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Monday, October 10, 2005

More on Serenity

I remember seeing the Firefly premiere because a Whedon fan friend of mine told me I'd regret it if I didn't. I had long argued with him about the major decline of the Buffy series and was a bit skeptical, but I have to say he was right. Firefly was good television if there ever was any.

Fox must have more than a couple of idiots on staff not to be able to see the potential of this show. The problem Star Trek and Star Wars has is that while the people who grew up digesting those shows and movies have grown up ... they've remained the exact same age. Or worse, made leaps towards younger audiences or mainstream audiences.

Firefly was the counterculture to that. It was serious, keeping it's humor to within the confines of it's gritty dialogue. It was esoteric, peppering that dialogue with phrases in foreign languages to prop up swear words and exclamations. It was deep, focusing primarily on it's characters and less on subplots involving pseudo-technology or ramblings on about meta-philosophy. Firefly was about getting into space and staying alive. To keep on moving on, as Mal would say.

The writing was arguably the best Whedon and company has produced. The characters are flushed out and unique, carrying with them a signature style to every line of dialogue. If someone handed you a script with the names blacked out, you could still tell who was speaking quite clearly.

So for this cancelled gem to get a second life based almost solely on the loud raucous of it's fanbase is a bit a of a miracle. And also an enormous burden on the cast and crew. Not since Fellowship of the Ring has a more rabid group of people watched closely to see if a film was doing justice to the material they loved.

There are moments and deviations that the hardcore fan will blink at or scratch their heads, but largely Serenity is Firely distilled into a two hour movie, capturing the kind of story that drew people in the first place and doing it in such a structure that new viewers won't feel isolated. That's an impressive feat. If there is any flaw to the movie it's that it feels too short for all that it's bringing to bear to the screen. The film remains true to it's source and not a carbon cliche of most of the science fiction out there. This is a franchise for a more mature viewer of the genre, someone who is tired of seeing plots dumbed down or prettied up just to sell more toys on the backend.

I am desperate that they'll be able to do a sequel. It apparently has to make $50 million domestic or $80 million worldwide, and it looks like it just might ... although it could be close. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if the second weekend was closer to the half way mark for that ... so I'll probably be seeing it again when I get the chance.

Oh, and as a side note. Can I recommend to other netizens that if you're posting reviews of the film ... warn your spoilers. I walked right into a sentence which was written something like "Whedon holds mostly true to the series, has made some changes, and BAM HUGE PLOT SPOILER". My eyes nearly bled. The movie is exciting and somewhat unpredictable, so I highly recommend anyone going to do a better job avoiding such traps than I did.


Corvus said...

I don't blame Joss for the decline of Buffy, I blame Marti Noxin. Well, I guess I blame Joss for turning his focus elsewhere and giving Marti the reins, but I think it was Marti's processing of her young adult angst that robbed the show of its charm.

At least when Joss processed his YA angst, he did so with subtlety and wit.

Corvus said...

Only, it's Noxon, not Noxin...

Josh said...

Ultimately I hold Joss responsible for all of his kids, although Marti definately holds an elephant's share for the last couple of BtVS seasons.

Still, I just pretend like nothing new came out after Once More With Feeling, and I'm pretty happy. Sure, it's an ambigous end ... but it's better than an abusive whinefest.