PERFORMING ARTS

J.J. Abrams vs. Joss Whedon: Duel for Media Master of the Universe

Rowman & Littlefield. Dec. 2016. 304p. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781442269903. $36; ebk. ISBN 9781442269910. PERFORMING ARTS
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By comparing business acumen, creativity, popularity, and other metrics, Sterba (Reel Photos: Balancing Art and Truth in Contemporary Film) pits TV and film directors J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon against each other. "Media master" isn't the only title at stake; Sterba is determining which of them will be the next Steven Spielberg. The author admits it's a conceit, but it's useful for analyzing the parallel rise of these two creators. Comparing TV shows (Abrams's Alias and Whedon's Dollhouse), who handles female characters better? What does Abrams's hands-off approach to Lost mean when contrasted to Whedon's deep involvement with the Buffyverse? Who handles billion-dollar franchises better, Abrams (Star Trek, Star Wars) or Whedon (The Avengers)? The author provides a helpful and approachable discussion of scripts and describes camerawork, composition, and lighting with fannish enthusiasm. This title is most successful as an overview of both men's careers to date. The scoring system used feels forced, but Sterba supports her analysis with solid research. Plus, there are nitpicky details, which movie geeks love.
VERDICT Recommended for readers looking for a brainy take on pop culture.

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