Joss Whedon's biography will surprise even his most devoted fans

Joss Whedon’s biography will surprise even his most devoted fans

Book review of ‘Joss Whedon: The Biography’



By Amy Pascale

Late last month, Joss Whedon took his long-awaited and final step toward becoming god of the geeks. As the 2014 International Comic-Con wound down at the San Diego Convention Center, Marvel Studios took over Hall H to unveil scenes from Avengers: Age of Ultron, the intensely anticipated sequel to Whedon’s superhero extravaganza that smashed box-office records like a Hulk in a china shop. With rumours swirling that Whedon won’t return for the inevitable Avengers 3, the moment marked a peak in the writer-director’s career, one that’s chronicled with a loving—and often all-too-forgiving—devotion in this new biography from Pascale.

Although most of Whedon’s fans are familiar with the broad strokes of his career—which started in the writers’ room of Roseanne Barr’s ABC sitcom, of all places—Pascale collects enough fascinating details and candid anecdotes to surprise even the most devoted of Whedonites. There’s a good amount of dirt on Whedon’s long battle over the rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, his most famous creation; his days as a script doctor on such high-profile projects as Speed, which would never end up bearing his name; and his trepidation in joining the Marvel cinematic universe, including an unexpectedly nasty takedown of the original Avengers screenplay by original writer Zak Penn (“You need to pretend this draft never happened,” Whedon tells a studio exec).

Pascale gets Whedon to open up about nearly every incident, often employing his trademark wit, though she repeatedly makes the mistake of relying strictly on her subject’s narrative, choosing to either drown or simply ignore competing voices. (Not helping matters is Pascale’s tendency to over-explain some of Hollywood’s most famous films—do readers really need a primer on the plots of Toy Story or Alien?)

By the time Pascale devotes an entire chapter to Whedon’s political activism—practically painting a halo above the entertainer’s head—the author abandons nearly every pretense of objectivity and fully commits to rabid fandom, describing her subject with the slavish devotion of a PR flack. While geeks of all stripes—or anyone who has seen a superhero movie in the past five years, i.e., everyone—can enjoy Pascale’s rare behind-the-spandex glimpse of Marvel’s multi-billion-dollar machine, the book frequently threatens to turn itself into hagiography. Whedon may be the almighty one who delivered us The Avengers, but, like everyone in Hollywood, he’s far from infallible.

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