The version of “Serenity” that screened in Chatsworth Tuesday evening isn’t quite the movie we’ll be seeing next fall. The music was temporary and the special effects were only about half-baked, with Adam Baldwin hanging off wires and many spaceships lurching about without texture and detail.
Still, in many ways the film is already a great antidote for those of us so terrifically bored by the “Star Wars” prequels. The lion’s share of my own disappointment with “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones” can be traced to an absence of players as compelling and likeable as Han and Leia.
“Serenity,” by contrast, returns to “Firefly” fans better than half a dozen Solo-caliber characters, including loutish Jayne, heartsick Kaylee, conflicted Mal, disdainful Inara, heroic Simon and damaged River. In addition, the evil Alliance has dispatched a great new villain, a ruthless and amusingly philosophical self-proclaimed “monster” essayed by Brit Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The new film is smart, romantic, moving, fast-paced, action-packed and, most crucially, one of the funniest films you’ll see next year. It’s certain to be a must-see for every “Firefly” fan, as it answers every question devotees may have harbored with regard to two important elements of the series: The Reavers and River Tam. (It also offers a bit of resolution with regard to two key shipboard romances.)
But Herc loving a new Joss Whedon project hardly warrants a headline, yes? The better news is that "Serenity" is garnering raves from others who caught the screening, like “The Scientist”:
Hey Herc! The Scientist here with a quick review of Serenity, although I suspect that you'll be sending a review as well since I saw you at the screening. I tried to stay impartial throughout the viewing of the movie since I'm an unabashed lover of the show and think that Objects in Space is one of the finest hours to ever air on the small screen. That being said, I'll try to break down my review for two audiences: the newbies and the oldbies.The aptly-named “Happily Surprised” adds:
Non-Firefly viewers: First, if you've never seen the show before, the movie does a fantastic job of establishing all of the characters over again so you don't have to worry about coming in unprepared. Also, the more overt western aspects of the show have been tremendously tamed down, so it plays more straight-forward in a scifi universe, but all without losing the grittiness and rawness that made the worlds on the show so special. It's extremely funny, almost always surprising, and kick-ass. I especially think that those of you who like operatic martial arts films will enjoy the choreographed fights that appear now and then. Just wait until you see the first trailer, cause I'm guessing you'll all flip.
Firefly droolers: Reavers! River and Simon back story! More shocks than you can shake a stick at! You can't take the sky from me! But seriously, when this thing gets through with all the post-prod. stuff, you're going to be peeing in your brown leather coats because it'll be like the clocks were rewound and you were in 2002 again. It's not perfect yet, mind you. I think that Zoe and Book get a little neglected and a couple of the new additions to the 'Verse are weak, but that's nitpicking the absolute blast I had seeing everybody again. Plus, there's some wicked gorram action that would have been way out of budget for the TV show.
The temp tracks and rough cg sometimes detracted from the film and the editing is still rough in spots, but this thing doesn't come out for over 8 months! The only other extremely early preview I've been this excited about was when I was much more wee and saw a super rough cut of Toy Story (Hey! That's another one Joss had his hand in.) Start getting excited everybody, this one's a winner!
Tonight, in Chatsworth, CA, I think I stumbled across the geek Holy Grail. Upon the announcement of said Holy Grail, cheers erupted from the crowd… For what we were “the first audience ever” to view was… Serenity.
Since this has been the subject of much banter on this site and I’m sure there will be a million of other reviews, I’ll skip any other touching stories about the screening. But I will tell you that I am not a hardcore Joss Whedon fan. I’ve seen a handful of Buffy and Angel episodes (and enjoyed them) and I admire his dedication to his online fanbase, but I’ve never seen Firefly and I’ve never totally bowed down to him. No hard feelings, just haven’t been so totally familiar with him as to realize his genius.
This movie rocked. While it seemed a tad too long, that just means more gold for the DVD. Anyway, I don’t even know what they could cut out because just about every scene kept the movie moving along. Before I contradict myself again, I’ll just get to the meat.
Whedon has created such incredible characters and dialogue in this movie. What has always struck me about most science fiction movies is that no one speaks normally, it’s almost as if space has stifled their sense of normalcy and rammed a giant stick up the characters’ asses. Well, as most of you will already know, Whedon can put his characters in the most unimaginable and incredible circumstances and still give them personalities, wit, and true emotion. It doesn’t sound like much, but between the dialogue, the characters, and the visuals (effects were unfinished, but you could tell what will be in store for the final product), I believe that he has really not just elevated the genre, but has transcended it.
The characters are as fleshed-out as most Whedon fans would probably expect, but I was not prepared for this. Nathan Fillion (a guy I ashamedly say I only really recognized from Two Guys A Girl and A Pizza Place) is a great addition to the heroes of the big screen. He’s the best Han Solo since… well… Han Solo. The rest of the cast, filled with people I kind of recognized, seemed so comfortable and so natural. Their rapport with each other was perfect. It really shows that they all spent time together on a TV show… albeit a short-lived one.
But the best character (and I think she was new to the troupe) was a waifish girl, Fiona Apple look-alike, named River. The story centers around her. She’s a mentally unstable psychic who is also a trained killer. The government (here, called The Alliance) has been doing tests on her for years, utilizing her psychic abilities and building her killing skills, until her brother rescues her. This is the set up for the prologue, which blew everyone away. Months later, we see that they’ve been on-board the Serenity and her brother is being used as an on-board doctor and she is being used for her psychic skills as an asset on their money-grabbing runs. I’m sure someone else will have a more detailed synopsis. As for me, I’m going to boil it down because it wasn’t what really impressed me about the movie. Bottom line is that, The Alliance is trying to find her. Led by an assassin (who, of course, was written beautifully and with great complexity), they know that she’s on-board Serenity. Despite being tracked by these folks, Fillion and his crew keep her around for her skills, out of curiosity of what she’s all about, and because Han Solo has a heart. You see, what makes her so interesting and what kicks ass most about this movie is that, when she whups ass, she whups ass! I’ll honestly say that her fight scenes blow away anything I’ve seen on Buffy, in Kill Bill, or just about anything I’ve seen in a long time. I found myself hoping for more fight scenes when, much of the time, she was in her crazed psychic state… and then the fight scenes came. Whedon knows what his audience (old fans and, like me, new ones) like.
The final fight, by the way, will not disappoint anybody, if you like air battles, check. Gun fights, check. Attacks by nasty ass villains (the Reavers), check. Hand to hand, check. Swords, check. Battles of wit, check.
The audience was filled with old Whedon fans. And they seemed quite ecstatic about the whole thing. The cheers didn’t just erupt at the beginning, they were all throughout. There were actual screams at points. These would break out with little bits of dialogue from familiar characters, after the fight scenes, during space battles, at looks characters would give each other, and, of course, at the end. I’ll be happy to drag my uninitiated friends to this when it comes out and I just may feel like I’m a little more on the inside this time around. But no matter… it’s a great movie, none of this horseshit Steven Sommers-type popcorn movie, this is a great movie.