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Firefly - "Serenity" Movie - Megatokyo.com Review

Sunday 9 October 2005, by Webmaster

I successfully avoided Serenity for over a year and a half. Not out of dislike, mind you—but I knew just enough about it that I didn’t want to know more until it was done. Being a nerd surrounded by nerds, of course I’d heard about the ill-fated, well-loved Firefly and how I "had to watch it". It wasn’t just Serenity I was holding out on, though, it was pretty much anything Joss Whedon has ever had his hands on. Buffy and Angel never really appealed to me, and I never watched an episode all the way through (me not watching TV for a period of about 8 years may have had more to do with that than the actual quality of Buffy and Angel, though).

Then came the buzz—ranging from excitement that Serenity was actually happening to the trailer looking awesome to good friends of mine expressing willingness to perform all sorts of esoteric sexual acts for Joss Whedon.

In that vein, it was about when Kurtz’s "Joss Whedon is my master now" shirt came to my attention that I decided I’d continue my Serenity holdout until the movie came out. I wanted to go into it without other preconceptions, any attachment to the characters, just to see if my reaction would be any different from that of Whedon’s Legions... err, I mean the Browncoats.

It got worse over the last week, when matters escalated from "Firefly was awesome and you should watch it" to "Serenity reminds me of my first time watching Star Wars and "I am Locutus of Borg. You will watch Serenity. Resistance is futile." Heck, I think Cliff and Greg of Real Life were about to go on a road trip for the express purpose of fellating Mr. Whedon until the various females in their lives intervened (I think it was the threat of videotape that stopped them).

So I ended up changing my plans from waiting until seeing the movie for myself to avoiding the movie wholesale, thinking "oh, man, it’s yet another of those things that’ll get fanboys in a froth, but is no good on closer inspection."

Wait, people, put down your pitchforks and torches, I’m not done with this story yet. Trust me, it has a happy ending.

So anyway, I was there thinking that I would avoid Serenity for a while, maybe watch it when one of my friends inevitably picked up the DVD. And then I found out that during my usual Friday night jaunt to Berkeley preceding a Cal home game, all of my friends (and I mean all of them) would be going to watch the movie. Faced with the option of going to see the movie with them and sitting around a PC bang playing City of Heroes, I took the more social option and went with ’em.

And, without having any experience with Joss Whedon’s writing style, without having any prior knowledge of anything that had ever happened in Firefly, I watched the movie.

Here’s an indication of how much I liked it: I didn’t crack one MST3K-style joke through the entire thing, which I usually spend a good 30% of a movie doing (it’s why under normal circumstances, I only attend matinees. I don’t want to inflict my behavior on anyone else). The dialogue was clever, but only when it would be most effective, and the jokes never seemed cheap. The movie was excellent at changing gears from tension to humor to action, and for perhaps the first time in years, I was actually at the edge of my seat sometimes instead of slouching back.

While I didn’t have that "I see why people would dedicate their lives to this" feeling I got when I watched The Empire Strikes Back, I loved the movie just as much as everyone said I would.

To start with, the movie provided just enough background to familiarize me with the universe without dragging down in its own expository, something the first X-Men failed at. The movie was also paced extremely well, smoothly changing gears whenever it had to, from action to humor to tension to any given mix of the three. It also managed to be clever and funny without turning into a mockery of itself or resorting to knowing winks at the audience. And even though (THIS SECTION DELETED BECAUSE IT HAS SPOILERS), I felt (MORE SPOILERS, MOVE ALONG, CITIZEN). And that’s without mentioning how impressed I was that they managed such a wonderful-looking movie on an almost threadbare $45 million.

In fact, my only real complaint about the movie is that there were a few lines that were overwritten or unnecessary. The actors ably proved their ability to express so much with their facial expressions and body language, making a couple of conversations feel like they were translations provided for the comprehension-impaired.

But looking at pretty much any science fiction movie I’ve watched in the past five years, that one complaint is so miniscule as to be more a critical compliment than a complaint, especially compared to how the Star Wars were apparently stolen from the proverbial monkey at a typewriter and the Matrix sequels felt like a sock full of doorknobs applied liberally to the brain.

What’s the point of this rant? Well, you’ve heard a lot of word of mouth about how you should do your civic nerd duty and watch Serenity, whether to stick it to Fox or to pay for what may soon be Joss Whedon’s army of illegitimate children after hordes of nerd chicks throw themselves at his feet begging to be baptized in the Church of Joss. Given the movie’s fairly modest $10 million take at the box office this weekend, a good amount of you didn’t really listen (and, to be fair, a lot of you reading this don’t live anywhere near a theater showing the movie, too).

But lemme tell you. Serenity, whether you like Joss Whedon or not, is a damn fine movie. Heck, I’ve convinced Fred to watch the movie when he gets a spare moment. And convincing Fred to do something is like talking your dad into giving himself a vasectomy using only a circular saw and peanut butter.

Well, okay, maybe not that hard. But you get the point—I like the movie enough to recommend it to my friends. A lot of you will too. So hop to it!