Filmmakers Profile: Joss Whedon

Loved by fans, and for some reason hated by television networks (curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal, Fox!), it could be argued Joss Whedon has one of the most dedicated followings of any filmmaker, and deservedly so. For a while Whedon was predominantly known only for his various television series and ‘Sing-Along Blog’, but finally acquired a larger audience in 2012 with The Avengers. Who better than the fandom-sparking God of nerds to direct one of the most anticipated comic book films? So, I thought it only right to dedicate a couple of hundred words to his writing and directing prowess because I swear by my pretty floral bonnet that he is one of the best filmmakers of our time.

First up, Whedon’s most famous and beloved creation. After the cancellation of Firefly (hold back the tears folks, I know it still hurts) Whedon was lucky enough to be backed by the most determined fans of any other show, and damned if they were going to let Fox take the skies from them. In 2005, Serenity flew back into our lives in film form, and it was as glorious as ever. Whedon’s talent for epic storytelling carried by sharp, witty dialogue and fantastically likable (and unlikable) characters had not faded. Shiny as ever, the final adventures put to screen for this crew never had a disappointing moment; whether we were laughing hard, holding our breath through frantic fight scenes, or crying our eyes out (“I am a leaf on the wind…”), the fans were treated to a nerdy masterpiece.

The unwavering love audiences show for Whedon’s characters stems from the respect that clearly drove every detail in their creation. Joss Whedon’s admiration for the original comic book characters of The Avengers ensured an accurate depiction, with the added flair of his one-liners. Even with his original characters, it’s hard to choose a favourite from Serenity, all of them being fantastically written with equal admiration. The same love that weaves through his characters can also be recognised in his distinctive style for storytelling and never fails in each new creation.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of Whedon’s work is how clearly he has remained a fan-boy at heart; never is this more obvious than in his script for Cabin in the Woods (co-written and -directed by Drew Goddard). Crafted to seem like any other cliché horror film on the surface, Cabin in the Woods surpasses all with an intriguingly unique plot which I simply cannot spoil. Whedon’s presence is instantly felt through electrifying dialogue charged by the traditional humour and laid back charm of intelligent characters. Packed with Easter eggs nodding to classic horror, this film was simultaneously a love letter and spoof of every horror trope and benefits from constant re-watching.

Sci-fi isn’t the only skill in Whedon’s repertoire, as apparent from Whedon’s decision to offer his own take on Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado about Nothing‘. Filmed in Whedon’s own house, the contrast in directing styles – such as his usual wildly quick camera panning in Serenity morphing to a more controlled grace in Much Ado About Nothing – concluded in a film uncharacteristic of Whedon; the only clue to his presence is the hoard of acting favourites from his previous works. Between the ‘Where’s Wally’-style game of your favourite Whedon actors, the audience is treated with more of Whedon’s specialty: a fast-paced dialogue duel stuffed with jokes that could be missed in a blink. Shakespeare and Whedon may seem like an odd combination on paper but when put to film the chemistry is remarkable. Much Ado About Nothing deserves awards for its beautiful cinematography, superb acting, and a screenplay adaption so well written and directed that even I understood Shakespearian language – seriously guys, that’s amazingly impressive!

Each Whedon experience is truly that, an experience. The clear chemistry he has with his cast and dedicated crew shines out from every scene – no wonder his regulars are always keen to come back! Adding the classic Whedon zest to any script pretty much guarantees a success, allowing Whedon to re-write The Avengers script when first brought in was definitely a wise decision by those in charge. Amazing, diverse, and often eccentric characters are always present in his scripts, with strong and hilarious roles for women as well as men. If you haven’t seen any of Whedon’s work yet, you have to. That is an order. Go straight home, settle in for a hibernation period with Netflix, and prepare to become part of one of the best fandoms ever.

[Michaela Barton]

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