Tuesday, September 20, 2005

[Film] Serenity

*** (out of 5)
(That's a provisional rating - to be revised after I watch it in better viewing conditions.)

First, to quote from Pearce ...

If anyone tries to tell you ANYTHING about the movie, stop at nothing to prevent them. Kill without hesitation if they persist. Let nothing stop you from seeing this movie without spoilers.

Bring your knowledge of the tv series and NOTHING else. Resist all urge to read up on it. This movie has real impact. Two words could spoil it all.

Right? This'll be spoiler-light, but still ...

Firefly - and now Serenity - loves its characters. As a result, the movie initially delivers an entertaining meandering mess of a story that gradually tightens up into a creepy, smart & funny SF actioner. It's a film that, I think, completely changes the nature of the story of Firefly.

I loved hanging out the cast again, seeing them pushed to extremes and hearing lines that were funny because of who was delivering them rather than the fact that they're funny. Plus I came away from the film sad at how much had been wrapped up. Given all that, I have no idea if it'll play for people who hadn't seen the TV show.

Structurally, like I said: it opens as a bit of a mess. Perhaps because of River's status for much of the first half of the film, at points the story seems like a collection of unmotivated set pieces. Until I read the shooting script, I found it hard to put the events together in my head. Now I see that instead of action it was grounding us in the characters - and the structure's odd breaks in momentum were due to having to keep its antagonist offscreen. From reading the script, it seems obvious that Whedon reintroduced the Operative as soon as he naturally could.

So instead Serenity spends its time introducing the big concepts of Reavers and River. It gives us a powerful new character that puts Firefly fans in the position of newbies - and then delivers plot developments I never thought you could ever possibly do to the crew and to us.

Oh yeah, and I was sitting right at the front of the theatre on the far left, so I can't make any comments about the visuals and staging of the big bang-bang sequences. I can however say with complete confidence that I got a headache. But Joss seems to be best at drawing out character and tension, not so much with the action. I'll rewatch the film when it comes out on general release to update that opinion.

But onto what's good ...

There's an intro that busts through four layers of reality, that gives us a real insight into River's fragmented mind.
Characters are incredibly well motivated and makes supersmart decisions.
There's a visit to a creepy planet.
The bond between Simon and River.
Kaylee's sex life.
Mal's attitude about how to be a captain.
And now it becomes clear that Zoe is kind of a metaphor for the frontier, while Inara represents the alliance.

Conclusion: I want to see a sequel, but one that focuses even further on the crew's life & relationships rather than some big external action plot.

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