So, a quick recap: The Daily Dot has an article citing 17 reasons to love Joss Whedon (which I didn’t bother reading because I’m sure I already have more reasons to love him) and also 3 reasons not to love him. I’ve covered the first 2— racism and *gasp!* sexism —in previous posts and will be now discussing the final part: that he’s a better writer than a director.
To claim that Whedon is not as good a director as he is a writer is complete and utter… truth. It’s true, Joss Whedon is a better writer than he is a director. He hardly ever directs what he doesn’t write (though his two episodes of The Office were awesome as was his one episode of Glee) and generally prefers to have as much creative input on his projects at the script level. He even got involved with rewrites for Captain America and directed the Tessarect stinger for Thor prior to/while settling into the writer/director chair for The Avengers.
In fact, there’s even this little thing I’d like to refer to as the “Mess with Whedon Curse.” Between the failed 1992 Buffy movie, 1997’s Alien Resurrection and 2006’s X-Men 3, I’ve come to believe that messing with Whedon’s script/ideas can bring about no good. But that’s just me being superstitious and it could all be coincidence. Kinda like how those dude’s who dug up King Tut’s grave all *coincidentally* fell ill/died. #justsaying.
If you were to go through every single episode (marathon excuse!) of Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly, you’d see that he almost never directs an episode written by someone else. In fact, I only recall the Angel episode Untouched being directed by him despite having been written by Mere Smith—but do feel free to chime in if I’ve missed out on any other episode.
So why, you must be wondering (let’s just pretend you care), am I getting all uptight about something that I actually agree with. Simple: the fact that the article suggests that his directing is not just inferior to his writing but outright bad.
Of all the citations, the one that really gets to me is Wally Pfister‘s statement regarding The Avengers:
I thought The Avengers was an appalling film… They’d shoot from some odd angle and I’d think, why is the camera there? Oh, I see, because they spent half a million on the set and they have to show it off. It took me completely out of the movie. I was driven bonkers by that illogical form of storytelling.
Yeah, fantastic… except I find it difficult to take seriously the comments of one of the people responsible for bringing us this:
Yes, yes—I know I’m gonna get a lot of flak for hating on The Dark Knight which is like supposed to be the Holy Grail of Batman flicks, but I’m sorry, I just don’t think the movie is great. In fact, I’m not sorry because I love the Batman a little too much to pretend that the Nolan trilogy is anything more than an only-decent portrayal of the caped crusader. But that’s another blog for another day.
Back on topic—aside from Pfister’s arbitrary comment, the aforementioned article also cites Whedon’s supposed inability to direct action/fight sequences as evidenced in Buffy. This is actually not wrong. However, not being able to direct fights doesn’t make you a bad director. It just doesn’t make you a very good action director. Also, as anyone who remembers the finalé of Buffy would have noticed, the series never really had the budget necessary for the kind of kick-ass action we should have gotten from a supernatural/action genre show.
In fact, lacklustre action aside, there is sufficient evidence as to Whedon being a more than capable director. Just about anyone would be able to recall a fair number of episodes with amazing direction but I’ll just play favourites and cite what I consider to be the best Buffy episode as an example: the season 4 finalé Restless, in which the Scooby Gang are trapped in a shared dream as they’re hunted by a primeval being. On top of beautifully capturing the essence of the first four seasons and the growth of the characters over the years (with cool cameos to boot) the episode also offered a glimpse into the future of the show while maintaining a disconcertingly haunting atmosphere.
In addition to Restless, season 4’s Hush, season 5’s The Body and season 6’s musical, Once More,with Feeling, all contribute to displaying Whedon’s skill and versatility as a director. And as for anyone who may have had qualms about his capabilities as an action director, The Avengers should be enough to ease your concerns.
Unless you’re Wally Pfister.
And on that topic, Whedon actually responded to Pfister’s comments, stating “I’m sorry to hear it, I’m a fan,” and in doing so proved that he had more class than all of Time Warner put together.
Parts 1 and 2 Part 1 discusses the perceived racism in Whedon’s work. Part 2 discusses the perceived sexism in Whedon’s work.