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Shiny!Whedon

Published at: June 9, 2004, 12:24 a.m. CST

I am – Hercules!!

What are you worried!

What resides here is a reasonably spoiler-free review. But feel your eyebrow make a run for your hairline as you read that there’s “a compelling and heretofore unheard reason for why the Alliance wants to track down River Tam (Summer Glau) so badly.”

And which of the regulars is so busy he or she had to settle for a reduced role in the movie??

“Firefly,” for those who enjoy Coaxial News boilerplate, was the brilliant, short-lived starship TV series created by Joss Whedon, who created the perhaps even more brilliant “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series. “Serenity” is the big-screen "Firefly" sequel, and marks Whedon's feature directorial debut.

Here’s “Miranda” with a review of the film, which began shooting on Monday.

After reading the New York Times article in which Joss Whedon compared the spoiler junkie websites to bullies who beat him up and stole his lunch money, you sort of had to ask yourself: who’s the asshole that’s going to run out and write a review of Serenity before they’ve even had a chance to finish shooting the damn thing? After receiving a script for the Firefly movie from a buddy of mine who works “in the industry,” as it were, the answer becomes clear: that asshole would be I.

But considering that the good folks on the Serenity set have only just now started filming, and considering that the film doesn’t come out for almost a year, and most of all considering that the movie will be way, way cooler if you know as little about it as possible, I’m going to give as close to an entirely spoiler-free review as I can. I won’t mention any plot points or characters not already widely reported in the trades and the more respectable internet sites, and frankly I hope that the rest of the Firefly fanbase will do likewise should they have a chance to get their mitts on the script (was Joss Whedon joking when he said that Mal dies? Do you wish you knew for sure? Wouldn’t it be cooler to actually find out in the theater?).

I’m not sure how recent a draft of the screenplay I have – there’s no proper title page to it, and the Serenity title is only listed some thirteen pages in (for security reasons, I presume), with nary a written-by credit or a draft date anywhere to be found. There are a couple of scenes that seem in need of a polish here and there, but for the most part it reads like a pretty complete and close to shoot-ready script.

First off, to allay some fears: every member of the original cast is back, and for the most part none of the characters seem short-changed in the screen time department. Though the central character is clearly Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), there’s plenty of time spent with the other crew members, and certain sub-plots from the series have carried over very naturally to the big screen version. Only one cast member has notably fewer scenes than the rest, and I almost wonder if there wasn’t a rather severe scheduling conflict that necessitated that person’s absence from much of the filming.

The first ten or so pages of Serenity are a lesson in graceful screenwriting – Whedon manages to set up more or less the entire Firefly universe, from Earth-That-Was to the Reavers to the War for Unification to River and Simon and right on down to the ubiquity of the Chinese language all in a concise, folding-flashback format that should prove intriguing to new viewers even as it offers faithful fans of the series some expanded information that hasn’t been explicitly covered before. Afterward we meet The Operative (recently announced as being played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), and following a cool little sequence in which we’re given a compelling and heretofore unheard reason for why the Alliance wants to track down River Tam (Summer Glau) so badly, we get introduced to the film’s titular ship and her recently-truncated crew as they prepare for their latest job.

And that’s as much of a plot description as I’m gonna give.

Perhaps the single most impressive aspect of the script is how it manages to maintain just the right balance between giving those familiar with the T.V. series plenty of new material to chew on even as it draws in complete newbies to its world. My buddy had never seen the show before he procured the script, but after reading it he immediately went out and bought the DVD box set – and actually thought that the movie played better without having seen the series first. The script seems to err generally in favor of the new viewer, which is as it should be, even while it reads like Firefly through and through. Whedon resists the Star Trek temptation to put in a bunch of distracting fan in-jokes, and the story is all the stronger for it.

There aren’t an over-abundance of set pieces to the film, but if those that they do have play out right, Universal should have a profitable little franchise on their hands with a very promising direction for future films to take. The action sequences are unique and engaging, and more so than in the series you really get the sense that Mal used to be a soldier, and a good one at that. There are also moments to Serenity that are supremely creepy, and I note with interest that they’re obviously looking at a PG-13 rating for the film – some of these scenes are just going to be too gruesome for anything else, and not all the swearing is in Chinese.

You also have to give Whedon props for not merely sticking with the series’ theme of losses of faith and how you deal with them, but on going out of his way to expand upon it. The character arc that Mal Reynolds began in the first Firefly episode doesn’t quite reach its climax here, but it certainly progresses further than it ever did on the small screen.

And of course, there’s the trademark Joss Whedon dialogue:


WASH: Yeah well if she doesn't give us some extra flow from the engine room to offset the burnthrough the landing is gonna get pretty interesting.
MAL: Define “interesting.”
WASH (calm suggestion): “Oh god, oh god, we're all gonna die?”

As far as weaknesses in the script go, there are a couple: though The Operative is an interesting character with an intriguing worldview that serves as a nice counterpoint to Mal’s, he’s still one good Agent Smith human-beings-are-a-virus monologue from being the truly memorable badass that I think Whedon wants him to be. Getting Ejiofor to play him is a stroke of brilliance – anyone who’s seen Dirty Pretty Things or Amistad can attest to the intensity and depth that he can bring to a role, and it’ll be nice to see him playing against his good-guy type here – but you kind of end up wishing that the script would give him a little more to work worth. Hopefully, this problem was rectified before shooting commenced. The other (slightly larger) problem is the film’s mid-point confrontation, which read a bit hokier to both my friend and I than it should have – it was the only scene in the entire script that seemed like T.V. writing. At exactly the moment that the tension should be ratcheted up, Mal is cracking wise and dressing in an inappropriately comedic manner. (Also, and just to be anal-retentive here, Whedon on occasion seems to use the words “galaxy” and “solar system” interchangeably in some of his descriptions, though I trust that’s a problem that’ll be worked out by the f/x boys long before post-production time.)

One of the biggest criticisms of the Star Trek: The Next Generation movie franchise that Paramount managed to run right into the ground was the fact that they never really felt like movies – they were just over-glorified episodes of the series, in which nothing really changed afterwards. Sure they blew up the Enterprise, but you knew they’d have a new one next week. Sure they killed Data, but they set up the means of his return so obviously that they needn’t have bothered. Sure they married Riker and Troi, but honestly – does anyone give a fuck? The difference between those Star Trek movies and Serenity is that by the end of this script, you feel like things have changed – both personally for the characters and in the universe of the story at large. If there’s a sequel to this film it won’t be just another interchangeable episode of their lives. It will build inevitably upon the foundation laid here, and I imagine it’ll be a much bumpier – and even more interesting – ride. Here’s hoping.

I am a leaf on the wind,
Miranda

P.S. Isn’t it about time that somebody leaked the Whedon version of the X-Men movie script online? I mean, seriously

I am – Hercules!!





Looking for bumper stickers, plush toys and girls’ underwear covered with cartoon double-amputees? Visit The Herc Store!

Readers Talkback

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  • June 9, 2004, 12:34 a.m. CST

    is firefly really that good to begin with?

    by Toe Jam

    i remember being thoroughly unimpressed by the previews, but then again, it was the same with arrested development (a brilliant fucking show)

  • June 9, 2004, 12:41 a.m. CST

    Looks Great

    by The Paladin

    I have complete confidence in Joss. He knows what he is doing, and I can't wait to see this movie. I second that about his X men script. If anyone has it, I would love to read it!

  • June 9, 2004, 12:43 a.m. CST

    yes, Yes, YES DAMMIT!

    by Venardhi

    It is most definately deserving of all the fanboy swooning. I didnt even bother to watch it when I saw the previews, a friend sat me down in front of 'Out of Gas' the night it aired and that night I allocated the rest of the aired episodes and had a firefly-palooza. . . its simply the best and most entertaining TV series I've ever seen.

  • June 9, 2004, 12:46 a.m. CST

    So Crystal, does it sound good?

    by Doc Brown

  • June 9, 2004, 12:48 a.m. CST

    more on the Crystal post...

    by Doc Brown

    Oops. Enter keys suck. Anyway, this all sounds good an Jossy, he won't screw it up. April 22, 2005. if yu're getting married on that day, change it. who gets married in april anyway.

  • June 9, 2004, 12:48 a.m. CST

    SHINY!

    by Roguewriter

    OK, I'm all a-twitter. What are the odds there will be action figures? Cuz, ya know, what better on the shelf above the PC than Mal & Co? No power in the 'verse can stop Whedon now! Anticipation growing.......

  • June 9, 2004, 1:13 a.m. CST

    Man, I hope they pull this off. . . .

    by gurglesnap

    That the creative team behind this show is getting a second chance is fantastic. I really hope the film strikes a chord with people. Buy the DVDs. They're great.

  • June 9, 2004, 1:53 a.m. CST

    It was OK

    by borisF

    "Serenity" was never a great TV show. I liked it, but I would never put it into brilliant or great show category. The whole setup of "Serenity" was to create low-key(not low-brow) workhorse TV show. Thats why I wonder why there was such push for a movie? Succesful SciFi movies almost always a full of special effects and lack of dialog. "Serenity" is opposite of that. Strange decision.

  • June 9, 2004, 1:56 a.m. CST

    Roguewriter--

    by vesp_e_rillian

    I just want my Serenity diecast model!!

  • June 9, 2004, 2:03 a.m. CST

    Managed to catch almost all of them....

    by CarlosTheDwarf

    I would love to refresh myself to the show, since I remember that I laughed at a lot and was impressed by some of the action. I also really dug on the western vibe it had going, though I kinda' got sick of the credits theme; but who gives a shit about credit themes? But I can't afford the 50 bucks.... I dunno.. I always managed to come home on my dinner break at Wal*Mart to catch it on Friday nights, and I guess that means I dug it...

  • ordering online is not an opiton either. Goddamn fanboys. Hell, I didn't even watch BUFFY or ANGEL and I still dug this show.

  • June 9, 2004, 4:43 a.m. CST

    what is the point of having a kick ass spoiler site.....

    by EmilyQFan

    if you dont publish the spoilers?? that is the WHOLE point I thought,

  • June 9, 2004, 6:40 a.m. CST

    actor with less screen time

    by sabine16

    I looked up all the main actors in the movie, and it's either Adam Baldwin who gets less time because of the Angel series or Morena Baccarin because of her TV series, "Still Life" or Gina Torres because she's filming another movie as well. Anyone know better?

  • June 9, 2004, 7:36 a.m. CST

    Oddly enough, my first thought about the "reduced screen time" a

    by RenoNevada2000

    Peter Fillion, as according to his introduction on the Tony Awards (where he was presenting) he'll be starring in a new play this fall on Broadway. Filming can't take too long as he'll have to dive into rehearsals before summer's end, right?

  • June 9, 2004, 9:21 a.m. CST

    People that don't deserve to use talkback.

    by kobayashi

    Yes, every talkback is filled with morons... but who the hell is Peter Fillion? And the TV show was called 'Firefly', not 'Serenity'. Amazes me how many people 'say' they don't like Firefly, but then it becomes obvious that they've never even SEEN it. Then we have to put up with the people who don't understand it... Sci Fi should be all action and special effects? Moron. Go away.

  • June 9, 2004, 9:22 a.m. CST

    People that don't deserve to use talkback.

    by kobayashi

    Yes, every talkback is filled with morons... but who the hell is Peter Fillion? And the TV show was called 'Firefly', not 'Serenity'. Amazes me how many people 'say' they don't like Firefly, but then it becomes obvious that they've never even SEEN it. Then we have to put up with the people who don't understand it... Sci Fi should be all action and special effects? Moron. Go away.

  • The Star Trek The Next Generation films have fizzled out due to bad writing. Fans wanted something like the TV show and initially the first two films did well,but when they continually had such a weak Enterprise with the same ending in 4 films(Picard fighting the villian),it was the bad writing that sunk the series. Also,the loss of ILM(Berman's Blunder)had a huge effect. The effects of the last two films were nowhere nere as good.especially on Insurrection where the space effects were terrible(that red nebula didn't work at all). And blowing Data to bits was stupid. Rick berman deserves a big kick in the arse for that box office destorying blunder.

  • The Star Trek The Next Generation films have fizzled out due to bad writing. Fans wanted something like the TV show and initially the first two films did well,but when they continually had such a weak Enterprise with the same ending in 4 films(Picard fighting the villian),it was the bad writing that sunk the series. Also,the loss of ILM(Berman's Blunder)had a huge effect. The effects of the last two films were nowhere nere as good.especially on Insurrection where the space effects were terrible(that red nebula didn't work at all). And blowing Data to bits was stupid. Rick Berman deserves a big kick in the arse for that box office destroying blunder.

  • June 9, 2004, 10:11 a.m. CST

    The truth

    by Alimentum

    The truth is, the reason Firefly "failed" as a television program has nothing to do with the quality of the show and everything to do with timeslot it suffered. The Fox network left it in a dark room without water or sunlight and expected it to blossom. Hmmm, what could folks be doing on a Friday evening, if not watching t.v.? Perhaps they were out paying to see some of those "big budget movies" that Shiney McShine wrote about a couple of posts above. The truth is, there are a ton of choices on television. Most of them are horrible, blindness inducing choices, but numerous none the less. Films, on the other hand, usually offer two, maybe three new choices a week. People are going to go see what you offer them. (How else to explain The Day After Tomorrow making money?) Having one of those offerings written and directed by one of the most original minds in fiction today? That's what it's all about. The truth is, Joss Whedon has never let me down, no matter how iffy the tagline . . . Buffy the Vampire Slayer? A vampire detecive agency? A literal space western? Whatever, I'm sold. The man can tell a story. People will listen.

  • June 9, 2004, 1:16 p.m. CST

    successful movie

    by trask43

    I think the movie has a great chance of doing well at the box office. Everyone I know who has seen firefly has loved it, as long as they cut at good looking trailer to get some people to watch it initially. Positive word of mouth and reviews should then do the rest.

  • June 9, 2004, 8:38 p.m. CST

    Why Firefly failed on TV

    by timelord10

    The bashers here seem to not realize that Firefly was doomed from the beginning on Fox. It was pre-empted for the World Series among other things and to add insult to injury it's premire episode was aired just before it was cancelled. Also, how are you supposed to watch a show WHEN YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN IT WILL BE ON??? This is just like what happened to Deep Space Nine in syndication. My local station had it on at 3:00AM due to sports. WTF!!

  • Seriously, i loved Firefly...and i'm sure it'll be great. But if all you other Buffy fans don't go see this when it debuts, screw our chances of a Buffy Movie. So spend your 10 bucks and even if you didn't like Firefly, take on for the Team. Hell, theaters make excellent places to take a nap. I caught up on a lot of sleep during Batman Forever, Hulk and Matrix Revolutions.

  • June 9, 2004, 8:50 p.m. CST

    Worth waiting for - spoiler free

    by dragonflygrrrl

    OK, I read Serenity last week. And my reaction was to burn the pages, lock it up, throw away the key. It's so damn good. I could kill myself for reading it, and the only way I can make up for it is to protect others. It deserves to be seen spoiler free. Look, I know it's 2004, and that's not how we play anymore, but if ever, ever, ever, you were going to fight the temptation, this is the time. Let Joss tell you his story, his way. See it fresh, be surprised, be entertained. Remember what it was like not to know everything going in? THIS IS THE TIME TO HOLD OUT. Hear me, people, avoid spoilers on this film like the plague. Run from them. Serenity is worth it, and Joss deserves it.

  • June 9, 2004, 9:01 p.m. CST

    As much as I'm a sucker for plot details...

    by DrLektor

    Joss Whedon hates spoilers, but what's he's done is create an incredible air of anticipation for the movie. It's great, I mean, what if Mal was to die? You'd be on the edge of your seat all the way though not knowing if the dude was messing with your head or not, getting that tingly feeling in every firefight, personally I love that, and good one Joss for having a sense of humour about it all. Here's a guy that's created three of the greatest TV shows I've ever seen, writes kickass movie scripts and is now writing an X-Men comic, he's a god. JMS is a minor deity but no-one works as hard as Whedon.

  • June 9, 2004, 9:27 p.m. CST

    I recently watched the series on DVD for the first time...

    by Prof. Pop-Cult

    And to be quite honest, I failed to grasp what the big deal about this failed series was. I didn't think it was bad -- it was watchable, but nowhere near as compelling as the original first or second seasons of Buffy, or even some of the uneven seasons of Angel (Seasons 3 and 4). The entire concept of Firefly just felt silly and nonsensical. I figured if I watched it on DVD, then I'd understand what the appeal was...but, instead, I became mystified even further. I'm even more baffled (yet amazed) that Whedon convinced Universal to greenlight a movie. I guess the DVD sales did have something to do with it.

  • June 9, 2004, 9:50 p.m. CST

    Show was okay.

    by mrfan

    Not that good. Just okay. Got the DVD set as a birthday gift. I give it a B- overall.

  • June 9, 2004, 10:09 p.m. CST

    I bet I know what the Alliance wants with River...

    by Big Papa

    Psychic warriors. Remember that episode "The Message"? Remember the flashback to the war, where there was this soldier who seriously believed his arms had been blown off, though he was FINE? I bet that was the clue. I bet the Alliance uses psychic attack.****Can't wait for this movie!

  • June 9, 2004, 10:37 p.m. CST

    Galaxy -vs- Solar System...

    by SG7

    ...did Glenn Larson ghost write this? Seriously. It's not that hard to wrap your brain around the difference. Think of it like those little Russian egg-shapped dolls.

  • June 10, 2004, 2:51 p.m. CST

    First Contact felt like a movie

    by Blok Narpin

    It was bigger and more "epic" in feel then the series. It never felt like an episode. Same with Nemesis, even though it sucked. It sucked like a bad movie NOT a bad episode. Generations and Insurrection were kind of episodic. As for Data's return being set up? BULLSHIT. Having B-4 sing was NOT a set up for Data's return. I can't believe anyone thought it was. It was in answer to the very thing B-4 and Picard had just spoke of - how Data had hoped the B-4 could "grow" as Data did and become something more. Just as it seemed that was beyond B-4 he started singing, indicating he was capable of that growth after all. That is why Picard smiled. The movie still sucked, though.

  • June 11, 2004, 3:52 a.m. CST

    ATTN: Firefly Fans: The reason Whedon is "gearing the flick towa

    by jackburton2004

    <eom>

  • June 11, 2004, 3:53 p.m. CST

    Noell, regaurding ILM....

    by Blok Narpin

    ILM is not needed. they are overrated. It's not that they aren't good, but they are not the only game in town. The effects in Insurrection and more so in Nemesis were quite good. Really, you can't ask for much better. When the ENterprise flew through space it looked like a starship flying through space. When they fired phasers it looked like phasers were being fired. When they transported it looked like they transported. What more can you ask for? The effects were just fine. It was the scripts that sunk those movies. First Contact was an excellent film all around. Generations? No bad. Certainly better then the classic crew's first movie. Insurrection and Nemesis were both really disappointing. I think they best way to salvage the Trek film franchise is to Make STAR TREK TITAN picking up where Nemesis left off. A movie about Riker and the Titan crew. With a cheaper cast more money can be spent on effects, and also make the film more profitable then the last few had been. Get someone really good to write the script and direct. SOmeone like Nick Meyer. Someone once said that no one would pay to see a movie where Jonathan Frakes was the star. To that I can only say BULLSHIT. People will pay to see QUALITY. If someone like Nick Meyer wrote a top notch script, and the movie recieved favorable reviews then people will go to the theater. The star of the film matters little. Take Spider-Man. Sure, Tobey Mguire had done several movies, but by no means was he a big star that could open a movie based on his name. People went in droves to see Spider-Man for several reasons. First off, the went to see a SPIDER-MAN movie, not a Tobey MaGuire movie. And two, it got both favorable word of mouth AND reviews. Same with STar Trek. The mass audience likes STar Trek when it's done right. One has only to look at the box office takes for Voyage Home and First Contact to see that. The last two failed because they weren't done right. That's enough ranting from me.

  • June 11, 2004, 3:56 p.m. CST

    Shiney McShine....

    by Blok Narpin

    "Sorry fans, but the reality is that this movie will not do well at the box office. This TV show was canceled because no one watched it... why would a big budget movie be any different? " Not really true. The show was axed by Fox before it ever had time to find an audience, but good word of mouth has made the show a hit on DVD. Also, by titling the movie SERENITY instead of FIREFLY, Joss has differentiated the film from the series. It is not being billed as the movie version of a tv show like "The Brady Bunch Movie" or "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". If this was billed as FIREFLY: The Movie, then it probably would fail. The only people who would see a movie titled Firefly: The Movie are people who are fans of Firefly: The Series. This was done in 1988 when Paramount made The Naked Gun. The TV series Police Squad, on which it was based, failed after only 6 episodes. By retitling the movie as Naked Gun it created a separation from the TV series, and the movie went on to become a huge hit and spawn two sequels! Serenity is going to open in the spring, when theaters are dead. With little competition out there the movie will live or die based on it's merits as a film. If people want to see a good movie, and not much is out then they will see Serenity if it is getting favorable reviews, and good word of mouth. If Roger Ebert's thumb says it's worth seeing then it stands a good shot.

  • June 11, 2004, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Only retards don't love Firefly

    by Gere's AssGerbil

    Whedon's best work ever by far. Best cast ever. It's freakin' brilliant. Bring on Serenity! And whoever is AWOL in the script, it'd better not be Adam Baldwin. That dude is hilarious.

  • June 12, 2004, 1:59 p.m. CST

    Spoilers, Rated R

    by BlackoutNights

    HA! Made you look. Miranda, I think you did an excellent job of reviewing the script and whetting our appetite. A lot of assholes (and I mean that word sincerely, from the bottom of my heart) simply love to spoil any new material for others without any warning. Shit, I've seen people put spoilers in their subject headers intentionally. For all of those who feel the same as I and are too good to say this, I would like to give all those bitches and sons-of-bitches out there who cherish such crappy actions a big FUCK YOU. I'm not against spoilers or the people who read them, just the people who want to post to intentionally ruin surprises for those who want to be surprised. Godd job, Miranda. HUZZAH!

  • June 13, 2004, 5:22 a.m. CST

    ummm...

    by toolfan

    ...why isn't this story in the main page with all the other movies? Its about a movie right? right?? *sigh*

  • June 13, 2004, 2:04 p.m. CST

    Dear RenoNevada2000:

    by ladydisdain

    That was Peter KRAUSE, not Peter Fillion. NATHAN Fillion plays Captain Mal Reynolds. Peter Krause, who was on the Tonys, was on "Sports Night" and is on "Six Feet Under" and will soon be on Broadway. Nathan Fillion has never been on the Tony Awards. Or on Broadway, for that matter.

  • June 18, 2004, 7:29 a.m. CST

    It strikes me as odd...

    by jimmythesaint

    ... that no-one has mentioned how bloody funny Firefly is/was. THAT's one big reason why I can't wait to see Serenity :)

  • June 22, 2004, 1:34 a.m. CST

    No one's probably reading this anymore...

    by Ribbons

    ...but as for the popularity controversy, I searched within something like an hour's drive radius for the DVD of "Firefly" and everywhere I went, it was sold out. Not just missing, actually sold out. Since I've never actually seen an episode of the damn thing I can't attest to its quality, but I think that, if modestly budgeted, it'll have no problem recouping its debts on the big screen.

  • Aug. 18, 2005, 6:33 p.m. CST

    New fan

    by cooper2000

    I just started watching the show and am almost done with the set. It started out a bit shaky for me but about 4 episodes in it clicks and it is well on it&#39;s way to being a Joss work of art. So much eye candy too. Looking forward to the movie.