenity with me, I’ll buy your ticket and your popcorn,” we plead. Seriously, I have said both of those things. See, Whedon work can be a tough sell. The premise never tells the whole story. “A cheerleader and her friends fight vampires” isn’t quite good enough, is it? “A heartbreaking work of staggering genius” is good enough, but raises eyebrows of skepticism. The best we can hope for is to trick them into watching it by telling them it stars Tom Hanks or something and hope for the best. Until now, that is.
You will find no shortage of Avengers reviews here on Word of the Nerd, so I won’t over do it here. If you want a full review of that film specifically, click here. Suffice it to say, I think our friends will be more open to watching that silly musical thing, now.
This brings me endless joy. See, somewhere in the middle of the first season of Dollhouse, I had what would go on to become a much-repeated thought: I just want to live in a world where Joss Whedon gets to do whatever it is he wants to do. (Say what you will, I liked the first season).
Considering my reluctance to watch either Firefly or Angel during their original runs, this marked a significant milestone in my relationship with Joss Whedon. For a long time, I thought of Buffy of something of an anomaly. “It’s a show I like in spite of the fact that I don’t like that kind of stuff,” I thought. I’m not sure why, given that I grew up on horror and sci-fi, but somehow Buffy doesn’t quite fit in those genres. Part comedy, part melodrama, part the aforementioned heart-breaking work of staggering genius, I suppose I thought it some kind of happy accident that it was better than other teen-paranormal fares like The Craft and Charmed.
Once I finally watched Firefly, I realized that it was no accident. It’s not the hotness of Xander Harris or the sweetness of Willow Rosenberg that makes it something I like in spite of the fact that I don’t like that kind of thing – it’s Joss Whedon himself. When it comes to him, lightning can indeed strike twice – or even three, four and five times.
Sometimes, I am still struck by how strange it is that it all works. An hour comedy-drama about a vampire hunting down criminals doesn’t seem too far fetched in a post-Twilight world, but one that works in a law-firm run by evil forces and includes a green-faced demon who loves Karaoke? I mean…it does seem a bit far-fetched. There is a kind of absurdity to his work that grows steadily more joyous to watch as you acclimate to his style.
Mostly, that style is smart. Very, very smart. His dialogue is razor-sharp without being too stylized, his plot points as unpredictable as they are authentic, and his characters human, even if they aren’t, strictly speaking, humans. (Who could forget the demon named Skip?)
As much as I love him, and as much as his throng of followers in the geek world love him, it is rare that he gets to do everything he wants to do. Firefly was cancelled long before its time due to a miserable time-slot, the network’s choice to air the episodes out of order, and general neglect from Fox. Dollhouse was forced to a quick and messy conclusion in the middle of its second season as well, leading to a disappointing final chapter.
Word on the street is Whedon didn’t even get total freedom with The Avengers. Of course he didn’t– no way does a studio with this much investment in keeping a franchise going turn over complete freedom to a man who seems to take particular delight in killing off fan-favorites (he and George R. R. Martin should really work together.) He is quoted as saying Marvel prescribed several aspects of the script, including the third act. Yet, I have no doubt in this pretty little heart of mine, that fans will recognize the Whedon they know and love in that script, and that the film will be truly spectacular for having him behind the camera.
Joss Whedon has a knack for both epic moments and small, human moments. He knows how to reach into a fantastical world and twist it around until it bleeds humanity. We are, all of us, in for a treat – I say this with zero reservations, even though I have yet to see the film. ZERO. And this from someone who was sorely disappointed by The Watchmen. (Update: I have seen it now…and I was right. So good).
I also have little doubt that while geeks like us will have to get used to sharing Whedon with the masses, from now on, we can rest assured that we are looking at a future in which he gets to do just about anything he wants. At least for a while. And that, my friends, is good news.
Need some help catching up with all the Avengers before seeing the film? Check out Avengers Boot Camp.
This post was originally published under the title Avengers Boot Camp: Joss Whedon on Good Girls Gone Geek, May 3, 2012