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Firefly - "Serenity" Movie - Pattayatoday.net Review

Justin Trousers

Tuesday 4 April 2006, by Webmaster

Assuming you bothered to read the adjacent Computer Monitor column before feasting your eyes upon this veritable cornucopia of movie information; you may now be in a sci-fi sort of mood, whatever that feels like. Well, I hope you are because this issue we are going to be looking at a couple of science fiction themed offerings.

The first is Serenity which has recently hit the DVD stores and the cover is not particularly inspiring. There is a young lady in a martial arts stance holding a large sword, and a tag line “They aim to misbehave” which means nothing. But when you find out some history about the movie, you are tempted to ignore the cover and take out your wallet. Joss Whedon was brought up in a family where both his grandfather and father were script writers. Joss followed in the family tradition and after writing scripts for such diverse offerings as Toy Story and Alien Resurrection; he created the TV series Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In 2002 he launched a new project, a TV series called Firefly about a motley bunch of renegades surviving in the less appealing parts of the galaxy (imagine Beach Road, but with less rats and more meteorites). Instead of endless banks of mega-phaser guns, the crew relies on martial arts techniques and modest handguns, so much so that the series was considered a mix of the Wild West and sci-fi. The script was sharp and humorous and the series developed a loyal fanbase; but not enough of an audience to stop the men in suits from canceling it mid-series. Undaunted, Whedon continued the story by making a movie, Serenity. Do you remember the original Star Wars movies? They were fun, they were well acted; they could be understood, they were entertaining. Well, Serenity has the same plus points and it is a refreshing change from the turgid mess that Lucas has been giving us over the past couple of years. There are no big names in the cast, but the acting is excellent; helped by great writing that manages to mix humour and drama and tells a story without endless speech-making. This must have been a relatively low budget film, but the effects are believable and the space battles punchy and effective. Great entertainment and well worth the mid-price DVD, especially as there are several extras on the disc which are worth watching. Serenity is a cool movie which you can kick back and enjoy with the cuddle companion of your choice. Primer is a cool movie which you can kick back and enjoy with an ice pack on your brain and a cuddle companion who will leave after thirty minutes complaining that it is incomprehensible. And they will be right. Primer was made by Shane Carruth. He wrote it, directed it, acted in it, produced it, edited it and made the sandwiches for the rest of the cast. It was filmed in his garage and in the houses of his relatives. It was put together on his home computer. The total cost was $7,000; and it won the jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004. The storyline is simple enough at the beginning. Four engineers spend their evenings in a garage inventing products which they hope might earn them a fortune. Two of them develop a machine in which objects seem to be looping around in time. Turn on the machine for a minute and an object placed within it appears to have been there for 1,347 minutes. So if you had a bigger machine which could take a person, and that person climbed into the machine after it had been turned on for eight hours, he could loop back to the start of the eight hours and then climb out of the machine; and travel back in time. Which is of course precisely what they do; having first checked which stocks have risen sharply during the day so they can go back and buy them at the start of the day. So far, my ageing brain could keep up.

I could also understand that for the eight hours that the machine was running, there would be two copies of the person in existence; one that was waiting to climb into the machine at the end of the day, and one who had already climbed out at the start of the day. But then it all gets very complicated. It is soon apparent that there are multiple copies of these guys around; and you are never really sure which one you are watching, or what is going on. Events occur which have no apparent logic, and your brain is desperately logging them in the hope some explanation will turn up later; which often it doesn’t. When you get to the final scenes of the movie you have enough loose ends to weave a blanket of confusion; and a burning desire to go back and watch it again to try and figure it out. This is one of those movies which generates a heap of web chatter and there are many discussions forums attempting to make sense of the story. Someone has produced a highly complex timeline chart showing where the events in the movie fit into the five separate timelines that are generated from the time machines. No wonder I didn’t understand it! For seven thousand dollars, this is a very well-made movie. It could never be called glossy; but the lo-fi look gives a documentary feel, and the fact that the science speak often leaves you in the role of puzzled spectator, amplifies the documentary feeling. I assume that the maker intended the time travel implications to be complex and difficult to work out, so we would all buy the DVD and watch it several times; in which case he has succeeded admirably. The recommended approach is to watch it twice; then watch it with the director’s commentary, then watch it with cast and crew commentary, then stick you head in a bucket of iced water. After that you can watch it again and all will be clear. I am looking for a bucket. In spite of the complexities, Primer is fun to watch, and fun to think about for days afterwards. You won’t find it in the shops here, but Amazon will send you a copy.