Well, it’s April and spring is in full bloom, which has always meant one thing: Summer is coming. And for me two things come to mind when this season rolls around: very bad sun burns that melt my fair skin and summer blockbusters. And they have quite the lineup this year, with many anticipated sequels, prequels, and even one or two original films works, (Gasp! What blasphemy is that?!?). The first major one, however, is The Avengers, the first film to take superheroes from various films and put them into a single movie. And as anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m incredibly skeptical on how this movie is going to turn out and have an extream hatred on how Marvel handled it. Exactly why this is, I’ll get into in another post but let’s just say that I’m getting incredibly tiered of films that use what I like to call the “shitty summer blockbuster” appeal and again I’ll evaluate more at a later time.
Anyway, I brought up The Avengers today because I wanted to discuss something that the film’s writer and director, Joss Whedon, had done in the past. Until recently, I honestly had no idea who this man was until he was listed as The Avenger’s director. Apparently he created the show series’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that I never watched, the spinoff show, Angle, a show that never appealed to me, and Firefly, a show up until recently was just “the show that was canceled to soon”. But because of my skepticism of the upcoming film I was encouraged to check out the latter of the bunch. Having gotten through the series and its film, Serenity this weekend, I decided to share my thoughts anyone who cares to read. This is The Illusive One’s look at Firefly and Serenity.
The show takes place in the distant future and follows the adventures of a crew of smugglers, thieves, ex-soldiers and mercenaries, of the star ship Serenity as they pull capers, smuggle questionable items, and fight against mafia organizations, corrupt cops, politicians and shady government organizations. In other words, it’s a show that should be right up my alley. But was it really as good as people say? Should Fox not have canceled it? Does it really deserve the reputation it gets as a fantastic show?
The simple answer to that is YES!!! It does deserve all the praise it gets. It’s a fantaistic series and I honestly regret not watching it sooner! So, what makes the series work? Why does it have such a radical following? Well, I think that the main reason is the characters as they work very well within the context of the show. Each of them has a darker side that, depending on the episode, they try to keep in check or wish people to think it dominates their personality. The captain, Mal, for example, tires to give everyone the impression that he’s a hardened criminal but has a heart of gold that keeps revealing itself. You also have the dumb, greedy, but extremely likable and reliable Jayne who plays off as a tough guy and mercenary “out for himself” but always stands by his crew when things get tough. The rest of the crew had their qualities but those were the two who stuck out the most to me. Now granted, they can seem a little Mary Sue-ish at times but they’re just so likeable that you’ll forget about any contemporary criticism you may have after the first episode.
Another great thing about the show was, obviously, the great writing and reoccurring themes and problems. The most notable theme of the show is freedom. Freedom from the government and any affiliations that may otherwise complicate their lives and the theme song really portrays this as well as the writing does. However, this always leads the crew to a very basic problem and leads them to even more complex problems. Mainly, the crew is always strapped for cash and looking for ways make more money. As a result, they usually take jobs that appear harmless at first but end up becoming needlessly complicated due to the crew’s morals or just bad luck. Take for example the second episode, The Train Job where the crew of the Serenity is hired to steal an Alliance shipment by a mafia group, which turns out to be medical supplies. As you may guess, they decide not to turn it over to the mob, which puts them in a complicated situation with them. Right alongside this is the show’s great sense of humor. I won’t spoil any of them for you, as it’s a lot better in context but they range from being crude to so demented it’s funny to ridiculous situations and witty lines. And of course, a lot of the situations they get into are action packed and full of great suspense.
I also really liked a lot of the little things that this show had. For example, there isn’t any sound in space in this series. While this may not seem like a big deal, you wouldn’t believe how many shows and films neglect this simple fact; sound doesn’t carry in space. I also really like what this crew often steal and smuggles. It’s rarely anything as elaborate as gold or money, but often just medical supplies or packs of food that are extremely valuable in the outer colonies the crew frequently deals with. In my opinion, that’s really cleaver and is something that never seems to get addressed in science fiction.
I will admit, however, there are a few things that bug me about the show. For starters, I don’t care at all for the western theme they have in this series. You see, when I think of colonies in the frontier of space I think of the space colonies you see in Avatar or Mass Effect; groups that don’t have limitless resources by any means but still have technology that reflects the age they live in. Now I will admit that this is something that I got used to very quickly, but it remains a decision that I disagree with. That and some of the art direction seems a little off to me. Again, when I think space ships of the distant future, I think of more along the lines of Mass Effect designs. In Firefly, however, some of the equipment in the ship, mainly the bridge, had designs that looked like they were from the 80s or something. Again it’s something that I got used to and it may be a nitpick but it still bothers me.
All around, this was a really great show, and I can honestly see why it had such a large following. It had lovable characters, great storylines, a good sense of humor and was an all-around fun show.
But what about Serenity? What did I think of that film? Well, hardcore fans of the series may hate me for saying this but I didn’t particularly care for it and I felt that it left something to be wanted. There just wasn’t enough time in the two hour film for character development and doesn’t allow you enough time to get reattached to these characters or allow new comers to gain any. There were a few shock deaths as well that just didn’t feel right to me. I’m not sure if it was the dialog, the acting, the writing or the directing but these deaths, which should have had me in tears, just came off as passive events. The story and editing didn’t seem to flow together very well and I don’t think it was a very satisfying conclusion to the series. Now granted there were a few great twists and the story wasn’t horrible by any means but it was something that I felt should have been told as a show series rather than a film. In short, I don’t think this was a bad movie, but in my opinion, the 35 million that was spent on this film would have been much better used on a few more seasons of the show rather than this film. But that’s just my opinion.
So has this series bolstered my confidence in The Avengers and Joss Whedon writing and directing capabilities? Well, not really. Why you may as? Well, for starters, there is a massive difference between writing and directing for a show series and a feature length film and the number of bad movies he’s written out numbers the good ones he has. So I still have a few reservations in that department. And if he does write and direct it as well as he did his T.V. series I’m more or less expecting the same things out of it before I watched the show: better than all the other Avenger related movies to date, more or less on par with X2: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class, but not as good as Chris Nolan’s Batman films. Again, I’ll go into this a bit more in a later post but I just wanted to share my initial opinion on the matter.
But anyway, back to Firefly. If you haven’t already seen it, I highly encourage you to take a look as it is as good as everyone says. Serenity, not so much but even that one wasn’t horrible. Maybe someday, they’ll renew the show, taking place years after the end of the film but I’m not holding my breath. So until next time this is The Illusive One saying,