Devil’s Advocate: Is Joss Whedon Right For ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’?

Note: Although the film has already been released in Europe, please do not post any spoilers in the comments out of respect for those who haven’t had the chance to see it over here in the States

Joss Whedon is cooler than you.

For fans, this week is a monumental time for it’s the week Marvel’s The Avengers is finally being released in theaters. But for the film-makers and the companies behind it, it’s not all celebration. For them it’s reminiscent of that limited time in school after you take an important test but before you receive your grade. For Disney & Marvel, this opening week is the ultimate test that will determine the future of their movies for years to come; if they reach $150 million plus opening weekend, then they’re on a roll.. but if things go the other way and they have a Green Lantern of a summer it could throw a wrench in the works for their upcoming plans for sequels of the solo character movies as well as any sequels for Marvel’s The Avengers movie itself.

And it’s with that in mind that I consider who Disney & Marvel chose to shepherd them to success: writer/director Joss Whedon. Here’s one of a select group of golden boys in the fan community, and was constantly on the short-list of “dream” directors to helm superhero movies before he was nabbed for Marvel’s The Avengers. But is he the right choice? Let’s think about it.

Before I go into this potentially dangerous territory on a site named after an admitted hardcore type of fan, let me say this: I am an immense fan of Joss Whedon. I have the DVD sets of Buffy, Angel and Firefly on my shelf, and I’ve even braved the crowds at numerous conventions to hear Whedon speak. But hear me out.

Looking cynically at this, Joss Whedon’s track record of doing successful movies is non-existent. The only feature film he’s directed, Serenity, earned a paltry $38 million dollars, which is a cool million below what the film cost to make before you even lump in the promotional and advertising costs of the movie. It might have eventually broken even on the home video market, but the way movies are budgeted they need to at least break even at the theatrical box office before being even close to considered successful. And remember, it was based on a television series that lasted only one season due to poor ratings that couldn’t finance the larger costs a sci-fi show costs.

If we pull back and go to where he made his name, television, and his history overall is uneven. Buffy the Vampire Slayer went on for a number of seasons but was cancelled flat-out once before jumping to another network, and the final season could have been not-so-final if rating were higher. Looking over to Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly, they were each cancelled in the midst of an over-arching storyline.

His stints writing comics have their high points like Astonishing X-Men and his work on the Buffy comics at Dark Horse, but do you remember Joss Whedon’s heavily-promoted run on Marvel’s Runaways?  Me neither.

And not resort to low blows, a quick look at Whedon’s movie credits as a screenwriter contains some real clunkers. Whedon co-wrote the forgettable movie The Getaway, the fizzling animated film Titan A.E. and one of the biggest box office blunders in modern history: Waterworld.

If you’re a betting man, all the playmakers are saying Marvel’s The Avengers is charting to be hit on the same scale as the original Iron Man movie that got Marvel’s movie biz off the ground in the first place, but keep in mind it isn’t for sure. That being said, I’ll be in the theater this weekend just like you to see for myself!


  1. While Joss Whedon certainly has the series in Television to be a fan darling for life I do agree he hasn’t had the best track record. I’m not worried about Avengers though so I don’t think much of it.

    But it is funny how he has had just as many misses then hits…..Which is a good thing those ‘hits’ are Buffy related. Oh and he also help wrote Toy Story if that’s helps.

    • well using the baseball analogy I’ll point out a guy who hits the ball 25% of the time is considered to be great. His latest film that he did was “Cabin in the Woods” which I saw last weekend I thought was phenomenal. A Scream fora new decade.

    • He didn’t direct Cabin in the Woods though.

    • Cabin in the Woods is a great film and will probably be a success if it can ride on the coat tails of everyone that walks away with a happy experience of the Avengers (which should be nearly everyone). In my sneak peak there was a 70 year old married couple who absolutely loved the film so my guess is it should appeal to everyone. The only part the old duffer didn’t understand was, “who the “colored man” with the eye patch was.” My brother explained to him that it was Nick Fury and the old couple thought that change was pretty cool.

    • Whedon directed B team footage and co-wrote Cabin the Woods. Stay for the credits people.

    • I did stay for the credits. I know he wrote it, I never said he didn’t. He was also the producer on the film. Directing b team footage is a far far far cry from being the director of a film. Drew Goddard and Josh Wheadon are friends and past collaborators. Considering the budget was a relatively low $30 million, I’m guessing Wheadon directed the b team more as a way to save money than be considered a director. The Cabin in the Woods was directed by Drew Goddard, not Josh Wheadon.

    • You said he didn’t direct the movie. He directed parts of the movie. ’nuff said.

    • Haha, okay we’re getting into semantics. I thought we were having a real discussion, not engaging in pointless word play. You clearly don’t know what a second unit director actually does. When the director was listed in the credits it was Drew Goddard because he directed the movie.

  2. Is it me or is this article a year or two late?

  3. I think he’s a good choice, but I’m of the opinion that all movies based on super-hero comics are pretty horrible. They just don’t translate to live action at all.

    • So, you KNOW that you would be getting this reply, so I’ll bite….

      Either you’re a troll or you have never seen The Dark Knight. What say you? Was that movie “oretty horrible”?

    • So, if I don’t have the same opinion as you I’m a troll. What are 10 years old? The Dark Knight was interesting as a character study, but the action just fell flat imo. A big part of that is due the plastic-look/stiff looking costume, that makes it very hard to believe that Bale could even remotely hold his own in a fight.

    • Can I just point out that, that as great as Dark Knight was, it had very little in common with Batman. Ledger’s Joker was good yes, but it wasn’t anything it hold up as a pinnacle of super-hero movies. If anything Burton’s 1989 Batman would be the pinnacle as it had an accurate well done origin story, and the arch-nemesis pulled off well in the same movie. Also I agree that Bale’s cowl looks really bad.

  4. I’ve seen it, he is the best choice. Hopefully he comes back for the sequels.

  5. All valid concerns, yet I was never worried that he could pull it off. The man has a great love of these characters.

    Hell, Tony Stark could break into song and dance, just like Dr. Horrible, and I’d still be entertained.

  6. One major thing Whedon has going for him, I think, is his track record putting characterization above special effects. From the trailers, The Avengers seems to be another CGI-heavy (yawn) film, but Whedon’s knack for ensuring characters having a decent chance connecting with his audience will outshine points raised in this piece.

    • I agree with this completely. Whedon has a nack for character and making what could be mundane scenes in lesser hands interesting.

      There is film will break $150M domestically this weekend. Buzz and feedback has been really strong. It’s going to be huge. It could even topple Harry Potter 7 pt 2 as the largest North American debut weekend on record, but I suspect it will come in just shy of that mark.

  7. I have faith in Joss. Joss knows superheroes. Joss knows action. Joss knows ensemble casts. Most importantly, Joss knows actors. All of the ‘cons’ you list are irrelevant. Bad movies he co-wrote? Doesn’t matter if he wasn’t there to make sure his vision was carried out. Poor television show ratings and cancellations? Doesn’t matter…they were all good shows. So really the question is “will the public appreciate how good the film is?”.

    Of course I haven’t seen it, and I could eat those words, but as mentioned I have faith.

    • Holy crap, your avatar is Mock!

    • The only rotten reviews over on Rotten Tomatoes have come from Women critics… take from that what you will but when I saw it every time Thor was on screen the women in the audience went crazy!

  8. Why does Europe get to see this movie before the US? Aren’t we number one?

  9. Not wanting to spoil anything but after seeing it he’s the best thing to happen to the Marvel movies.

    Chris might correctly say he never reached the audience he deserved but all those positive things about him that made fans keep faith with him have transferred to the movie. in particular his knack of writing good female characters saved a character who I was completely uninterested in judging by her appearance in an earlier movie.

  10. I think THE AVENGERS was going to make a lot of money no matter what.

    But Whedon is able to give the dynamics of the team (for the most part) that trademark signature he brought to his original work in BUFFY, FIREFLY, DOLLHOUSE…

    But it’s important to remember that he’s working with corporate trademarks, not his original characters. Also, he’s inheriting characterizations of actors and plot points from previous movies.

    The real director of all these movies is Marvel Studios. I think that potentially limits the films from distinguishing themselves, but that’s the committee approach. Whedon’s influence in spite of that is a win for audiences though.

    As for the other big comic company, I don’t know what happened with DC/Warner and GREEN LANTERN, but they seem to do better just letting an accomplished director in Christopher Nolan run the BATMAN movies as he sees fit.

  11. Well, Whedon’s coming off a high with great critical reviews of his script for the very entertaining “Cabin in the Woods” and “The Avengers” snagged a great review in “Rolling Stone” even though movie critic Peter Travers called (a move he enjoyed) Whedon’s use of heart and character emotion a “fanboy heresy.” The Avengers has a great cast and it will earn a ton of movie. Whedon, I think, is the reason it will actually be more than a popcorn film though. Even his “misses” are usually well done stories that simply fail to connect at the level of lowest-common-denominator that mainstream entertainment expects.

  12. I don’t understand why this article was written.
    His track record has nothing to do with his ability to write and direct an amazing film.
    There is no doubt in my mind that Serenity and every TV episode written and directed by Whedon were nothing short of BRILLIANT.

    Whedon is God.

    Seriously, why was this article written??

    • His track record doesn’t have anything to do with his ability to do more work of a similar kind?
      Whedon’s work is good.
      But it’s also very particular- anyone who looks at that captain america costume and gives it a thumbs up
      has invited some asceticism and frankly Dollhouse was a hot turd that looked like it came out of the E network.
      Yes there is a soap opera aspect to a lot of Marvel’s big titles but if Thor starts talking about why Jane Foster
      wont call him back after their big date and sits down to a Feist song I am going to shoot someone.
      There’s reason to cheer for him and there’s reason to be apprehensive- if you look at the whole picture here.
      So yeah- sit down and chill out.

    • FIREFLY was fantastic. SERENITY was terrible.

      I think it’s fair to be apprehensive about a director whose only feature directing credit was dubious at best.

    • A few episode of Buffy were among the greatest TV ever made, some were rubbish. I’ve never seen Firefly but I saw Serenity and wasn’t impressed. And I’m not going anywhere near Dollhouse.

      @register: I completely agree. Whedon does have a bubble of nerd prejudice around him

    • Serenity was terrible…?

      The internets and I disagree. IMDB 7.9, RT 82%.

      It didn’t quite reach the heights of Firefly but it was still great imo.

    • @MPJB: “People on the internet” tend to love Joss Whedon a lot.

    • And considering you got that 82% from Rotten Tomatoes, that’s NOWHERE near the numbers associated with terrible movies.

    • @ Conor. I think the numbers speak for themselves. Internets or not. Not too many man on the street polls to look for consensus from. RT is the critics score. Fair enough it wasn’t for you but terrible is a strong word.

      @ comicBOOKchris. You are confused?

    • I thoroughly enjoyed Serenity, how did it suck?

    • Obviously I was. Though I have to side with Conor on this one. This is like with Scott Pilgrim, which proved that internet like and the real world can be two separate things.

    • @MPJB: The numbers say that people on the internet love Joss Whedon, which I think is clear to anyone who spends any time on the internet. I agree that they speak for themselves. Terrible *is* a strong word and it matches my reaction to the film which was pretty strong.

    • @Conor. The numbers say that the concensus among imdb voters and rt critics was that Serenity was a good movie.

    • @MPJB: Like I said, I agree that many people on the internet think it’s a good movie.

    • Two And A Half Men has a 7.2 on IMDB. It should have zero. So maybe it’s not the best indication if quality

    • Whoa! Serenity, terrible!?! This is officially the first time, whether on the internets or in the real life, that I have ever heard these words put together.

      I have coworkers that have no idea who the hell Joss Whedon is that think Serenity is amazing.

  13. Oh, you are going to feel so silly when you finally get to watch the movie. I saw it twice this weekend, and yes, Joss Whedon is most certainly right for The Avengers. I’m not sure anyone else could have been more right. So, stop worrying and enjoy the purest comic book movie ever made.

  14. This movie was 3/5 for me I woke up for the big battle at the end which was the only exciting thing to happen in my opinion

  15. I have seen the movie twice and going to see it a few more times on the big screen. This movie is beyond amazing and I think the new Dark Knight has a fight on it’s hands. New Cat Women suit not helping. But I will not say anything about the movie. Just WOW… Home Run!

    • It’s very, very good. There are a few problems, nothing major, but it is nowhere near The Dark Knight.

      Let’s wait for the movie thread to discuss it more

    • I said the new dark night. “Dark Knight Rise” I have seen the new previews for Dark Knight Rise and it looks great. But I’m not as excited as I was before. After watching The Avengers it’s just going to be hard to top for now imo. This movie was put together great. Much better then other comic book/cartoon movies dealing with invasions. TF3/FF2/Deadpool with a green ring and so on. The movie moves all the way through and I laughed at Tony and so much more I can’t talk about right now. But to think Marvel just showed us it can be done. A great comic book movie with more then one Star/Super Hero all working together. It’s just Amazing that they pulled it off. I’m sure WB and DC are watching to see how much Marvel pulls in on this.

    • Tell – I am really asking –
      Cap’s suit?

    • Sorry had to look at my AvsX comic and see what Cap looks like now. I’m not a huge Cap fan so when I think of his suit. I just want it to be red, white and blue. With a big Star and big A on his helmet and I’m happy. But When I think of Catwoman I think very tight, Very, very, very, sexy suit and I just don’t see that in Dark Knight Rise previews. I donno tho. It might work when I see it in the movie tho. As of right now. It making Halle Berry look great… lmfao. j/k never seen the Catwoman movie.

    • Cap’s suit is what it is. Calling a superhero outfit silly looking is like calling a hot chocolate hot.

    • @mono: sorry, my bad

  16. There are some cheap shots in this piece, especially coming from a site for comic book fans. A lot of the criticisms of his actual work are about how little money they earned or viewers they got. I would think we would care more for the quality of the work which many people agree is top notch. Sure, most of his missteps have been in film but the film process is strange and no one has shown Whedon the faith that Marvel has shown him. I am confident of the film’s quality and it’s success.

    • That’s exactly the point. The question is: Is Joss Whedon the right guy to hire for this major financial risk the comic book movie industry is taking. If it tanks like his previous endeavors have, then it spells bad things for the future of comic book movies. As great as Firefly was, it was a failure. It didn’t make its money back and the network pulled the plug. Say what you will about the network screwing with it, airing it out of order and dumping it on a Friday, but the show cost more than it was worth to the network. It was a business failure. I can think of some truly great restaurants that I loved that went out of business. It doesn’t mean the food was bad, but it does mean the restaurant was.

  17. I guess a comic site can’t be critical towards a comic book movie I guess some ppl only look for positives and no negatives

  18. There are some serious factual inconsistencies in this article. First off, Buffy was never “cancelled flat out” by the WB. Fox produced the show under a contract for five seasons for the WB Network. By the time the end of season five rolled around, Buffy was easily the WB’s signature show and critical darling. Fox wanted a much bigger licensing fee for a two year renewal than the WB was willing to shell out, and so a very eager UPN took the show because they knew Buffy came in with a built in fanbase. But if money and studio politics was not an issue, there was no way that Buffy would have been “cancelled flat out” by the WB, especially at that stage. And when Buffy ended its 7 year run on UPN, it was never an issue of ratings. UPN would have loved to have kept it running, but Sarah Michelle Gellar was done, and so was Whedon. UPN even tried to get a Faith spin off and Slayer School spin off going to replace Buffy…they wouldn’t have tried these things if they didn’t think Buffy’s departure left a giant hole to fill. Also, Angel was cancelled after five seasons for a very simple reason: Money. It was never really a ratings thing there either.

  19. This movie seems like one of the most planned out blockbusters in history. I hear they even re-animated Walt Disney himself to get his feedback. =) I’m sure it will be awesome.

    The only negative comment i’ve heard about the film so far from someone who’s seen it in advances was that the 3D was kinda lame and probabally not worth the money. Looked very post processed to my buddy who’s really in to all these types of movies.

    • 3D isn’t really ever worth the money in my opinion but it didn’t detract from the film. There are some scenes where it’s a tad bit too dark but the 3D works fine and isn’t full of gag crap like the stuff being shot out/thrown at the audience.

    • i feel the same way about 3D. It usually tends to double the price, and i rarely see the value. its fun when we go for it but i definitely don’t need it.

  20. Joss Whedon has a writing credit on “Toy Story”.

    Therefore, he ALWAYS gets the benefit of the doubt.

  21. Agreed with the earlier posters on this article being about a year late. Because having seen the movie, I can tell you for sure he was the perfect guy to direct this film.

    At least, in my opinion.

  22. the getaway is a good movie.. nuff said!

    • Agreed! I also liked Titan A.E. and I actually liked Waterworld enough to read the novelization!

    • never saw titan ae… but.. ya i enjoyed waterworld.. its not perfect.. but hell the guy tryed… what i dont get is why universal studios still has a water world stunt show??

  23. Hello, I have already watched The Avengers, is this annoying? 😉

  24. I have generally enjoyed Whedon’s work. I like Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. I even liked Dollhouse a lot. I say different strokes for different folks. I think some of his work is over the average Joe’s head and that doesn’t translate to mass appeal. I suspect Avengers will be a lot of fun and I look forward to taking my boys to see it.

  25. I’ve seen it: every character gets their due (except for Maria Hill), the action is spectacular, the humour is REALLY funny, the 3D is unnecessary, & I walked out wanting to see it again. And I am not a “Josh Whedon fan”.

  26. joss whedon always makes great stuff, but he doesn’t always have a chance to develop a following in order to make money. with avengers the following is already built in, so i see success in this movie’s future (haven’t seen it, will see it as soon as it opens).

  27. Waterworld?? I think you are mistaken. Just checked IMDB and Whedon’s name is nowhere to be found.

  28. His run on Runaways was really good. I remember it. Don’t be so quick to dismiss it.

    And Titan A.E. was a good movie. Just because it didn’t do well in theaters means it was “fizzling.”

    I haven’t liked everything Joss Whedon has done (didn’t care for Firefly/Serenity or Dollhouse), but I have liked a bunch of it. This article is pretty lame. I think the movie is going to do just fine. Actually, I think it’s going to kick a lot of ass and make a lot of money.

  29. Just wanted to say…. Avengers opened in Oz last week and has absolutely blitzed it in takings and reviews….I’m going tomorrow with my son and am extremely excited being an Avengers fan for 45 of my 50 years…Yeah Baby….!!

  30. Other projects Whedon worked on includes:

    Roseanne (I literally said ‘What the fuck?’ when I saw that. Apparently he was a Writer and Story Editor for two seasons)

    The Office (directed two episodes, one from season 3 and 4)

    Parenthood (the first attempt at making a series out of the movies)

    Speaking of animated feature bombs he also wrote Atlantis. Anyone remember that Michael J. Fox ‘gem’? Disney sure did.

    So going even further into the imdb vault his career really has been a roller coaster. I mean seriously; how does a man go from writing fucking Roseanne episodes to now directing/writing one of the biggest (and nerdiest) movies of all time?

  31. What a pointless article. As fans, wouldn’t we much rather have a movie that is really good than one that is really successful? Avengers is so hyped that it is going to make money no matter what, so the real question is will it be good or not. The author of this clearly thinks that Whedon’s work is good (he owns all of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly) so what’s the point of the article? Who cares if Firefly was canceled after one season? It was awesome and so was Serenity, no matter how much money they did or didn’t make. I couldn’t care less how much money Avengers makes; all that matters is if Whedon can make a GOOD Avengers movie, and given his track record I would think that he can (and given his DVD collection, it would seem that the author does, too, so why write the article?).

  32. considering this movie has made ~$180mil in international markets alone i think that joss whedon was the right choice.

  33. I can appreciate this article. I don’t like even one thing Whedon has done in the past, in any medium, and it hurt my excitement for this movie. Now that I’ve seen it though, it absolutely shames every other comic movie I’ve ever seen and I know that he was 100% right for this. I’m no great fan of the Nolan Batman movies, but after seeing The Avengers, the new DKR trailer looks questionable at best.

  34. I’m not sure how much difference the director will make to the financial success of a film like this – I’m guessing a majority of people who go see aren’t doing so because it’s Whedon (not would the masses flock for any one director in particular.)

    Whedon (and the fact that it’s a good movie) may help for repeated viewings, obviously pushing box office figures, but do the general public care who’s behind the camera?

    Of course, it helps that most of the promotional material (trailers etc) have been exciting, driving people to see it, and a certain amount of that is down to Whedon, but on the whole I’m assuming people are going for the big superhero film, regardless of who made it.

    Of course, I could be wrong, and any evidence for/against this would be interesting!

  35. I’m not being snarky here – but where was the equivalent article for Kenneth Branagh on Thor? Jon Favreau on Iron Man? Joe Johnstone on Cap? Genuinely – please provide the links, because otherwise this seems like an attempt to sour people’s opinions of a man. Playing Devil’s Advocate with an argument of ‘something he made didn’t make a lot of money’ is churlish. Does it matter to you one bit that this film is a box office smash, or that it’s good?

    As previously mentioned by others – the movie is already a commercial success, BECAUSE it’s good. I’ve seen this twice now. I didn’t go back because it was made by Joss Whedon, I went back because it’s a good film.

    As well written as this article is, it’s out of date with an attitude veering into cynicism. That’s not what I believe iFanboy to be.

  36. Joss Whedon? Geoff Johns is my master now.

  37. Seen it twice already and $%#%% Yeah Joss was the right choice to direct The Avengers. Hasn’t it already made over $200M. It’s exciting, brilliantly scripted, hilarious in parts. Every performance is pitch perfect.

    My friends and family are seeing this film who would never go see another super-hero film at the cinema, and this is based as much on word-of-mouth as marketing. Everyone who sees this film is loving it.