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Firefly - ’Serenity’ Movie - Ttnmc.com Review (spoilers)

By Harry Barber

Friday 10 June 2005, by Webmaster

Most of the time, when I submit a review, it’s because I’ve found my way into an advance screening of a flick. Then there is something like last week when I get sent to review a movie. These are more rare and generally are the result of a tip from this site’s head honcho. Based on the movies he’s sent me to, he clearly hates me.

This time, he seems to have decided to prey on my deep-seated loathing of fanboys. He sent me to see a movie called Serenity. I had somehow not picked up on the background of this flick and based on the title, thought I would be seeing some sort of chick flick. One look at the crowd told me I was way off base. Then I picked up on a conversation between two guys talking about how greatly superior Firefly was to Star Wars and Star Trek. Suddenly it clicked what I was about to watch. Internally I started plotting elaborate plans to exact my revenge for this. The evening progressed steadily downward as it became apparent to me that not only was this crowd an obsessive sci-fi geek squad, but they called themselves browncoats, a reference that had me thinking of them as some sort of pitiful offshoot of the Hitler youth.

Let’s get one little pet peeve out of the way before I continue. Why does fandom have to be some sort of contest? Why do geeks feel the need to war against each other based on whatever particular sci-fi/fantasy show/movie/anime/comic gets their panties moist? Just enjoy it kids. You earn no style points and utterly fail to improve your station in life by developing a withering argument that proves that Captain Picard would in fact be John Crichton’s bitch if the two were ever to meet. If you love Farscape more than Andromeda or Battlestar Galactica more than Smallville, fine. But leave it at that. Just enjoy it. This ridiculous debate to determine geek superiority just comes off as extreme immaturity. Second, if your show gets cancelled, move on. Yes, it is disappointing when a show you loved gets the axe. But another one will be along soon to take your mind off of it. Enjoy the run while you can and move on. This last point comes from hearing the self-righteousness of geeks who insist that this movie came to life because they wouldn’t let Fox off the hook for killing their beloved show. Personally I’d say it’s a lot more likely that Universal saw an opportunity to stick it to a rival studio by grabbing a disgruntled former employee in Joss Whedon. I really don’t think they gave a rat’s ass about the immense devotion of the brownshirts to their buried show. And another thing, sports is a big ratings thing on tv. Whining about getting postponed for playoff baseball is going to fall on deaf ears. There are more baseball fans than sci-fans. Deal with it. If sci-fi got ratings like sports, it would be on every network every day. It doesn’t. Suck it up and deal with it. So, now that I’ve dispensed with every little irritating thing said around me during the evening, let’s make with the review.

As you might have gathered from my incoherent ramblings, Serenity is a sci-fi movie based on a short-lived series called Firefly that aired on Fox. Despite my distaste for the conversations around me prior to the flick, I’ll be the first to say that Fox screwed this show. I did catch an episode or two when it first aired, and while it didn’t really grab me, I could see that given time to breathe it could have become a solid hit. Fox, in typical fashion assumed that if it didn’t get instant ratings like one of its depraved reality shows then it isn’t worth continuing with. Fox clearly didn’t give a hoot about this show and set about burying it like something the cat just left in the litter box so that they could get back to the business of exploitive lowest common denominator marketing.

The movie opens with the escape of one River Tam from the clutches of the evil Alliance that rules most of the galaxy. She was a guinea pig in a secret operation to develop psychic assassins until she gets sprung and goes on the run with her brother aboard the smuggling ship Serenity. The show had weeks to develop characters in but the movie doesn’t and goes through a rapid fire introduction to the Serenity’s crew that will probably be a hair too long for die hards and much to short for everyone else. That’s the problem with adapting cult material, it’s near impossible to find a happy balance between two different audiences and their needs.

The rest of the story is simply a matter of trying to unravel the mystery of River before the feds catch up and taker her back. Along the way this tackles the background of a spacefaring group of mad zombies called the Reavers. These guys just flat out didn’t work for me. Am I supposed to believe that a group of bloodthirsty berserkers that seem to have little in life beyond mutilating themselves and others while screaming incessantly can pull it together enough to pilot a starship? I simply cannot imagine them plotting courses and repairing complex equipment when they seem to do nothing but rampage about looking for people to mutilate. I guess the fans were probably amped up for a background on these ghouls but I could have done without the entire subplot.

One of the things I do remember from the episode or two I watched was that the idea was that of a western, in space. That disappears almost entirely from the movie. While the upside is less country music twanging away in my ear, the downside is a movie without a lot of character to stand out from the other sci-fi flicks. It has some nice special effects but they are used very sparingly, as if budget was a major issue on the movie. There’s a huge space battle we barely see for what I can only guess are budgetary issues.

Don’t even get me started on Mr. Universe. One of the most horribly conceived characters of recent years. Just awful.

The movie unfortunately has the stink of TV on it. It has lots of pithy one liners that play great on TV but tend to sound phony in movies. But worse it has the heavily cliched plot about racing to get certain information to the public before the powers that be find out and stop them. Information that can save the world dammit! Please. Been there, seen it too many times. Surely the guy that created Buffy the Vampire Slayer had some better ideas somewhere that he could have used instead. Or maybe he’s burned out after years of the TV grind and just rewrote an Rockford Files to save time.

Did I hate this movie? No. I just found a bunch of irritating shit that distracts from the good stuff. This is an early print, so certainly plenty can be improved on like the editing. The pace of the movie is a bit breakneck, which isn’t the greatest for characters, which should be this movie’s best part. Here’s hoping time will heal these wounds.

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