Saturday, July 25, 2009

Joss Whe-done?

Discreetly disregarding the immense time gap between posts, Captain Elias returns to faithfully and objectively bring Joss Whedon down a peg or four (even Oscar de la Rente goes to Anna Wintour for the harsh truth.)


The second season renewal of this flat, awkward, contrived sci/fi joke remains one of the most astonishing, and embarrasing, media moves of the year. Perhaps in an attempt to make up for the previous and wholly undeserved Whedon-show cancellations (Firefly had several seasons of gold left, and Angel at least a couple more) Fox chose to be merciful with this Dushku-driven shlockfest simply because it has the name Whedon and a hot girl on its promos. (God knows it wasn't the ratings that convinced them.)

The release of the unaired 13th episode, Epitaph One, confirms all the negative impressions from the first 12, the main one being that Eliza Dushku is not a gifted actress. On Buffy she grew into her role as Faith (one of the few sub-par actors ever to grace that remarkable show, along with whatever valley girl actress played Glory), no doubt because her character was simple and consistent. Touting her unacknowledged talents, Whedon developed Dollhouse as a vehicle to showcase her depth, giving her an endless array of personalities to inhabit, including the central vapid Echo persona, a blank, ignorant Doll. Even that is not portrayed convincingly.

The other main impression is that nepotism does not breed good writing. Aside from the convoluted unoriginal premise (The Pretender was more watchable) the numerous episodes penned by Joss Whedon's younger brothers and one of their wives are watered-down ghosts of a formulaic Joss. It seems, inevitably, that all the cries of 'Genius!' have penetrated Joss' psychology, and his trademark witty banter suffuses the uninteresting plots, making the thin and unendearing characters not only unlikeable, but intensely irritating. (In Topher's case, I would welcome the overused main-character-death-as-plot device with great joy.)

The post-apocalyptic future episode, Epitaph One, confirms that the moral grey area that everycharacter inhabits will in fact lead to the fall of mankind. Now knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the opportunistic dangerous exploits of the Dollhouse will lead to disaster, what possible reason is there to watch the second season? The downward spiral of life is not nearly as enticing to fandom as Whedon may believe, and even in Buffy and Angel's darkest days (seasons 6 and 4, respectively) the theme of redemption was ever-present and enough to keep you watching. Dollhouse has nothing redeeming.

Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog:

Nepotism on parade continues as the Whedon family's lauded web series gains an Emmy nomination. It seems the category was created solely to honor this trite little musical and its advancement of the marketability of web series. Honestly, how do they justify the inclusion of "Outstanding Special Class Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program" to the list of awards? It's enough to make you question the noble and impartial methods of award selections.

Buffy Comics:

Even these have grown flat, and no one rejoiced more at the continuation of Buffy canon in comic form than I. From vampires-as-reality-tv-stars to stuffed-animal-Vampy-Cats, interesting premises and time tested characters are reduced to a series of hardly gripping cheap cliffhangers.

The Cabin in the Woods:

This project I still have some hope for. Billed as the horror movie to end all horror movies, "literally", the ingenuity Whedon is known for might actually return in this long-hyped film. The acting chops of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford may ensure that whatever the quality of the script may be, some characters may hold your interest for an hour and a half. The other casting choices, mostly of up-and-coming young hollywood blorks, is less confidence inspiring (with Franz Kafka, Topher from Dollhouse, being the worst of these.) However the newly released promo posters give the sense that the impending subversion of horror movie tropes (Scream anyone?) is fresh enough to have some merit. And a sense of humor in horror movies, though a delicate and difficult balance to srike, is certainly worth praise. Have a look for yourself:

To summarize, my once unshakeable faith and devotion to all things Whedon has been severely shaken in past years, but it is not impossible that he might regain his most stalwart advocate's appreciation.

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