Sunday, February 15, 2009

The House That Joss Whedon Built

Dear Joss Whedon:

I’ll get right to the point: Why was Dollhouse so frakking dull? You’re THE Joss Whedon, right? Creator of the ground-breaking Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Co-creator of the angst-ridden Angel. Creator of Firefly, one of the greatest television series of all time. You’re THAT Joss Whedon, correct?

I just didn’t buy the Dollhouse premise: that hot young things will have their own memories replaced by whatever memories and skills are necessary for their weekly missions, then at the conclusion they’re zapped back to a near-childlike state. Instead of calling the A-Team, someone – usually a rich person I’d gather – just hires The D-Team.

Eliza Dushku as “Echo” looks great – that short white dress she wore in the teaser is illegal in 31 states (I checked) – but she was terrible here. Especially as “Miss Penn: Veteran Spanish-speaking Hostage Negotiator.” Eliza has never struck me as an actress with much range, even on Buffy. Hot party girl? Yes, she’s great. Sharp-eyed intellectual? Not so much. Jennifer Garner might have been a better choice for Echo - on Alias she had to assume many different identities in the course of her various missions, complete with various accents from around the globe.

The story wasn’t the most thrilling or involving either. A wealthy man's daughter is kidnapped. Instead of going to the authorities he hires an "active" from the Dollhouse to negotiate her release. SPOILER AHEAD. After Echo assumes the persona of the hostage negotiator*, she recognizes one of the hench-thugs as someone who kidnapped the real Miss Penn as a child. That’s just a little too convenient, and silly, even for TV sci-fi. And Eliza running around wearing a gray skirt and eyeglasses, with hair in a bun looked even sillier than it sounds.

* This echoes (!) Blade Runner where a real person’s memories are implanted in a replicant, as robot creator Terrell’s niece’s memories were implanted in the replicant Rachel.

I really wasn't caught up in any of the goings on. I just didn't care. A major bummer was there was NO trace of the trademark Joss Whedon humor. That is unforgivable – no one brings the character-based funny like Whedon. It’s unforgivable, but perhaps understandable, when your main character and others DON'T HAVE PERSONALITIES. They’re ciphers or blanks – their memories and true identities have been wiped clean so they can be imprinted with new personas and skills.

I think Joss might still be reeling from the cancellation of Firefly and the failure of the movie Serenity to find a feature audience. Why do I think that? Because Dollhouse ends with a gratuitous shower scene. A shower scene.

This is not Joss Whedon at his best. And that makes me sad.

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