Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Less Than Serene


I finally saw "Serenity." I meant to watch it much earlier. In fact, I meant to go to the theatre and help with the box office numbers, but I blew it. We couldn’t find a babysitter for opening weekend, and then... well, at least I bought it. Or rather, my nephew Jonathan bought it for me for Christmas. So, Joss Whedon got my money, just later than I’d intended.

At MarsCON I was on a panel about Firefly/Serenity, and I accidentally heard a few spoilers that made me want to watch the movie to... well, basically, get it over with.

I've been a fan of Firefly since its first episode aired. Up until Saturday night, I would probably have cast myself in the ranks of the browncoats.

I was disappointed in the movie.

My big complaint boils down to this: it wasn't very funny. I'd been warned that that movie was much darker than the series, and I was (and still am) okay with that. I don't mind dark futures, in fact, I prefer them. But one of my favorite things about the series was the way the characters found humor in the darkest of hours. The fact that they said stupid things or made sarcastic/sardonic side comments made them seem more real, and gave the 'verse that much more depth. The worst part was that when Shawn and I viewed the deleted scenes we discovered that many of them were the funny bits. It's like Joss had it, and then purposely torpedoed it. I thought he was smarter than that. In fact, seeing those reminded me of viewing the deleted scenes of "Attack of the Clones" where George Lucas talks about how he'd ditched that stupid character building stuff for more action. It's like neither of them realize that the stupid character building crap is really what we wanted.

Speaking of which, I was also pre-warned about the fact that the movie was not so much an ensemble, as it was about Mal and River. I like Mal. River... I was never a huge fan of the River sub-plot. Secret, living weapon, evil empire, yeah-yeah. I feel like we've been there and done that with so many other science fiction films/TV that it was neither fresh nor interesting to me. What I loved about Firefly was its ensemble cast. That was fresh. Everyone had equal screen time – or nearly so, depending on the episode. The characters-- Jayne, Wash, Book, Kaily, and Zoe-- all played off each other to the point where when Mal talked about his ship as a family, I totally bought that. Not so much in the movie.

In fact, one of Mal's big issues in the film is supposed to be his struggle with his duty to his ship's family and the hard-cold reality of survival in space (especially given he has two fugitives aboard.) Joss made the assumption we'd all remember how cool everyone was from the TV series, and that would ride us through Mal's struggle. It mostly worked for me, because I'm such a big fan, but I think the point would have been hammered home a lot more if the "damn family" had had a few more lines. At least one good sitting around having dinner in the galley scene, even. There was no sense of the usual camaraderie.

Plus, when Wash bites it (in a cheap way, I might add), Zoë’s complete and utter despair makes no sense on the screen. Wash previously had six lines and half of them were "I am a leaf on the wind." (Funny, but over done) Who cares that he's dead? (Well, I did. Deeply. As he was my favorite character from the series.) But, I could totally understand why someone coming in off the street could hardly give a flying rat's ass.

Same with Shepard Book. Also, can I say I can't believe that of all the people on the colony Book stayed alive long enough only to whisper something unintelligible to Mal? Annoying. That's the biggest movie cliché in the 'verse. I would have expected Joss to turn that one on its head, but he didn’t. (Also, some of the blooper reel had better lines, I thought, like that scene, where Mal says that they should put Book's body on their reaver ship out of respect and this and that, and Jayne stop stealing people's shit! <-- because you know that's what he’s doing.)

That's not to say there weren't good moments, and it was good to see everyone again, kinda. (It's the everyone I’m kinda-ing.) I was really glad to see Jayne's stupid hat, for instance. I just wanted more.

I suspect that Joss was afraid to make a two-hour episode. I think he should have embraced the fact that critics were going to say that's what he did no matter what he did, so why not make it the best two-hour episode ever? I suppose there are many out there who would argue that's precisely what he did. I disagree. I think he ruined a perfectly good TV concept by trying to make it too "big screen-y," as one of his characters might say.


Steve Thorn said...

Have to say I agree to an extent. It was good to see the gang again, was hoping for a lot better story and more of 'the gang'. -- The series had some of the most quotable smartass comments ever created for television.

Bring back the series!!!!

Zoe said...

I have to disagree with you on this; I loved Serenity. But then, I love how Joss Whedon does dramatic emotional stuff just as much as I love his humor, and River has always been one of my favorite characters from Firefly :)

Jen said...

I saw one of the preview showings, and I was sucked in, but I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it was a special screening, and I was in a theater packed with fans, and I was sitting right behind the actors who played Simon and Inara.

But the moment Wash died, that was it for me.

And then once I was tossed out like that, I started thinking about what I'd seen, and it started falling apart. I never went back to see the final cut, and didn't pay for the DVD, but instead borrowed it from a friend.

*shrug* At least it was enough of a flop that I don't have to worry about seeing Firefly come back without Wash.

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Avindair said...

I, too, saw Serenity during a June 2005 preview screening in town. It was like seeing the original Star Wars in 1977: People were into the film, they laughed at the jokes, and gasped at the shocking stuff. It was a blast. I loved it.

But you know what? If Joss had missed with that audience we would have all been in biiiig trouble.

As for me, well, I honestly thought that the movie was really a two hour episode. It felt like a made for the Sci Fi Channel film. Okay, a made for the Sci Fi Channel film that was good, but you get the idea. I loved it, and I happily own one of the British posters, but it's more because of what Firefly meant to me rather than what the BDM was.

Regardless, at least he offered some closure. Not a lot, but some.

Alas, it's all over know. Rest in peace, Firefly