Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I Am a Leaf on the Wind - Non Spoiler Review of Serenity

I saw a screening of Serenity, the new Firefly movie last night. Living here on the island, it was a drive to get into the City to see it but it was definately worth the 2 1/2 hours each way. Thanks to Ted at Grace Hill Media for giving me good advice on the phone about how early to get there and reassuring this rabid fan that she was actually on the press list.

I have been a fan since FOX first aired the show and was really upset when they cancelled the show. I listen to the Signal Podcast and own the DVDs, the Dear Husband and I have made some converts. We own the Dark Horse comics - I had high expectations of the movie which were more than met.

When DH and I reached the theater, there was a HUGE line of folks snaked around the lobby, circling up and down stairs and a bunch of theater employees girding up to tell waiting fans decked out in costume that the theater was full. I scuttled over to the Universal Picture representative, got my hand stamped and breezed into the theater. I was still in shock to not have to cool my heels in line. The theater they set aside for the screenings was small, 150 seats and half full already. It was an hour before showtime and they at last let the line come in. The remainder of the time before the show was filled with the giddy crowd singing the theme song and "Hero of Canton", punctuated by theater personell doing seat counts and urging people to not try to save seats.

At last the movie started. First off a preview for Doom. Cheers for the Rock, wolf whistles for Karl Urban, the jazz up crowd applauded at the end of the preview. Quick recap of the show and characters, if you are familiar with them you might want to skim this part.

Firefly followed the crew of the Serenity, a ship that serves outer planets as a smuggler, transport, mercenary muscle and whatever other paying job they can get. Low profile is the byword. Mal Reynolds, the captain, is a angry, weary man who just wants to live and fly. He has never gotten over losing out to the Alliance government when the outer worlds vainly rebelled. Zoe, his old army buddy is his number 2, less bitter than Mal. She is the one person he will listen to. Wash is Serenity's pilot and married to Zoe. His light heartedness is what balances Zoe, and keeps her from being as emotionally isolated as Mal. Jayne Cobb is the ship's mercenary muscle. A man with few morals, Jayne is none the less handy in a fight, and never questions the ethics of what they do. Kaylee is the ship's engineer, warm hearted as everyone else is reserved, Kaylee first concern is for people. Kaylee carries a torch for Simon. Simon, the ship's doctor is a fugitive from the Alliance after rescuing his sister from a secret experiemental facility. Born to wealth and privilege he is often at odds with Mal. River, Simon's sister, has been driven insane by the experimental tests. She has a hard time discerning reality from what is in her head. Inara, leases a shuttle on Serenity and is essentially a geisha and prostitute. Shephard Book is a preacher who left his monastary to find a flock to pastor. He decided that Mal needs his attention more than anyone.

In the Dark Horse comics which bridge the TV series and the movie, Inara and Book both leave Serenity. Inara, because she has fallen in love with Mal and both of them are too defensive to move a relationship forward; Book because Mal has baited him beyond control and he needs some time to reground himself.

The Movie. The movie is a resolution of a couple of storylines from the TV show, primarily the Simon and River Tam fugitive story. Joss Whedon, the show's creator, manages to make the movie accessable to non fans with about 3 minutes of setting up the universe. It doesn't feel like exposition because at the end of that three minutes it jumpstarts the plot in an intense way.

Bad guys are introduced. First there is the government operative who is sent off after the Tams. He is Zen badness. He knows what he does is evil, knows he is bad but believes the end justifies the means. It was a bit disconcerting to watch the government scientist who was experimenting on River and realize I knew him as the high strung Busy Bee dog owner from Best in Show. Still, he was immediately overshadowed by the Operative.
A little while later we meet the other baddies from the movie, Reavers. Reavers are the boogie men. People who have gone nuts and turn psychopathic. They kill indiscrimately, are cannibals, they don't flee, have no fear, and are big into mutilating themselves and others. Blech! I didn't expect the Operative. In the TV show, River is being chased by some seriously creepy guys in blue gloves, I expected them in the movie. Perhaps Whedon is saving them for a sequel, if there is one. Still, the bad guys in the movie were sufficient.

Simon and Mal fight over whether or not River is going to help in heists. She has been engineered to be an assassin but is unpredictable. Simon is for sheltering River completely, Mal wants her to pull her weight. Simon decides to leave Serenity, but there are complications. Mal has to decide, are Simon and River part of his crew and under his protection or are they not? Mal is like a junkyard dog protecting "his people".

Joss Whedon is not shy about killing people off or hurting them badly. This is a hankie film. The fans at the theater laughed, gasped, cried and cheered within the space of minutes many times during the movie. There are alot of surprises in the movie, which I will write about in another post. I will definately see this once again.

Check out IMAO for Frank J's review.

UPDATE: Instalanche! Hooyah! I will be doing a spoiler review after opening weekend. Please check back. Also please feel free to browse around. I am a sci-fi/fantasy fan and talk about books and movies. Also see here for my post on Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman.

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