What a Difference Seven Years, an All-Star Cast, and $180 Million Makes

Joss Whedon has always been a big name in my circle of friends. This is the man who brought us Buffy and Angel, the man who made the short-lived and overlooked Firefly, and the man who made Dollhouse – a series I’m still trying to forget.

Now Whedon’s Avengers is breaking box office records having just had the biggest US opening weekend of all time. Joss Whedon is suddenly king of the blockbuster, the man can do no wrong and wears a crown made entirely of frozen fanboys’ tears of joy. This achievement is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that this is Whedon’s second film as director and that his first attempt was nowhere near as successful.

Serenity has a few things in common with Avengers; featuring an ensemble cast banding together to share witty dialogue and fight the good fight against bad guys from outer space. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. Serenity had no big-name actors compared to Avengers, which hired the entire contents of IMDb. The budgets are separated by $180 million with Avengers costing the same as five and a half Serenitys. The origins of each film’s mythology are also wildly different; Avengers having had six feature films preceding it and decades of back-story in comic form, while Serenity was a spin-off from a 13 episode TV series that was never aired in full.

Joss Whedon’s talents as a film-maker have always been there. What has changed in the past seven years is that he has finally been given an audience willing to watch. When Serenity came out I was in full fanboy mode and saw the film three times before it was even released, a feat easily trumped by a number of other fans, but the general population barely noticed its appearance. In total Serenity made less than $40 million in cinemas, while Avengers has already made well over $700 million and counting.

Joss Whedon has only released two films as a director and they are barely comparable. His third bucks the trend even further, an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing shot in black and white in a matter of days at his own house. Whedon is sure to be a success in the future but it looks like he’ll be keeping us guessing with each new film. Now where’s my Giles spin-off?