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 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.