The Avengers, The Cabin in The Woods, and the next wave of Joss Whedon

29 May

Good Tuesday, readers! Today is the day I FINALLY review the year’s biggest superhero movie! A film I’ve seen almost as much as The Hunger Games and probably enjoyed more than most summer movies in the past five years. Yes, I’m talking about The Avengers! Though, I am physically unable to mention The Avengers without mentioning the other Joss Whedon-written film that most people ignored when it finally came out around the same time. I’m talking, of course, of The Cabin In The Woods. Yes, this is a review two-fer. What do the films have in common besides having the same co-writer and the same star? Well, it might be that these two films are a signifier of a new age of Joss Whedon that’s coming our way.

Spoilers for both films follow the picture.

The other night when I was logging back into my iChat account, I went through some old statuses I had put on my account over the years. Some were quotes from movies, songs, and TV shows. Many were inside jokes between me and friends. One status from 2010 stood out in particular though, and that was “Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers? Existence of God no longer in doubt.”

Any theological debates aside, that’s honestly what Joss Whedon directing and co-writing The Avengers felt like at the time when it was announced a little more than two years ago. A God-proving miracle. At the time, The Cabin In The Woods had been delayed for the second time (and would be delayed again two months after The Avengers announcement), and Dollhouse had been cancelled by Fox only months before. All Joss really had going for him at the time was the less-than-well-received Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic and a few ideas for projects that hadn’t been realized. So for Marvel to turn over the tent pole picture that had been in the making since the first Iron Man to the constantly spurned nerd icon that had only directed one movie before this was pretty much an honest-to-God miracle.

And Joss certainly did not waste it. The Avengers isn’t just Marvel’s dream fully realized. It’s a fully realized comic book movie. Something that I only thought Edgar Wright had managed to do when he directed the kinetic comic book known as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Here, it shows that Joss is a fan as much as us and that he wants this to be as epic as we’re all hoping it will be.

It’s not just that the acting was top-notch, the one-liners side-splitting in true Joss Whedon fashion, and the action wonderfully exciting and over-the-top like a comic book movie should be, it’s that everything here is fantastically developed. The Avengers could have easily been “Iron Man and friends,” but it’s truly a film about a group of people coming together for a common cause. As many people have commented on, this film really made The Hulk shine in ways that he has never before, and it proved that the Black Widow is not just there for the sex appeal. She’s a well-developed character who manages to be the one who saves the day. While it doesn’t have as many ladies as other Joss Whedon films, the ones that are there still manage to be really quite awesome. Pepper is brilliant, and Maria Hill manages to be a badass right hand to Fury. I’m looking forward to the deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray where Maria opens and closes the movie because of Cobie Smulders’ performance.

Basically, it’s the Superhero Team movie we all knew we wanted, and Joss made sure that we got it. His success is a gift to all of us, and payday for Marvel and Disney. I’m sure someone at Fox is kicking themselves for canceling him twice.

But what of the other movie by Joss that came out this year? The weird little horror film that no one knew anything about going into it only known as The Cabin In The Woods? Well, that Mutant Enemy production from Whedon and Drew Goddard is another sort of brilliant. And really, if you haven’t seen it and are wary of spoilers, STOP READING NOW. Another frustration that Joss Whedon has provided me along with killing Wash, Book, Tara, Anya, Jenny Calendar, Fred Burkle, and Phil Coulson, is the complete inability to talk about The Cabin In The Woods without spoiling it for everyone.

When I finally saw The Cabin In The Woods, I went in blind. That was kind of hard to do since I didn’t see it until a month after it released, but all I knew going into it was:

  1. I had been waiting for this movie since 2009.
  2. It was directed by Drew Goddard and written by Drew and Joss.
  3. Chris Hemsworth did this movie after Star Trek, but before Thor.
  4. That it is very tongue in cheek about horror movie stereotypes, but don’t expect anything beyond that.

And oh, did going in blind after waiting for three years pay off in spades. Centered around a group of college students who become the inadvertent sacrifices to ancient Gods when they travel out to a cabin in the woods, the film makes fun of the horror movie stereotypes that have existed since the days of The Evil Dead while explaining why they exist. It’s darkly funny, and oh-so-clever. From the opening scene where you see the secret compound that’s carrying out the horrors in that cabin to the absolutely chaotic third act where every horror movie nightmare is unleashed, the movie is an absolute thrill ride that manages to pay homage to the films that gave us those stereotypes while making fun of the movies that have reduced those stereotypes down. The characters manage to be normal people while this is all happening (unless they’re being controlled by pheromones) and the twists are just completely unexpected. Like Sigourney Weaver being the one giving everyone the orders. The main five consists of five great performances, but Fran Kranz as Marty managed to become one of my favorite Joss Whedon characters throughout the process of the film.

(And I might have been convinced that Jesse Williams needs to be Finnick Odair. Please Lionsgate?)

So what do these two unrelated films have to do with the future of Joss Whedon’s career? Well, how about the fact that he’s no longer just a nerd cult icon? He’s just directed the biggest comic book movie in the history of comic book movies. Maybe The Cabin In The Woods will be a cult movie, but it just shows that Joss is ready to take over film the way he took over TV. Serenity was just the preview. Here’s the opening night. And when Much Ado About Nothing andDr. Horrible 2 come out, I hope that traction will continue. Because this really is Joss Whedon’s time and we’re only just now seeing the beginning of his career in movies. He’s not just a nerd icon anymore. He’s about to take everyone else for the ride of our lives.

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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Film


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