The Avengers, Directed and Written by Whedon ’87, Breaks Box-Office Record

Joss Whedon '87

In its opening weekend of May 4-6, the superhero extravaganza The Avengers, directed and written by Joss Whedon ’87 (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), opened to critical acclaim and exceeded U.S. box office expectations, debuting at $207.4 million—or $38.2 million more than the previous opening-weekend record holder, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 ($169.2 million) from last summer, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The film earned $475.8 million overseas and $226.4 million in North America by May 7.

This dream movie for comic book lovers brings together characters such as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). At the center of the story is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), leader of the peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury, along with former Russian spy Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), recruits a super team to combat Thor’s ever-deceptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) after he brainwashes ace archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) while stealing a cosmic cube from an underground base.

In his positive  Los Angeles Times review, Kenneth Turan writes:
“As screenwriter, sharer of story credit with Zak Penn [’90] and director, Whedon is the key reason why this $220-million behemoth of a movie is smartly thought out and executed with verve and precision … Whedon’s biggest success, creating TV’s ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ was nowhere near this scale. But he is a third-generation television writer who was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing ‘Toy Story’ and he’s got an innate gift for bringing stories like this to life with the energy and intelligence that should be popular entertainment’s birthright but rarely is.”

Claudia Puig in USA Today adds to the praise:
“The Avengers is a splashy superhero mash-up that should please breathless fanboys. It also has a broader appeal for mass audiences with its fast-paced comic banter and exhilarating action sequences under the capable helm of director/co-writer/unabashed fan Joss Whedon. … Whedon weaves a story that allows each of the heroes to do what they do best. And while they may not have exactly equal time, audiences get enough of each to feel satisfied, but not sated. Clever work, indeed.”

Just a few weeks ago, another Joss Whedon project was well-received by most of his fans—The Cabin in the Woods, which he produced and co-wrote and which played havoc with the horror film genre. Whedon has already moved on to directing a small-scale film based on William Shakepeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, left), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in a scene from the motion picture "The Avengers." (Photo: Marvel)

David Low

David Low '76 writes about arts and culture for the Wesleyan magazine and Wesleyan Connection. He is associate director of publications in the Office of University Communications. He is also a published fiction writer. E-mail: