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Firefly"Serenity" Movie : Come And Gone - Syfyportal.com Review - Spoilers
By Scott Nance
Friday 21 October 2005, by Webmaster
The following contains MAJOR spoilers for the movie, "Serenity."
Sadly, I think we can all agree on one thing: There will be no grand parade of sequels to Joss Whedon’s "Serenity."
How much a few weeks (and a really poor box-office showing) changes things. Just a month ago, just before the film’s opening, fandom was abuzz with the hope and belief that Whedon’s against-all-odds comeback story would open big, launching what would become the next great science fiction franchise.
After all, Whedon had rescued his beloved-but-all-too-short "Firefly" TV series from cancellation hell and brought it back as "Serenity," a major motion picture. If he could do that, all things were possible, right?
That was then.
Now we fans have no choice but to watch the slow death of the "Firefly"/"Serenity" ’verse on a daily basis, as each day the flick plunges lower and lower on the box-office sales charts.
The latest figures, nearly three weeks after its debut, put "Serenity"’s take at about $22.5 million. It cost about $40 million to make. You do the math. Even if Universal makes an eventual killing on DVD sales and somehow the picture breaks even, studios don’t make sequels to movies that break even; they make sequels to movies that turn a profit. (Remember, there’s a reason it’s called show business.)
No, this is the end for Mal Reynolds and his intrepid crew.
Fan blame, somewhat predictably, is aimed squarely at the studio for failure to promote the film.
The truth, like "Serenity" itself, is a heck of a lot more complicated than that.
Universal actually did a reasonable job of advertising "Serenity" on television.
An online fan had suggested the studio market the movie as being from "the writer of ’Toy Story.’"
Yeah, right, I can see droves of "Toy Story" fans lining up to see a dark scifi pic. That’s as if the screenwriter of "Bambi" had also penned "Resident Evil." It just doesn’t follow. That Joss is able to put "Toy Story" next to "Serenity" on his resume speaks to his gifted range, but the connective tissue between the two movies just isn’t there to attract moviegoers.
The thing that "Serenity" had going for it that seemed like its biggest asset turned into its heaviest liability: its cult TV status.
Its that cult fanbase, and the impressive sales of "Firefly" DVDs it accumulated, that first convinced Universal to make a movie about a canceled TV show in the first place.
But it’s also that built-in fanbase that ultimately doomed "Serenity."
In that, "Serenity" is not alone. Nearly the same thing happened more than 15 years ago when the rock group U2 produced its concert movie, "Rattle And Hum." It opened huge its first weekend as the band’s fans (myself included) flocked to theaters.
But once those fans saw it, it sank like a stone. After all, once the fans were satisfied, where else could it go? There was no room for growth.
It’s that room for growth that Joss needed for "Serenity," but never found. "Firefly" fans rushed out to see it that first weekend, but after that, there was nothing.
The picture, to be commercially successful, needed to reach beyond the core fans.
What Joss needed to do, somehow, is almost forget those 13 episodes of "Firefly" ever existed. Otherwise, non-fans would feel like they were coming in in the middle of the story, which they kind of were.
This is the trouble Mike Hinman alluded to his movie review here on SyFy Portal a few weeks ago when he said that new audiences may find trouble with "Serenity."
And I agree with Mike that it’s not really Joss Whedon’s fault. He did as good a job as he could explaining "Serenity"’s complex backstory. But "Firefly" was always built on the relationships among its characters, and by the time "Serenity" came along, there was just too much history, too much chemistry, already built up to deal with in a two-hour movie.
Unless you saw the series, you wouldn’t really understand what’s going on between Mal and Inara, for instance. And since Shepherd Book was featured in "Serenity" strategically rather than prominently, if you weren’t a fan, you wouldn’t really feel the depth of his loss.
So, in a way, it was really the format that killed "Serenity." If Whedon had been able to bring it back as a TV series, things may have turned out differently.
But it didn’t. While Joss has much to be proud about "Serenity," he is now saddled with his movie debut being a commercial flop. We can only hope his next picture, the movie adaptation of "Wonder Woman," does better, or he could end up with a pretty poor reputation in Hollywood. And that would be sad indeed.