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Firefly - "Serenity" Movie - Bitchpanic.com Review - Spoilers

Saturday 15 October 2005, by Webmaster


Yes, there are spoilers here, blah blah blah.

But first, a seemingly pointless degression: Once there was a comic book writer I enjoyed very much, named Chris Claremont. He’s responsible for making the X-Men a top comic book franchise that eventually led to the successful films.

But back in the 1990s he had a falling out with his bosses, left the comic book he had written for years, and pretty much left the industry for a time.

Slowly he worked his way back with some stuff here and there. Eventually he decided to come back in a fairly major way: Not with the X-Men, but with a series of brand new characters under his complete control. His new hero team was called Sovereign 7 and was published by D.C. comics, not by Marvel.

Sovereign 7 was a disaster. It was a high-concept project about superhuman exiled "royalty" from devastated alternate earths. The series had some really interesting themes and ideas at the heart of it, but the execution was muddled and confusing. Plots made little sense. Character motivations made almost no sense at all, particularly with the villains. It was hard to tell whether or not the comic book even had an editor to try to keep the stories on track. It limped along for three years until it finally ended in an abrupt, unsatisfying mess.

Firefly is Joss Whedon’s Sovereign 7. It seems like an appropriate comparison, considering that both Whedon and Claremont have gotten involved with the X-Men these days (though I have long since given up comics entirely). Firefly was a mess of concepts with no real direction. Some concepts were quite intriguing, like the idea of trying to survive and thrive in a reconstruction following a civil war. Some, like the idiotic Western aspects and the ambiguous civil war itself were not as well considered or defined. If Joss Whedon told me that he actually had a real plan or reason to make Inara a space hooker, I would call him a liar to his face.

At the heart of it all, Firefly had exactly one "throughline" plot, the adventures of Simon and River Tam, so it’s absolutely no surprise that it was the focus of Serenity. What else could the movie focus on? Everything else was just a nibble of character development — like Book’s secret past and the fucking obnoxious and cliche romantic tension between Mal and Inara. These are conceptual developments, not plots. Strega and I recently laughed our asses off at some interview where Whedon claimed people called him "plot guy." that’s just hysterical, unless we’re supposed to take literally that "plot" is singular there. Like, "Oh yeah, if you need just one plot and want to make it drag on and on, Joss is your man."

Serenity is the series finale that Firefly never got. It wraps up the one plot of the series. I can’t imagine there would be another movie. Why? What would it be about? Would it be like those horrible self-contained Star Trek movies that are essentially just 90-minute stand-alone episodes with huge budgets?

The thing that annoyed me most about the movie is that it ruined the only episode of the series that I found to actually be functional both in plot and character development: "Ariel." This was the episode where Simon took the first real steps to determine what had been done to turn his sister crazy. But in addition, we learned more about what he was capable of doing as a person, and for that matter, we learned more about what Jayne and Mal were capable of as well. And what the Alliance was willing to resort to in order to get River back. The plot moved forward notably, but also relationships were altered or more clearly defined. It was exactly the perfect mix of plot and characterization, the kind of episode that is so common on better sci-fi shows like Farscape and the new Battlestar Galactica.

So of course, in order to set up the movies to the many, many people who never watched the series, that part of the plot needed to be retold, but it didn’t match what was in the series. I guess it’s not particularly revelant because continuity isn’t all that important to a franchise whose existence is in doubt. It just makes me feel sad that the one episode I watched of Firefly that gave me hope that the show could surpass conceptual mediocrity no longer mattered.

Firefly actually made me feel sorry for Fox network executives for once. There really wasn’t a winning move here. Joss, of course, thinks that if he were allowed to be completely free with his concepts and if the network had let him go his own way the show would have been just great. That’s typically the attitude of a hack. The problem is never him. It’s those damned, faceless suits keeping him down! And he’s got his brain-damaged army of fandom followers who use the Internet as a virtual echo chamber, shooting their vacuous praises of all things Joss back and forth until they’ve deluded themselves into thinking that they’re bigger than they actually are.

The show would have never been a success, not in the direction it was heading. The three episodes that didn’t air were terrible. And pretty much pointless, too. What Joss really needed was somebody to rein him in and say, "Look, you say you have all these concepts and plans. It’s time to fucking put them into play on the actual show." Some people whine that there were only 14 episodes filmed, but that’s an entire season on HBO, and you better believe that shit goes down on those shows within that time frame and it goes down hard. Well, except for Carnivale, apparently, which is probably why it got cancelled, too.

I also feel sorry for the actors, too, by the way. I think the real reason that Firefly hasn’t faded away entirely is because of the actors, who rose far, far, far above the material. I think that if, say, the cast of Stargate: Atlantis had been put in these roles, Firefly would have been buried in an unmarked grave and quickly forgotten.

As it stands, it will probably take two or three more years. I can only hope by then the actors from the show have managed to capitalized on this situation to get some decent gigs.