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Firefly - "Serenity" Movie - Aintitcool.com Review

Wednesday 28 September 2005, by Webmaster

Massawyrm, brainwashed by Herc, really enjoys SERENITY! Hey folks, Harry here - Personally, I think Massawyrm is crazy if he thinks Joss Whedon has made a film that will piss off half of his fanbase, cuz for the last half year - all I’ve heard from fans of FIREFLY and Whedon is that this is the second coming of God - and that SERENITY will cause world peace it’s so badass. I’ve never really gotten FIREFLY, but I figure if I don’t like the film after the event that the Alamo and I are throwing tomorrow - that it just isn’t meant to be. Here ya go...

Hola all. An emotionally torn Massawyrm here. For years I’ve bitched, I’ve ranted and I’ve downright screamed about the direction Hollywood went in the 80’s and never returned from. Many a film has pissed me off and let me down for absolutely failing the audiences of the world by making sure it always worked out in the end - making sure the heroes rode off into the sunset together. It seems that every mortal wound can be fixed these days, and as films are tested, retested and tested again we’ve ended up with a steady stream of homogenized entertainment that has forgotten the primary rule of ending a story - that there are two endings to every story: The ending the audience wants and the ending the audience really wants. The Audience wants E.T. to stay with Eliot. The audience wants Ilsa to stay with Rick, not Victor. The audience wants Jack to survive the cold waters to take care of Rose. And there’s a reason we love these movies despite these endings not being delivered. That’s because these endings suck. And for years, except for a few bright spots, these are the endings we’ve been given time and time again.

This has been my belief for years - something I’ve looked for in films, something I’ve hoped for in films and something that’s stuck with me in everything I’ve ever written. And tonight that belief has been tested. Joss Whedon has taken the crew of the Serenity, a crew I’ve come to love over time, put them through a hell from which they can never return and left me bleeding and crying on the mattress. And I don’t know if I want to kick him squaw in the nuts or kiss him square on the mouth for it.

I’ve talked my share of smack about Joss Whedon in my day. Hell I’ve also talked Herc’s share, Dmann’s share and the shares of three other friends who fought so hard for me to watch Firefly for three years. I’ve talked a lot of smack. I hate Buffy. I hate Angel. I love the first hour of Alien: Resurrection - but hate the last 15 minutes with a passion. I Love the Buffy the Vampire Slayer film BECAUSE I hate it so much - it’s so bad it’s good. But despite all this, I sat down to watch Firefly with an open mind because so many friends I trusted told me it was worth it. And they were right. I really enjoyed Firefly. Flawed though it was, Firefly proved to be damned fun. And over the course of 14 episodes I grew to fall in love with almost every member of the Serenity’s crew.

So I hereby officially take it all back. Every fucking word. I still hate Buffy. I still hate Angel. I still hate the last 15 minutes of Alien: Resurrection. But Joss Whedon has the biggest god damned set of balls I’ve seen in God knows how long. Joss Whedon has made a film that will piss off a lot of his fanbase, hell, that pissed me off, and if successful could have single handedly ushered back the days of old - at least as far as Genre Filmmaking is concerned. Joss Whedon has made his Seven Samurai, his Dirty Dozen, his Wild Bunch. Joss Whedon has made the first truly great space opera in quite some time.

The old guard doesn’t have this kind of balls anymore. Spielberg certainly doesn’t. While Spielberg so readily early in his career sent E.T. back of into space and let T.S. Quint end up in the belly of the very beast he hunted, he hasn’t delivered like that since. He cut the real ending right off of Minority Report and let that fucking kid live in War of the Worlds - and while I enjoyed both of those films, because of those endings I’ve never felt the need to go back and rewatch them. And I still haven’t. Lucas never had that kind of balls. Sure he took Yoda and Ben from us - but not really. And when he had the chance to really get us, to take Lando from us and destroy the greatest flying pile of shit in the universe, he changed it, swearing that no one would ever see the footage of the Millennium Falcon blowing up. Gone with those balls and those days was a true feeling of dread for our characters - days when we never knew who was going to get out alive.

The most important rule of storytelling is this. First and foremost you have to make your audience FEEL. If you can’t make them feel, then you have to make them THINK. If you can’t make them think, then you have to make them LAUGH. If you can’t do any of these things then you’re not really telling a story - you’re just passing the time. The problem that most people have with Hollywood these days is that many of the guys who run it, and many of the old guard themselves, have forgotten this. Most of the movies they give us just pass the time. They’re often afraid to make us feel, because they want audiences to be happy. Happy audiences tell their friends. Let’s make the audiences happy, right? Wrong. An audience that has fallen in love with a character only to have them taken away is an audience that will go back themselves just to spend time with that character again, and hope, pray and beg - even though it defies logic - for that character to make it through this time. And the audience’s heart gets broken again. And again. And again. Did Titanic make 1.8 Billion dollars because everyone on the planet saw it? Hardly. It made that much money because women went back time and again to fall in love with Jack and to hope he made it through that time. Would we even remember Casablanca if Rick really did double cross Victor and ran off with Ilsa? Would we even care about E.T. if he’d revealed himself to the world and stayed as the newest, beloved member of Planet earth?

How many times have we as geeks watched Alien, Aliens, The Terminator, The Terminator 2, The Magnificent Seven, the Seven Samurai, The Dirty Dozen, Unforgiven, The Lord of the Rings, Jaws, The Matrix? These aren’t just films we love, these are the films we swear by when we wake up in the morning. And these films all have one common thread. They are absolutely unafraid to kill off characters we love - and they never, ever bring them back.

And that’s exactly what Joss Whedon does in Serenity. And unlike the characters in all of these other films I’ve mentioned, we’ve spent a hell of a lot more than just two hours with them. We’ve spent roughly 800 minutes with them. 800 hundred minutes. That’s over 13 hours. That’s more than the entirety of The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions put together. And while Firefly ran, despite someone ending up plugged full of holes in almost every episode, there was no mortal wound the Doc couldn’t fix right up. Not this time. Not in this story. By the time Serenity reaches its climax, there isn’t a single ounce of belief that any of these characters will make it out alive. By the time the final reel has spun out and you sit there stunned in an empty theatre you can’t believe what you’ve just seen. You’re pissed, you’re hurt, you want Joss Whedon to go right back and fix it all, to put it all back together how it was. But he can’t - because that’s not how it was supposed to be. Joss Whedon’s Firefly universe is dangerous, it always has been, and the luck of the crew of the Serenity has finally run out. And you come to absolutely hate that fact.

Serenity is Joss Whedon getting right everything I ever complained about in Firefly. My biggest complaint was the western aspects - not that it was a sci-fi western, I loved that, but just how hard he pushed to give it the western feel. The frilly dresses and the bonnets really were a bit much. Okay, the civil war parallel - awesome. The gun slinging lawlessness of the outer rim - perfect. The bonnets? Retarded. I mean, Kurosawa proved that you could make a real honest to god western without the western elements and still end up making a real western - and he called it The Seven Samurai. Well, here, Whedon completely does away with the Bonnets. Here we spend most of our time right where we need to be - on the ship. Here Whedon never feels he has to make this the old west to FEEL like the old west. And he ends up making a real, honest to god western.

I honestly never liked the River Tam storyline. To me it just felt like a Weapon X send up, another nod to Joss’s love of comic books. But here Joss does something completely different, something unexpected - he turns the storyline on its ear in a way we really should have seen coming, but never did. It becomes something different - something Wolverine, Universal Soldier and every other government weapon storyline ever never did. And now, I actually love that storyline.

And finally, I never liked how readily the crew survived every happenstance, no matter how dangerous. And Lo how I long for those days again.

Serenity is everything Firefly always seemed to want to be but never was. Serenity is everything it should be and then some. Serenity is real honest to god Western that puts you right on the edge of your seat praying for someone, anyone to come out alive, and never promising that that’s actually going to happen. Serenity hits everything it aims at - it’s continuously funny, even in the most dramatic of sequences; it’s heartbreaking at the most unexpected of times; and it’s chock full of action and real danger every step of the way.

There is never a dull moment in Serenity, never a moment I wouldn’t willingly go back to and rewatch over and over again. And despite what Joss put me through, despite feeling cheated, feeling robbed, feeling like all of Firefly was just a sham, I can’t wait to go back. I can’t wait to spend those precious few moments with the crew of the Serenity one more time. And I never thought, even while watching the movie, that this was possible. I had no faith in Joss. I honestly thought he was going to cheat - that everything was just a dream, that this was all a premonition of River’s that would lead them on a different path, that River might possess some great, unknown juju that could fix it and make it all better. And that lack of faith scared me more than the idea of never seeing the crew alive again.

But I take it all back, Joss. I have faith. I believe in you now. You’ve made a real classic genre film, one I’ll see several more times in a theatre long before I can put it in my DVD player on repeat. One I’ll swear to in the morning when I wake up and give my daily praise to when I thank Cameron and Jackson and early Spielberg and early Lucas and Kurosawa and the Scott Brothers and the Wachowski Brothers. Never in a million years would I ever have guessed the name Whedon belonged in there. But apparently, it does.

So Hercules, I’m sorry. Dmann, sorry dude. Chris, Matt, Ari, Beau - complete apologies. You guys were right. You all had faith and I didn’t.

My friend Chris said it best - if Buffy, Angel and Firefly were semesters at college, Serenity is Joss Whedon’s thesis paper. It’s the culmination of everything he’s worked for. And god damnit is it fucking good. If you have yet, much like myself until recently, to watch Firefly, you owe it to yourself to do so now. Marathon the fucking thing. You owe it to yourself to see this movie now, as soon as possible, before some fucking asshat decides to blow it for you and ruin one of the great emotional fuckovers in recent film history. And while I’m certain people can watch this film without seeing Firefly, it will mean nothing to them, it’ll be just another cool sci-fi film. You need the backstory, you need the love. This is one hell of a big fucking risk, a gamble of epic proportions to make a film that just doesn’t work without all the backstory of the 14 episode series. But there they are, Joss Whedon’s huge god damned testicles hanging out there for all to see. And maybe, just maybe, if this movie does well enough, the Hollywood types, the old guard and the young turks just now making their way up just might sit up and take notice. We could see a real honest to god renaissance in the way films are made, in the way they play with our emotions, in the way they make us feel. All brought to you by Joss Whedon. Wow, there’s words I never thought I’d say.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have some calls to make. And a big old steaming bowl of crow to eat.

Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.


1 Message

  • > Firefly - "Serenity" Movie - Aintitcool.com Review

    30 September 2005 04:06, by Anonymous
    Funny review! Tho I AM one of the "believers", Massaworm has me a bit freaked out. I know Joss and his work. I know someone dies....but this sounds like a real gut-wrencher. Well, bring it on I guess. I’ll be seeing "Serenity" on Sunday, with excitement, and now, some trepidation as well.