Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Serenity" 2005

It's hard not to picture George Costanza's father yelling his famous mantra, "Serenity NOW!" when contemplating Joss Whedon's epic space adventure. And by epic, I mean the journey it took from being a prematurely cancelled television show that didn't last a season, to big-budget movie screendom (well, $40 mil.--not very big these days--you definitely see every penny on the screen).

And who was responsible for this amazing, unheard-of journey? Certainly tenacious visionary, Joss Whedon, and his financial backers, but also the fans. The fans rallied on the Internet and got Universal to sit up and take notice. Imagine a movie exec. slumped in his chair, suddenly bolting upright and saying, "HUH? Wha-?," then signing a big check made out to "Joss Whedon's Sci-fi Production."

The amazing journey: Buffy, Angel, Firefly (did you watch it on Fox? I always forgot when it was on, then it wasn't anymore), and finally the Firefly movie, "Serenity." I was a big Buffy/Angel fan. I'm a proud owner of an Angel action figure even with its disappointingly fragile and breakable sword. I'm not saying "Firefly" didn't deserve to be a successful series. There was obviously a fan base ready to commit to the concept of "Outer Space Western," but despite the support, the movie tanked in theaters, making just over half of its money back. It apparently did well when the DVD came out, but with an ensemble cast of (good-looking) unknowns, and a Han Solo-ish premise (outer space renegades, living on the fringes of a totalitarian planetary society), it wasn't able to draw the big crowds.

Ideally, monetary gross is not an indicator of quality. I had to think about whether or not I liked "Serenity" for a few days. I didn't mind its potentially confusing flashbacks and back-stories, and the cast plays a well-rounded group of archetypes with deadpan, smart-alecky Whedon dialogue throughout. But it's DARK. And violent. And INTENSE. This was a bit off-putting. What's with the impalement? Whedon has a thing for this that I never want to experience again. I don't like seeing psychotic cannibalism and impalement in the same movie. It's too much for me. I'm not a delicate flower, but there's some things I don't want to see (or hear) in the name of entertainment.

Otherwise, this is a sort of thinking-fan's sci-fi action film, with some weird, amusing old-timey dialogue (Whedon was obsessed with the Civil War when he created the series), and a main guy, Mal, who's a rebel and a loner. There's strong women characters, and some very balletic ultra-violence by willowy Summer Glau, who plays the psychic teen, River. A tiny, fighting-mad woman with special powers, impalement, endless imagination, scrappiness against all odds--you got your major Whedon themes and it's all happening in OUTER SPACE. What's not to like? And now:


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