Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DIRECTOR SPOTLIGHT: The Odd Career of Joss Whedon

Most directors have had their own versions of interesting beginnings.  David Fincher was a music video filmmaker, Martin Scorsese directed Boxcar Bertha, Steven Spielberg made a TV movie (Duel) before anything.  But I cannot imagine there has been a more interesting and diverse - and strange - career trajectory than Joss Whedon, the eye behind Marvel's biggest, most ambitious, most audacious film to date.  The Avengers comes with great hope and promise and anticipation, and to look behind the camera and see Whedon at the helm, of course there would be some curiosity as to where this man came from and what he is all about.  From success in television to a shot at major motion pictures, then back to TV, then back to film, Whedon has bounced around before finding his footing.

Joseph Hill Whedon was born in New York in June of 1964, and spent two years of his early education at Winchester College for two years.  he then relocated to Los Angeles and, before birthing his baby, Whedon would work as a writer for, of all things, the great and legendary TV sitcom Roseanne.  From there, Whedon wrote and created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was initially created as a motion picture.  Starring Kristy Swanson and directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui, Buffy would flounder at the box office and go relatively unheralded in 1992, despite growing a bit of a cult following over the years.  Whedon was never satisfied with the final result of Buffy, as the film was re-written and marginalized by the studio until the final result was unrecognizable from Whedon's script.  From the Buffy mishandling, the early writing career of Joss Whedon is a random and sporadic career of successes and failures.

Joss Whedon has been credited in the Oscar-nominated screenplay of Toy Story.  He has also been a script doctor for films like Speed.  On a lower note, Whedon was responsible for Alien: Ressurection, a miserable failure of a film that lost all direction.  But everyone is allowed a stinker from time to time, and as a writer Whedon was awarded said stinker.  Nevertheless, despite the huge disappointment of Alien: Resurrection, Joss Whedon was approached by the WB in 1997.  The producers of the television channel saw something rather ingenious in the Buffy film, and offered all creative control to Whedon to produce a show based on the character.  Whedon spotted Sarah Michelle Gellar, and the rest is history.  Buffy was the most successful TV series in WB history and spawned a spinoff.  It opened a few doors for Whedon, but still, what has he really done behind the camera?

A certain collection of fanboys will site Firefly as Whedon's brightest moment.  Firefly is Whedon's series from the Sy-Fy channel, and a long-standing success for the network.  From Firefly, Whedon directed Serenity, a big-screen adaptation of the series.  So through a varying group of fan favorites, Whedon has managed to attract male and female fans through his diverse shows.  Women fell in love with Buffy, men flocked to Firefly.  He also had his hand in this April's most ingenious and creative flick - and arguably the only film this month worth seeing - in The Cabin in the Woods.  To be responsible for that film shows quite a bit of creative ingenuity.

Perhaps he is the best mix for a big-budget superhero flick like The Avengers.  He might be able to find the right mix of brains and brawn to draw in any and every demographic on May 4.  It has taken me some time to buy into The Avengers and get jazzed for the film, but the closer we get, the more faith I have in Joss Whedon's direction, and the more faith I have in his diverse background shaping a picture that might not be your run of the mill pyrotechnic flick.