Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Joss Whedon - Director

Joss Whedon, the director of the upcoming Avengers movie is a respected writer and TV director but he has only directed one theatrical release, Serenity, which was a movie adaptation of the TV series Firefly. I saw it in the theater (I got to attend a preview for media bloggers) and it has been showing up on cable regularly, probably to build excitement for the Avengers. After multiple viewings, there are a few things that stand out, especially the opening.

The movie establishes the general framework, that there are multiple worlds surrounding a sun, that they have been teraformed, that that there was a rebellion between the outlying planets and the inner ones. But this scene turns out to be a memory of River who is being held in a medical facility. Her brother breaks in and frees her. Except this is really a security recording being reviewed after the fact.

So, as we move close to reality, we also go from the general to the specific background for the movie. It's a quick way of bringing new viewers up to date.

Then we cut away to Serenity and follow the captain, Mal, as he talks to each crew member. This takes us through the entire spaceship in one continuous shot. There is a subtle message here - they didn't just build individual sets for the different parts of the ship, they built the entire interior of the spaceship.

The crew lives up to its reputation as anti-heroes by robbing a bank. This is interrupted by an attack by the real bad guys, the Reavers. We met the Reavers a couple of times in the series but never learned where they came from. We just know that they are crazy killers.

You know that they are evil. Their spaceship not only looks evil, it puts out more dirty smoke than a steam engine.

Eventually the crew figures out that there is an answer on an unknown world. They land and their world changes. When it does, the camera does a nice 360.

There are other nice touches, mainly involving the almost unflappable Operative losing his calm.

So, what does that tell us about Whedon as a director? He throws flashy bits in but he keeps them low-key enough that they don't distract from the action.

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