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what I thought of Serenity and Firefly

I am both annoyed and charmed by the Firefly series, and I felt the same way about Serenity, for some of the same reasons and some different reasons.

The thing that charms me the most is the dialect Whedon made up for the series. I find it poetic and easy to listen to. I like the fake swearwords like "gorram" and the use of Chinese for conveying intense emotions and the word 'verse. (But see below.) Sometimes he lays the dialect on a bit thick, but overall he has a touch with it that I like. It makes me feel like I'm part of something.

I like the humor. I like the play between predictable science fiction and Western tropes and the unpredictable twists that sometimes get thrown in. (It's very difficult to surprise me in a TV or movie plot without cheating; Whedon occasionally surprised me without cheating.)

I love love love the relationship between Wash and Zoe and the character of Wash in general. It's rare to see a geek character done with subtlety and realism on film. (Although I liked the Mr Universe character in Serenity, he was precisely the sort of geek character done without subtlety and realism that I'm contrasting Wash against.)

I like that Jayne has a few non-tough-guy elements and I like his moral egoism; it's hard to do a character like that with any sympathy.

I like that the engineer is a femmy but salty woman, although I sometimes thought her femininity was played wrong.

I thought the "character" of the Alliance was very poorly drawn. The way the main characters seemed to feel about the Alliance and the way agents of the Alliance actually behaved didn't mesh up with me. The Alliance didn't seem like much of a threat; they were forever interacting with it and getting away without much difficulty. I thought the episodes where the characters went up against local hoodlums were more realistic.

I liked the way Inara and the concept of "companions" was used to set up stories, but I got very tired of the constant reminders that she's "not a common whore". I also couldn't reconcile all the talk of her training and her inability to deal with how she felt about Mal. Didn't companion training include anything about what to do if you developed romantic feelings for people, clients or otherwise? The OH said that the relationship twigged his Strangers in Paradise alarm, a remark that a few of you might grok.

Would have been nice if there were some male "companions".

I liked the brother-sister relationship but I didn't like the character of River. She was too convenient of a plot device - a character who could either act crazy and make chaos as required, or evince some amazing talent previously hidden and save the day as required - and then go back to her craziness so they couldn't actually rely on the talent.

As for the Chinese, the OH made this comment after seeing one of the DVD interviews where Whedon said that in the backstory of Firefly, the two superpowers China and America had joined forces and as a result everyone spoke both English and Chinese. The OH said "If the two superpowers joined forces, then where are all the Chinese people?"

On to the movie itself. I enjoyed it in that it included all of the bits of Firefly that I had liked in the past, and the action sequences seemed pretty well done (not that I'm a connoisseur of action sequences). It kept my interest while I was watching it.

It bugged me for all the same reasons that Firefly did. But in addition, I thought the plot of the movie had more holes and hard-to-believe elements than the TV episode plots. Nitpicks follow.

The first bit that annoyed me was the dream sequence that turned into a scene in a lab that turned into a recording. I couldn't suspend disbelief that the dream would have been recorded.

I wish the character of the agent had been better drawn. He seemed very inconsistent. The OH and I both wished that one of the deleted scenes shown on the DVD had been in the movie because it helped draw his character a little better.

The backup forces available to the character were also inconsistent. He was acting on his own, and then suddenly he had so many backup forces that he could take out multiple entire towns simultaneously. I couldn't suspend disbelief to reconcile this with his supposedly being a deep dark government secret.

I had a problem with the main plot driver, about the Alliance's secret about the planet past Reaver territory and how the Reavers came to exist. If this planet was dead and secret for a decade, then how could it have been worse for the Alliance to just blow it up than to keep it out there as a secret? And as for the Reavers, if they mostly all hang out in a small portion of space near the planet, why doesn't the Alliance just blow them up? If I thought that the Alliance was keeping the Reavers and the planet around for some purpose, I wouldn't have had a problem suspending disbelief here, but no such purpose was hinted as far as I could tell.

I also find the notion that the Reavers are "humans with their aggression on overdrive" a bit unbelievable because they seem to work in groups. (But not groups so tight that they'll question a random ship just wandering into their territory, as long as it has bodies trailing off it.) That's a minor nit, though.

I really loved the Oaty Fruity Bars cartoon.

So what did you think?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 2nd, 2006 03:45 am (UTC)
I interpreted the dream-lab-recording sequence as simply shifts in perception and perspective from River's to Simon's to the Operative's. I never saw River's dream as being a part of the recording the Operative was viewing.

As to the Alliance being differing flavors of competent, I saw that as about par for the course with a bureaucracy.
Jan. 4th, 2006 01:46 pm (UTC)
I feel the same way about River and my sense of that was so heightened by Serenity that I'm actually secretly (or, really, not-so-secretly) hoping that there won't be another Firefly movie. Now that she's "awoken" she seems that she'll be able to do anything, solve any situation, be the magic bullet at any required time or place. Her display of piloting skill at the end of the film seemed to really drive that home. I was actually quite apprehensive about the movie before I saw it, because she's always been my least favourite character.

I was also kind of disappointed at the differences between the "hands of blue" people coming after River in the show vs. the sort of fully-backed-Government-operation feel in Serenity. It's quite possible that they had to simplify a lot to fit the plot into a movie, but I really expected more of either a shadow government agency acting on its own or a corporate entity doing secret illegal things that it had a lot of money to throw at but couldn't risk exposing.

Some of the other points you mention about the Reavers do seem to ring true, but I hadn't thought of them myself at the time.

My biggest disappointment was that they didn't all die at the end of the film, but if you discuss film with me over broad ranges of time, you'll discover that that's a frequent complaint of mine. However, I found it very, very hard to accept that Mal could best the assassin in a straight fight, especially given that the psychological power of the assassin's character comes from the idea that if you come up against him head-on, you're dead. Also, I think it would have been both a more believable and a more impactful arc for me had they gotten the signal out but given their lives to do it. I think it also would have made the universe of the show more interesting and led me to ponder more about the people who received the signal and about who would carry on their legacy and so on. There seemed to be a real set-up there for a while that this would be their chapter in history, the small human story that kicked off the big, historic events. I liked that idea much better than the idea that they'll be themselves out there leading the charge.

I was both disappointed that we never fully learned Book's secrets, because I always thought he was the most interesting character, but also amazingly charmed by how that was handled, and by the idea of crafting a story in which you *don't* find out everyone's secrets. That appealed to me a lot, even if I only believe that Whedon left it out for practical reasons and would have included it had there been a continuing series.

I do still really like the show, though, and I did like the movie, although perhaps slightly less than the show.
Jan. 4th, 2006 07:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I enjoyed reading that. I agree about Book. And I think if everyone had died that would upset the optimistic overall tone of the series, but it would have made for a more thought provoking movie.
Jan. 4th, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC)
When I've discussed the "everyone dies" ending option in a couple of other places, people have indicated that one reason that it couldn't be done was that he did a similar ending with Angel, and that it would have been enough to typecast him as a writer of those sorts of endings. Another suggestion was that he couldn't do it because the fans would have revolted. The former explanation makes sense to me, even if it doesn't play into my penchant for the apocalyptic. The latter explanation I have a hard time putting a lot of credence in the way it is worded there. I think that Fandom does overestimate its influence and that most writers don't care *that* much what Fandom is going to think. On the other hand, I think that a very dark ending would render the franchise inaccessible to a lot of the public. I don't know that the wider viewing audience the series targets would have purchased the DVD or been interested in seeing the series had it had an "unhappy ending".
Jan. 4th, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC)
In several spots on the DVD for Serenity, Whedon says "This movie is for the fans" and otherwise gives credit to the fans for making it possible. So whether or not Fandom overstates its influence on writers or on Whedon, Whedon is playing into it.

I think Whedon might at one point have been hoping that the movie would cause the series to be picked up again. I've seen stuff elsewhere on the net since that indicate he doesn't want to work with the series again. But we'll see, I guess.
Mar. 29th, 2006 12:18 am (UTC)
As for the Chinese, the OH made this comment after seeing one of the DVD interviews where Whedon said that in the backstory of Firefly, the two superpowers China and America had joined forces and as a result everyone spoke both English and Chinese. The OH said "If the two superpowers joined forces, then where are all the Chinese people?"

My take on it is that it works if by "joined forces" one assumes China won (probably economically, a la the implications in China Mountain Zhang, not an all-out war). They're back on beautiful paradise Earth, having kicked all the dirty and dangerous development etc. work offworld. If you live at the top of the heap in the center of the universe, why bother going to backwater dirtballs/space lanes? (not that I feel that way, but that could be the prevailing cultural attitude).
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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