So last night I went to see Serenity. Sadly, Firefly has never been shown on Australian TV (I may be wrong), except for unpredictable schedules on cable, so I’ve never seen more than a couple of episodes (my DVDs should arrive in the next couple of days). I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan, having watched all of Buffy and Angel many times over. Because I love Joss Whedon’s work, I knew I’d enjoy it unless it totally blew goats (and obviously, no goats were harmed in the making of this film).
Here’s my take (thoughts, in no particular order) – no real spoilers, I promise.
Joss is true to form with his love for powerful, small women. Summer Glau could as easily have been Buffy or Fred if we’re talking about casting for type. And hoo-boy, the girl can kick arse!
Joss Whedon’s understanding of language and nuance just about makes the entire film. The “not quite as we know it” English spoken in the Firefly/Serenity universe, melding archaic (to us) usages as well as uses of words as slang which don’t exist in the real world is completely believable (I think I was one of just a few in the theater who got the dildo joke). You can tell he loves doing this and thinks about it a great deal. The same was true for the Buffyverse where nuanced language played a vital role.
The filmmakers obviously care a great deal about their material. The universe looks lived in and careworn, like Lucas’ Star Wars in the original trilogy.
Building on the last point, the filmmakers willingness to mess with main characters shows how much they care. They are prepared to treat the universe as real, where people get hurt (emotionally and physically).
While the film is predominantly about the mystery of River and also about Mal, no major player or character gets shortchanged. Even the villain is real; you actually develop a kind of sympathy for him as the film progresses. It’s not about flying spacehips about or blowing stuff up, although plenty of that takes place. It’s about people and their relationships and moral issues. The characters care for each other and the audience cares for them all. This is simply great writing. George Lucas should hire Joss Whedon to write for him if he doesn’t retire to swim in the pool of money he’s made from Star Wars.
It’s as good a science fiction film has been made in recent years, crapping violently all over anything pretty much since Gattaca. And hey, it’s got David Krumholtz from Numb3rs in it!
If the success of the film doesn’t resurrect Firefly as an ongoing TV concern, let alone a film franchise (please be careful, Joss), I’ll be very surprised.
There are a huge number of other reviews around the Internets of the film, but you might be particularly interested in this one, by Orson Scott Card, where he draws parallels between the treatment of Serenity by its filmmakers, and what he desires should Ender’s Game ever be made into a film.
George Lucas Joss Whedon is my master now.