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Firefly - "Done The Impossible" DVD - Ign.com Review

Eric Goldman

Tuesday 8 August 2006, by Webmaster

Done the Impossible: The Fans’ Tale of Firefly & Serenity

A look at the passionate following of Joss Whedon’s sci-fi series.

August 7, 2006 - I’m a huge Firefly fan, but I’ve never been quite comfortable enough to claim the name Browncoat - the term the fandom has taken, based on one of the elements of the series. As a Joss Whedon fan, I saw every episode of Firefly in it’s initial airing, bought the DVD box set, shared the show with many friends, went to the first test screening of Serenity in Chatsworth, and hoped they movie would be a big, breakout hit. But there’s a level of fanaticism for the show associated with many a Browncoat that goes way, way further.

The documentary Done the Impossible is subtitled The Fans’ Tale of Firefly & Serenity and clearly the focus is meant to be on the fandom, more so than on the creation of the show or Serenity, the film spawned from the series. Filmmakers Brian Wiser, Jared Nelson, Jason Heppler, Jeremy Neish and Tony Hadlock set out to document the story of who these people are and how and why they became so passionate about the series. The film was shot through much of the past year, documenting the many convention gatherings of fans and cast alike; Besides many fans, several key Firefly people, from the stars like Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk, to Whedon himself, took part in interviews for the film, along with many other key crew members.

As a documentary, this is a very mixed bag. One key element that hurts it is the lack of any footage from Firefly or Serenity, which clearly would add a lot of context and visual understanding to things being discussed. This was a low budget documentary, fueled by the creators’ own shared love for Firefly, so they can hardly be blamed for what were no doubt legal and financial reasons that the clips aren’t included. But barring that, this doc really needed some better focus and explanations of events being discussed. Adam Baldwin serves as an onscreen host, but isn’t used as a true narrator, nor is anyone else.

Early on, there is a lot of discussion about how Fox didn’t air the pilot to the series when it first aired, and fans speak about their confusion, since they’d seen clips from the pilot in the ads for the show, only none of that material was in the first aired episode. The problem is, this situation isn’t given any visual accompaniment or concise explanation: We see fans speaking about confusion over what happened to "the girl in the box" from the commercials, with absolutely no lead up to what they’re talking about.

Later on, it is finally explained that the pilot wasn’t aired, but only after several people have commented on it, and still without a lot of fill-in-the-blanks explanation of some of what we’ve already heard discussed, like the use of the pilot footage in the commercials.

There are also really choppy and even jarring moments, especially when the discussion turns to the death of a major character in Serenity; One moment, people are talking about things they like about the show, the next, sad music is playing, as fans are discussing their shock (or outright anger) that this death occurred, with no transition to this new topic. Who is the character they’re discussing? How did this death occur and why was it shocking to fans? If you don’t have a clip, you can at least provide some narration setting up the topic; something akin to, "While fans were delighted by Serenity’s release, some were also upset by the death of a beloved character," but nothing of that sort is provided here.

The result is a documentary that sort of exists in its own vacuum; we see fans dressed up as their favorite character, but having not seen these characters within the doc itself, or had anything about them explained, there’s no significance given to these images; it’s just people in funny costumes dancing around.

I realize that there’s little doubt that the vast majority of people who will see this documentary are already fans of the show, so the argument could be made, "Why bother explaining anything?", since most of those watching will know exactly what’s being discussed. But that being the case, Done the Impossible doesn’t stand up on its own and successfully tell a story like a good documentary can, but rather seems like a assortment of random anecdotes and stories from a group of people talking to themselves, and even casual fans — say someone who just watched the show on DVD for the first time, but doesn’t know the whole story behind it - would be hard pressed to fill in all the blanks the doc requires.

Many of the interviews and stories are quite fun, and it really is great to see the true passion that not only the fans, but those who made the show clearly have for it. One of the graphic designers for the film gleefully describes getting to see his work as the main title of the movie appears on screen, and his enthusiasm is genuine and endearing. But rather then properly present the world of Firefly and its fandom to any potential new members, Done the Impossible keeps it in its own closed off world.

Also of note is the decision to make no mention of a rather large fact - namely, that in the end Serenity was, sadly, not a box office hit and failed to connect with a broad audience. This was very unfortunate, but still, the film’s very existence is a true triumph. But to not even acknowledge how the film did after all the discussion of what occurred up to its release, seems like a disingenuous move. Clearly, the passion for the content of the show and film itself hasn’t been dampened by the fans, and there’s no reason to pretend it didn’t perform the way it did.

Score: 5 out of 10

The Video Done the Impossible is presented in widescreen (1:78:1). This was a low budget documentary, often shot on the fly — besides the fan footage, the creators explain on the commentary that many of the interviews were secured at the last moment — but the widescreen presentation looks good. There’s some notable pixilation in certain portions, but it’s hardly distracting to the interview material.

Score: 6 out of 10

The Audio Presentation Done the Impossible features a single English language Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Again, this is a documentary, and hardly requires anything more. Some of the interviews — including the one with Joss Whedon, done on the floor of Comic-Con — were conducted in crowded areas, yet the interviews are still clear and it’s easy to discern what is being said. There’s also quite a bit of music featured, as it turns out that quite a lot of people have written folk songs about Firefly, which are used in many sequences as accompaniment or background, and they too sound just fine.

Done the Impossible also features an English language subtitle option.

Score: 6 out of 10

Packaging and Extras Done the Impossible comes in a standard Amray case.

This single-disc release features the following extras:

* Audio Commentary by the filmmakers.
* Equality Now featurette.
* ’Verse Dictionary.
* Tribute to Lux.
* Trivia Quiz.
* Music Bios.
* Interactive Timeline.
* Trivia Quiz.

As one might expect from a documentary about passionate fans made by passionate fans, many extras have been provided here to further fuel the Firefly fanatics. The audio commentary by the filmmakers is okay; There are some interesting facts about how and where they secured many of the interviews in the film, and a discussion over Serenity’s box office failure (hey guys, how about in the film too?), though there’s also some random geeky tangents, such as when they get into an argument over how strong the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is.

The interactive timeline is a pretty fun and engrossing feature, which took me a good 90 minutes to get through. Here, you can click through a timeline of the history of Firefly and Serenity which is narrated by Firefly actress Jewel Staite. Many of the sections also feature additional video footage that can be watched, such as extended versions of interviews seen in the documentary, where the participants elaborate on the topic at hand. There’s an especially good bit of footage with Firefly executive producer Tim Minear describing the problems they had with FOX over the pilot and the bad precedent it set for the series.

There were a couple of times however where I picked a topic that said "Watch Video", yet I couldn’t choose to watch it; not sure if it was a problem of not being able to access the video, or a topic where they decided not to include the video, but neglected to get rid of the selection. Like the documentary, the timeline exists without addressing how the film did. In some ways, it’s even more notable here, because the ratings of every single episode of Firefly are noted, along with some sales figures for the DVDs, but the timeline ends with Serenity opening and no other mention of how it did.

As another example of how "inside" this disc can be, there are a couple of little in-jokes in this timeline, like the reference to someone named Pip joining the Firefly message board, which will have no meaning to many, myself included. Still, this timeline presents a lot of information in a much clearer way than the documentary.

The Equality Now featurette is a look at a charity Joss Whedon is a big supporter of, which his fans have also embraced, and features discussion with fans and members of the organization over how different fundraiser campaigns have come about. The piece ends with an Equality Now promo featuring Meryl Streep.

The Music section provides profiles for all of the musical acts heard in Done the Impossible, along with some extended musical performances of bands featured on camera in the documentary. The 10 question trivia quiz is split into easy, medium and hard levels, and features Jewel Staite’s voice congratulating or berating you, depending on how you’ve done. The ’Verse dictionary is simply a text description of many notable words, used casually by both Firefly characters and/or fans.

The Tribute to Lux is a nice piece focusing on a beloved and noteworthy member of the Firefly fandom, who has sadly passed away. Clearly well known among this community, many share their thoughts on Lux, including Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk, who went so far as to invite him to have a drink with him when they were in Canada a few years ago.

The disc also features many DVD-ROM extras, including an interactive presentation of the documentary, where extended versions of interviews seen in the film can be accessed.

Score: 7 out of 10

The Bottom Line I love Firefly but this documentary sometimes feels like it’s only for people who really, really, REALLY love Firefly. It’s fun to see the interviews and the joy the show has brought to many, but for anyone who doesn’t yet know or has only a casual knowledge of the wonderful TV series and film that has inspired so much passion, this is a somewhat hard to grasp documentary.

The extras are well done and informative, in some ways doing a much better job than the documentary of presenting facts about the series to a novice, who doesn’t know a Companion from an Operative.

Score: 6 out of 10

1 Message

  • Firefly - "Done The Impossible" DVD - Ign.com Review

    9 August 2006 15:30, by Anonymous

    Typically moronic IGN review. If they took one minute to think about the target market for this documentary (which, by the way, is pretty damned good overall if you want the story of the fans themselves), the people buying the DVD will almost undoubtedly know the things being referred to at least in passing... and is it really that hard a concept to get behind that they were confused by ad’s that didn’t match up with what they got without having to see the ad itself?

    The documentary is the fans tale, by fans, for the real `hardcore` fans. It’s not a big budget big production thing. The average person *isn’t* going to be the one ordering this DVD and IGN seem to utterly fail to take this into account. No, the documentary isn’t perfect by any means but they’ve done a fairly great job. It’s about the fans, not about the show or the movie. I am not entirely comfortable enough to call myself a Browncoat, but I understood enough of what I would be getting with Done the Impossible to realise that it was specifically the story of the fans themselves, and that that story deserved to be told. The hell with IGN if they didn’t realise the context of the thing they were reviewing beforehand.

    The fan’s did the impossible, and that makes them mighty. Anyone who wants to hear the details of their extraordinary friendships and struggle, and understands what they’re getting, check it out. It’s not the greatest thing ever but the love and heartfelt nature of the docu’ you can almost feel.