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FireflyBig academic blogger gives "Serenity" Movie a huge recommendation
Friday 5 August 2005, by Webmaster
August’s Books of the Month
The general interest book is — [um, like, it’s August. Could you please suggest something that’s less.... non-fictiony?—ed.] I’ll do that suggestion one better — I’m not going to recommend a book. Instead, I’m strongly recommending that you go out and purchase Firefly — the Complete Series — a DVD of Joss Whedon’s sci fi series from 2002. I confess that I missed the show when it first came out, but thanks to Tyler Cowen’s suggestion I checked it out and am now completely hooked. There are many, many, many paeans to Firefly in the blogosphere if you’re interested in them. Anyone who likes Battlestar Galactica needs to watch this show in order to understand the debt, both in terms of themes and visual style, that Galactica owes to Firefly (this is not meant to diss Galactica, which is a fine show, but rather point to it’s influences). At its core, Firefly is Whedon doing what Whedon does best — making his watchers forget the multiple layers of irony they are used to in popular culture and care very deeply about what happens to the little world he has created. Be sure to check out Whedon’s commentary tracks for some of the episodes as well.
[So why now, why not save this until the fall?—ed.] Because Whedon has also accomplished something extrardinary — he managed to convince a major movie studio to commit a fair amount of money and let him make a movie, called Serenity, based on the show. Whedon even contributed a final entry on the making-of-the-movie blog.
You can watch the Serenity trailer here. I suspect it will be an entertaining film regardless of whether you have seen Firefly — Whedon also wrote the screenplays for Speed and Toy Story — but I bet it will be an even better viewing experience if you have seen all 14 episodes of the show (the Sci Fi channel is also airing them).
[How in the hell did Whedon convince a studio to convert a failed TV show into a movie?—ed.] The best answer I’ve seen is in this Weekly Standard article by M.E. Russell. Besides the most succinct description of the show I’ve seen yet, ("Think of it as Star Wars, if Han Solo were the main character, and he still shot Greedo first."), Russell explains why Universal thinks this is worth doing:
Budgeted at a mere $40 million, Serenity will almost certainly break even once box office, home-video, and other aftermarket revenues are counted—which means Universal can afford to use the film to beta-test a new way of selling movies.
Rough-draft versions of films—with temporary music, editing and "placeholder" special effects that look like Nintendo 64 screenshots—usually have a carefully controlled release only to tightly-monitored focus-group screenings. They’re never shown repeatedly to their core audiences (paying core audiences, mind you) four months in advance of their official release dates. Nor do actors and producers attend these screenings with barnstorming vigor: But in Serenity’s case, all the major cast members have made surprise appearances during the screenings—signing autographs and holding lengthy Q&A sessions afterwards.
At the May 26 showing in Portland, some significant studio brass were on hand. Universal Pictures marketing bigwig Julie Brantley and Serenity executive producer Chris Buchanan introduced the film and watched it from café chairs on the side of the auditorium....
And even if the producers are worried, it’s a calculated gamble. The June 23 wave of previews has been expanded to 35 cities—including a couple in Canada—but the movie has still only been seen by a small percentage of hard-core fans. So the screenings create the illusion of scarcity and keep the fan message boards alive by relieving pre-release suspense in little kettle-steam puffs. It creates all-new sub-hierarchies of fans with "I saw it before you did" bragging rights. It inspires free advertising in the form of entertainment-press stories (including, well, this one) about the "Browncoat phenomenon." And, best of all for Team Whedon, revenue from these screenings will very likely be applied to Serenity’s opening-weekend gross.
The marketing plan rises to evil-genius levels when you realize all the ways the move from April to September pried open six months’ worth of free-publicity for the entire Firefly/Serenity franchise. Since the fan screenings began, Firefly DVD sales have shot up the genre charts at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. In July, a Dark Horse Serenity comic book, written by Whedon, will hit shelves, and the Sci-Fi Channel will soon start broadcasting the 14 Firefly episodes—all of them, in order.
None of which cost Universal a dime.
Join the Browncoats, and go buy the goram DVD. posted by Dan on 08.04.05 at 10:36 PM