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FireflyFirefly - "Serenity" Movie - Aintitcool.com Review
Thursday 29 September 2005, by Webmaster
That was the sensation I had tonight. I’ve only very rarely sat on the outside of the fandom at a geek event looking at the freak show as that. Usually, I’m the ringleader of the freak show - the HeadGeek. I guess technically, since I’m responsible for this event, along with Tim League, I still am the ring leader, but... I’m not a fan of the material that this is a film of.
Several months ago, Tim League asked me what I thought the odds where that I could get some sort of SERENITY event going locally. I had just had a brief and odd email exchange with Joss Whedon about a completely separate subject matter - so, I had Joss’ email address (NO, I WON’T EMAIL or FORWARD STUFF FOR YOU!) - so I told Tim, “Well, I’ve got Whedon’s email - let’s see!”
Now, I wasn’t doing this for me. None of the trailers or any of the episodes I’d seen had made a dent in my geek jones. It just hit me as... whatever. However, Tim League - I’d crawl on broken glass for, he is my Ringling Brother or vice versa. We’ve thrown and will continue to throw many epic events. Many of which start up as an act of lunacy on my part that Tim entertains because of a morbid fascination to see if it can be done. And with Tim, anything can be done. Also - my good friend, Robogeek... He’s a stark raving Whedonite. The man glows and floats two inches above the ground when he speaks of FIREFLY and SERENITY. He emails me fairly constantly that Mal should be John Carter. He is... obsessed. Personally, I’ve never really seen it. And lastly, I’d try to get this done for all the Whedon lovers that I know read this site that would make the trek to the event, if it were to come off.
Tim and I wanted to do the event in one of two Western town backlot style places outside Austin. There’s Willie Nelson’s Western Town... and then there’s the one that was built for Disney’s abysmal ALAMO. I was pulling for the Alamo set... somehow doing an Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow event at the Alamo... well, that’s cool.
I email Joss and I just never hear anything back. I figure, well... so much for that. 3 weeks later, Tim calls, “Any luck on that SERENITY thing?” “Nope.” And through the phone I felt a bit of Tim League die. This was one for him. Hell, most are for him and me, but HE really wanted this one. There wasn’t anything I could do... I think I gave him some false hope, saying something along the lines of how Joss Whedon is a busy man, working on multiple scripts, fine tuning his first theatrical feature and trying to build a massive grassroots following - I’m probably a minor pot hole on his roadmap ahead.
Then I got started on FANTASTIC FEST programming and BNAT programming. A massive endeavor - Involving a zillion phone calls, emails and research. About two weeks into that, I get an email from Joss - he’d just seen the email, apparently I’d emailed some account he hardly ever checks - he gave me a new address to write to, and definitely wanted to get this event going. Said it sounded fantastic. A smile ripped across my face - and I copy and pasted Joss’ text and in an email to Tim with the subject line, “You still want to do this?” I sent it. Almost instantly I get this hoot and hollering jumping up and down phone call from Tim and apparently an entire celebrating staff. Apparently the Alamo and the folks behind the scenes there... they kinda go nuts for this Whedon guy. It wasn’t quite at the rock solid state, but it was well on the way.
Quickly it was all set up. In the past couple of days though, I wasn’t really looking forward to this. I like the episodes of Buffy that I like, really kinda dislike ANGEL mainly cuz I don’t like that actor - he just doesn’t work for me. And FIREFLY - it just felt off to me. Think I watched 3 of the episodes on the DVD set and just never really wanted to watch the rest. Can’t really point to why, other than... I didn’t love anything about the show. It just wasn’t my thing.
As a result - I never went to any of the insane Brown Coat screenings - and I’m not entirely sure if I know what a Brown Coat or the Signal is. I’ve kinda been burnt on TV sci fi since the 4th Season of BABYLON 5. The STAR TREK shows just no longer held that passion that I used to have for it. BABYLON 5 just sort did what it did. FARSCAPE just felt bizarre to me. There just isn’t any TV sci-fi that I’ve seen in the past 7 years that made my geek go gaga. I don’t say that as a matter of pride, it’s actually really really sad to me. I love my old shows, and sure a big portion of it could just be my shrinking time dedicated to serial entertainment addiction. For me the last great Sci-Fi related show was X-FILES.
However, my blah-ness to something that so many of my friends dearly wish I was a geek on, kinda depressed me. There’s a seeming PEER PRESSURE by my fellow geeks that I love FIREFLY and this film SERENITY. So - here I am. I help get a giant SERENITY event off the ground. Perfect location. A great new girlfriend. Two of the lovely stars of the show in attendance. And above us, the stars... most of em.
First off - Disney’s ALAMO and San Antonio set is just jaw-droppingly fantastic. To my right was the fašade of the Chapel. To my left, that’s where Bowie was. Behind me, that’s where the cannon shot the chain that cut all those Imperialist Mexicans in half. We were literally watching SERENITY in the courtyard of the Alamo. No lights of the city. Only the occasional airplane in the crystal clear night sky - and several hundred mega-geeks and a giant balloon screen to snap me out of my fantasy.
Oh... and the smell of central Texas bar-b-que in the air. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to smell bar-b-que while watching a movie in the courtyard of the ALAMO is. It’s just one of those perfect combinations. Just great.
Tim came out and introduced Summer and Jewel - and they were very cute - very gosh gee whiz. “Who knew, we go for a drive out into the night and suddenly it’s like FIELD OF DREAMS!” - not sure which of them said that, think it was Summer, might’ve been Jewel - but it was very true.
Before the film - Tim had a 5 minute “How to curse in Chinese” short that should be in every school in the country. So incredibly important.
Then it was time for the film.
The audience LOVED this film. It was this side of Rocky Horror - no acting with the film, but the film played them perfectly. This was a perfect way to see the film.
What’d I think of it? I liked it. If the opening wasn’t as weak as I felt it was - had the production values all been kicked up an extra bit to give it more than that “TV SCI FI MOVIE” feel - I think I might could have loved it.
Everything that takes place prior to Serenity’s decision to go rob that rim outpost was tedium upon tedium. Now, I haven’t followed the show. I didn’t really know shit about River’s character prior to this film, nor did I know she had a brother or that he was a doctor. But you know what - all that dense as hell exposition was just a big brick wall to climb to see the movie.
Trust the audience a little. Putting a cliff note origin story at the beginning isn’t nearly as thrilling as just diving in with the characters - building that scene to play a bit more. As a clueless member of the audience - I didn’t need to know she’s an incredibly deadly living machine of death. It would have been so much cooler to have her just suddenly doing it, and for us to be as surprised as the crew of SERENITY. Mal covered the, I want her on this mission cuz she’s psychic bit. Her brother being so protective of her after being fed the, “She’s the deadliest thing known to man” thing... well it just felt ridiculous.
All that early exposition just felt like, “On last week’s episode,” which has always been a device I hated about Television. Just leap into the story. Because...
After this thing leaps into adventure with the crew, it really begins to shine. It does feel a bit like Han Solo with a new ship. Hell, they even have the same hair, side gun and quick draw routine.
The underlying theme of “The truth is out there” is always a fun theme to play with. I like that the heroes are thieves, outlaws and folks on the fringe. My favorite character is probably Jane. He’s a bit of a poor man’s Bill Paxton, but that’s kinda cool. The pilot from KNIGHT’S TALE that would fong you within an inch of your life is always fun to see in films. And Mal is pretty darn good, but none of the actresses were really given much to work with here. Oh sure, River has some great mugging and physical action - but they’re just the least interesting characters in the film for me.
Also, the sort of wanton killing of characters in the film - I get that for fans of the show this was a big thing, and it was a shock to see so many characters getting all ripped up - but for me... one of the coat-less, this felt like they were just throwing characters away. Good ones. Sure, it made it more tense, when folks are dying on all sides of you - it makes the mission that much more desperate. I could feel the audience take the gut punch when the various characters died, but for me it was more like, “Shame - I kinda liked that character.”
Having said all that - about every 10 minutes of this film, the movie gets twice as good as the previous 10 minutes. By the end of the movie, I was into it and invested in the characters that I dug. Did it make me want to see the rest of the series? Not particularly - but I wouldn’t mind seeing this again some time. It’s much better than most of the sci-fi that we’ve gotten on the big screen recently, but that’s more of a sad statement regarding the state of science fiction, than heaping amounts of praise on this.
Like - I prefer this to CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, but not PITCH BLACK. This owns ALIEN VS PREDATOR and I, ROBOT. There’s some stuff that’s really quite nice in the film - like everything having to do with the Space Cannibals... especially the little Road Warrior bit with land speeders.
Didn’t really care for the self-aware bad guy. Anytime a bad guy declares himself as evil, but necessary - I instantly don’t buy the character. All the bad guys that I believe are bad guys in this world - I guarantee you they don’t think they’re bad guys doing the necessary evil. It’s scarier than that... I believe they believe that God believes what they believe and anyone that believes otherwise... well they’re the evil ones. Meaning, I’m the bad guy. But fuck that news, I’m the good guy!
But I had a very good time with the movie. Just, having seen the best film of the year last night, this felt like a fig Newton, a lite treat.
Having said that - it’s obviously earth-shatteringly awesome for those that “believe”. And for all those like me that just don’t get the show - without spoiling anything - there’s some really really cool shit in here that you’ll dig, even if you don’t think this show deserved to be turned into a movie before AUTOMAN and MISFITS OF SCIENCE and MANIMAL and MAN FROM ATLANTIS did. Those would so own this. Heh.
Supporting this film will just help get more sci-fi out there. This is a good one, not the great one. It’s a far cry from STAR WARS or EMPIRE STRIKES BACK or WRATH OF KHAN or ALIENS - but hey... so is everything else. This is a good time.
After the film though - I almost let what enjoyment I had for the film drift away - due to some rude jackasses that decided to be “the ugly fans” - and if you’ve ever been to a convention and seen those people that rush to microphone to ask a “jackass question” that’s about embarrassing the actresses, director, writers, whoever is on the spot... Well that’s what popped up first here. However, Summer and Jewel recovered wonderfully and went on to do a very fun Q&A. Nothing particularly deep, but I think I kinda fell in school boy love with Summer in the Q&A - she’s a sweetheart, absolutely adorable.
Wish I had loved it like those all wrapped up in love with this thing. I love that feeling.