Joss Whedon to succeed Nolan and Abrams as Hollywood's next big thing

by Paul William Tenny

If I were pretending to be him, I might write this line of dialogue:

"Good things happen to good people. It's not true, you know. But it ought to be."

A few weeks from now, it's going to come true for someone who has more than earned it.

If you mention a certain name to most people, you'll probably draw an uncomfortable but brief blank stare, like they are waiting for the punchline of a joke, followed by a glance at the ground and if you look closely, even a squint or two, as they desperately search their memory for clues. Is this someone who was awesome back in the day, but I missed it because I always miss this crap? Is it someone brand new from a generation removed of pop culture that I'm missing because I always miss this crap?

But if you know that name, then you're already hastily throwing together a shrine made from whatever you can grab that's nearby. Pebbles on the side of the road. A doodle on a napkin. An impressive and distinguished mountain of empty pop cans.

Hallowed quotes thatyou can't get from anyone else in the world will inevitably follow:

"Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill 'em right back. Wife or no, you are no one's property to be tossed aside. You got the right same as anyone to live and try to kill people."

Nobody launches their writing career by creating television shows, so Joss Whedon was no exception. Whedon landed his first writing job in 1989 on the staff Roseanne, during its second season, before moving to Parenthood (executive produced by Ron Howard) for the 90-91 season as a writer and producer. He might have stayed their for a while if it hadn't been quickly canceled, which turns out to have been one of those moments that could have changed everything in the wrong way. Whedon moved on to feature films after that, writing the screenplay for Buffy The Vampire Slayer for 20th Century Fox and co-writing Toy Story (yes, *that* Toy Story) in 1995, before the opportunity to launch Buffy as a series at Warner Brothers opened up in 1996. During Buffy's run, Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection and co-wrote the animated feature Titan: AE.

Those three films grossed $540 million between them.

Buffy is a lot like Babylon 5 in some ways. You really don't think about it as being a critical success because most of it aired on a second run broadcast network, and was never nominated or won any major Emmy awards. Yet between syndication, DVD sales, and other odds and ends, Babylon 5 ended up earning over a billion dollars for Warner Brothers, and it's likely that Buffy did at least that well, if not better.

It's not as if Joss Whedon has been a demigod of the lower realms for most of his career. The failures of Firefly and Dollhouse at FOX had more to do with FOX than it did Whedon, and network interference was ultimately what drove him back into doing features.

Cabin in the Woods has earned some high praise from critics but isn't going to burn the house down in ticket sales.

But that's all about to change.

When J. Michzel Straczynski had Ron Howard attached to his screenplay for Changeling in 2006, his career went from cult TV writer with amazing credits (The Twilight Zone, Jake and the Fatman, Murder She Wrote, Walker, Texas Ranger, Babylon 5, Crusade) to A-list writer before the first frame of film had been shot. Howard backed out as director to do another project but stayed on to produce, while Clint Eastwood came in to helm. Changeling broke even in the theaters but sometimes that doesn't matter. Getting your name mentioned alongside Ron Howard and Clint Eastwood tends to do things like this. The system that exists for 99% of writers is reversed. You get pitched things by the studio, pick what you want, and that's pretty much a lock to happen. Another way that happens is to earn a couple of hundred million for your studio.

What happened for JMS, and Chris Nolan, is about to happen to Joss Whedon. Sorry for burying the lead, but you have to set the table before you can eat. Film tracking is a public survey system (with private data) that looks at how aware people are of upcoming films and what they plan to see based on priority. As simple that it sounds and as little weight we tend to put behind public polling, it can often be quite accurate. Most studios seem able to figure roughly how much money they'll make on an opening weekend by comparing tracking of new films to old ones. If you're tracking better than Transformers, then you've just won the lottery.

So here's the punch: tracking for The Avengers, which Whedon wrote and directed, meaning it's his baby, not at all like Toy Story where you probably had six different writers all rewriting each other, is on pace to have one of the best weekend openings of all time. Better than The Dark Knight and The Hunger Games. $150 million -- or more -- isn't out of the question. The record is held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, at $170 million.

The days of Whedon making a horror film (Cabin in the Woods) and having it put on the back-burner for over a year are over. The days of FOX interfering creatively with Whedon's TV shows while screwing with its schedule are also over. Whedon is now in the same league as J. J. Abrams, Chris Nolan, and Sam Raimi. Or he will be, in a few weeks. From here on out, what Joss Whedon wants, Joss Whedon gets. And it couldn't have happened to two better and more deserving people than Joe Straczynski and Joss Whedon.

Tell you, Zoe, we get a mechanic, get her up and runnin' again, hire a good pilot, maybe a cook. Live like real people. Small crew, them as feel the need to be free, take jobs as they come. Ain't never have to be under the heel of nobody ever again. No matter how long the arm of the Alliance might get, we'll just get ourselves a little further.

in Feature, Film


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What a crock of shit. So by your logic, Chris Columbus, Lee Unkrich or even Michael Bay should have gotten free reign as well, since they directed billion-dollar-grossing films.

But that never happened. Do you know why? Because their success was not due to their quality, but their franchise awareness. People did not watch Harry Potters because of Lee Unkrich, they watched it because of Harry Potter. Transformers, probably the worst action movie of all time, did not make a billion dollars because people love Michael Bay.

"But the same logic apples to Nolan. Maybe people didn't see his Batman films because of him, but because of the Batman brand." WRONG. The studios LOVE Nolan because he saved Batman. Whereas Whedon merely improved an already popular franchise, Nolan saved us all from the disaster that was Batman&Robin. Not only that, but he made a billion dollars while doing it. THAT's why he has free reign, something that a nobody like Whedon will NEVER accomplish.

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