A brief introduction to the director of The Avengers. (And Firefly.)
Back in the winter of 2007 and stretching right into early 2008, the Writers Guild of America went on strike, crippling both Hollywood and American television. Films were halted mid-schedule, award shows were boycotted, and even the most successful TV shows were forced into a hiatus. It was at this time that writer and director Joss Whedon took a bunch of already successful television faces — Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother, Nathan Fillion from Castle (and Whedon’s own Firefly), Internet sensation Felicia Day, and Simon Helberg from The Big Bang Theory — and threw them into a bewilderingly bizarre musical cauldron called Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, an irresistible web series you should watch immediately if you haven’t yet.
This Friday, Whedon does almost exactly the same thing, save for a few vital differences: instead of a dinky web series he’s delivering a $200 million behemoth; each primary character in the film has had their own massive summer hits made largely only to make the existence of this mega-movie a possibility; oh, and his all-star lineup comprises of Earth’s mightiest superheroes. (Also, one doubts that The Hulk or Black Widow will break into song. But hey, it’s Whedon.)
Right now, with The Avengers due to release this week and Whedon’s indie feature Cabin In The Woods — hailed as a postmodern (and yet scary) love-letter to the horror film — having hit theatres just over a fortnight ago, the 47-year-old director could be excused for putting his feet up. Instead, we’ll soon see his deliciously cast version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, something he filmed in twelve days, mostly between breaks of Avengers filming. If the cult of Whedon grows and grows at this rate, we might even (cross your fingers as you read the next four words) see Firefly brought back.
It *still* hurts, you see. Along with Mitchell Hurwitz’s Arrested Development, Whedon’s Firefly was one of the smartest shows on television, and the cancellation of these two remarkable shows alone is basis for the compelling argument against this being America’s golden age of TV. A savagely sharp and immensely witty science-fiction ‘Western’, Firefly was snatched away from us after only 11 episodes. We got some closure with its movie spinoff Serenity, just as well-crafted, but the fanboy forearm calls for a more regular jab.
Son and grandson to screenwriting men, Whedon kicked things off with the highly blonde (entertaining but daft) Buffy The Vampire Slayer, a movie that went nowhere until he changed its spirit and made it into a highly successful television show with a fanatical following. And then he wrote comic books.
But not just any comic books. Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men showed magnificient narrative dexterity, and his later work on The Runaways was just as incisive. We comic fans often dream of a great comic writer being given a comic book movie — someone let Jeph Loeb write Batman, or just look at Frank Miller co-creating the Sin City film — but Marvel was the first to generate a fanboy hallelujah just by announcing that Whedon will hold the reins.
I haven’t seen the film yet — a statement that will be untrue by the time you read this column — but I don’t need to read rapturous reviews to know that Whedon will deliver something special. Go this weekend.
First published Mumbai Mirror, April 25, 2012