*** Official SERENITY Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Patrick Sun, Sep 27, 2005.

  1. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    This is the thread to discuss Serenity without the need for spoiler text.
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    Seriously, do not read this thread unless you have seen the movie (via preview screenings, or once Septerber 30th arrives). Please use the other thread for non-spoilery details from this date forward. Yes, the other thread has spoilerized tidbits from the screening, but obviously some members need to be protected from their own curiousity for the next 3 days, it would seem.
    Keep on Flying!
     
  2. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Taking you on your word with this, I'm just going to hop right in and sink my teeth into it.

    Fantastic. Wasn't expecting as much of the movie to be what amounts to a horror movie as there was, but everything was fantastic. I thought the beginnings that kept peeling back layer by layer was really great and gave me an idea of about what River must experience on a day to day basis.

    The opening 15 minutes or so kept me fairly isolated from the proceedings, in a way that the TV series never did. The River/Simon sequences really dug deeper than they did in the series; it wasn't just vaguely prophetic blabble - River let her guard down and revealed just how much she was hurting underneath. Once I had that emotional hook, it was very easy to get pulled back in with this crew. I'm not sure those who don't already love them would have the same experience.

    The secret of River's trama, the secret that keeps her loony, was a nice old-school science fiction story. Without the character dressings, it would have been merely "good" though. Considering that this is a movie, I was thinking maybe something bigger - soething involving Earth, maybe.

    If I had any complaint, it was that it was editted as an action movie first and foremost. Listening to the commentary on the first episode of the new Battlestar Galactica, the producers mentioned that they cut plot before they'd cut character. I sort of wish the film had taken the same tack. It's not surprising that my favorite scene was the last one of the movie, everything on the bridge spoke so much about who these people are. Just seeing the pilot's chair with all of the dino sets made me ache for Wash's absense in a way his death never really did. Seeing River get a moment to finally pour through was likewise excellent. More than anything else, Mal and River click. It's not romantic, it's not ironclad. They're reflections of each other, and understand each other in a universe where no one else does.

    The only thing I hate the movie for is reawakening that feeling I had every time I sat down with this crew for a trip across the 'verse. As time plods on, I forget just how potent it is, and it makes me think BSG and the like are big enough to fill its shoes. I love those too, but it's "Firefly" I love the most. I hate Wonder Woman and Goners for delaying the time I get to ride with these folks again. We'll see how the theatrical run goes; I may hate the public even more for making this my last ride.
     
  3. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    I'll repost my light spoiler review here as well

    Somehow, with "Serenity," Whedon has managed to scotch tape and superglue "Star Wars" with "Dawn of the Dead." It sounds like a lazy pitch from a coked out studio whore, but that's essentially what the movie is. And that's as aptly as I can put it. With all the negatives and positives that entails. Meaning that if there were problems you had with "Star Wars" and if there were problems you had with "Dawn of the Dead." -- and trust me, there ARE problems in those movies--you're going to find them in this movie. I'm thinking you're just going to have too much fun in the meantime to really care. I mean, sit and think about it. The comic-book, cartoony action, leavened with depth, of "Dawn of the Dead," married to the serial, comic, high-action feel of "Star Wars" with maybe a pinch of "Star Trek" folded in, kneaded and baked til golden brown, and you've got "Serenity."

    At times, the movie is too jokey for it's own good. Maybe Whedon's sitcom sensibilities, honed as a writer on "Roseanne," are getting too much play here. But when the lines and the performances he's coaxing out of his talent are as easy and effortless as they are in this film, it's easy to forgive. Especially since these comedic sidetracks aren't, for the most part, stopping to derail the tightly plotted narrative of this movie, and nor are they getting in the way of the tone, which glides easily from serious to snarky. There are certain instances where Whedon's direction stumbles, and poor Gina Torres (Zoe) near the beginning of the movie, has to spit out a line about as forced as Berry's in X-men, but aside from these 2 or 3 stumbles, the movie never breaks it's amiable, adventurous gait.

    Being that the movie gets most everything right, it's easier to pinpoint the lumps in this finely woven tapestry than it is to categorize every winning moment that flashes by onscreen. There are some deaths in this movie that should have more weight than they do. There are some reactions to some pretty momentous events in this universe that lack the depth they seem to call for.

    For instance, the break in characterization for Kaylee (Jewel Staite) during the climax of the movie. It'd be one thing if her ferocity felt natural, but she becomes, for a split second, the warrior goddess that Zoe is, but only for a quick one-liner sex joke. It's a good knee-jerk haha, yeah, but it feels cheap and unearned, even out of character for Kaylee (and yes, I know her official introduction to the Serenity was her getting nailed by the first mechanic) Following scenes play out as if this blip on her radar had never appeared. It's a little jarring and makes her character ring false for a bit. There are some emotional scenes that are cut short for the sake of a reactionary chortle, that probably need a little more space to breathe with, before we plunge back into the adventure. To use my Star Wars comparison earlier--at least there was some sad music and a second or two of reflection for Luke before he ran to a gun turret and started vaporizing bad guys, following the death of Ben Kenobi. There are not one, but TWO deaths in this movie, that Whedon's direction dictates are JUST as important to his characters as Ben's death was to Luke, but only a fraction of that gravity is attached. Hell, even the final frame of this flick is a punchline designed to subvert the weight the movie has actually earned at that point. Yes, I reflexively chuckled, but once the laugh left my throat, I wished the moment hadn't been spoiled as such.

    Yes, these things make the movie feel a little more slight than it should, but this isn't really the fault of the actors, Especially Nathan Fillion, all assured calm and purpose, even while his character is enduring pure turmoil and confusion as Captain Mal Reynolds, Sean Maher, who practially jumps off the screen with intense focus as Simon Tam, Adam Baldwin, walking the fine line between cartoonish and colorful as Jayne, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the icy-cold assassin The Operative. Ejiofor's calculating efficiency almost snakes this movie out from under Fillion and Baldwin in terms of sheer cool factor, but just barely loses out to Baldwin out-Perlmaning geek favorite Ron Perlman (who's Johner in Alien Resurrection is obviously a test run for Jayne) and Fillion's expansion on the Han Solo-like Reynolds.

    The almost superhuman abilities of our heroes isn't a negative at all, and speaks to Whedon's ability to lull the audience into almost perfect suspension of disbelief. In fact, it's part of what makes this movie so fun.

    That's not to say our heroes don't make it through this movie without a scratch, as a matter of fact Fillion spends about the last 20 minutes of the movie with a nasty looking bloody eyeball, earned during a particularly mean fistfight, and in the last 15 minutes, practically every member of the cast is shot, stabbed and bleeding all over the place. And yet they still get up, powered by sheer force of will, to save the day. It's that sort of superheroism that lends the movie much of it's well-earned charm.

    The movie is likable. There's problems there, it's not a perfect flick, it teeters too far into the comedy realm for it's own good, some of the catching up to speed of newcomers is a little forced, and as such, necessitates Whedon introducing plot inconsistencies between series and film, and for old-timers, some of the characters might as well be cardboard standees for all they have to do--Morena Baccarin's oddly drab looking (and it's saying something to make THAT woman look drab) courtesan character Inara and Ron Glass' preacher character Shepherd Book are not much more than big flashing signs screaming "PLOT DEVICE AND NOTHING MORE." The effects work is pretty slipshod in more than a few places, but Whedon, with help from his effects and stunt teams, manages to nail the action more times than not, providing a fleet battle between giant space cruisers almost as deftly as Lucas pulled off the opening 10 minutes of "Revenge of the Sith" and learning where so many other directors, specifically Christopher Nolan, have tripped-up: The fights really ARE better if you just pull back the camera a little. Summer Glau, who turns in a solid performance as psychic (and borderline psychotic) River Tam, whips ass in this film like a hopped up Buffy Summers times 2. I have a hard time believing either Sophie Okonedo or Charlize Theron will be able to impress as much in "Aeon Flux' later this year.

    But it all comes back to this. The different flavors of fun provided by both the space opera of "Star Wars" and the zombie horror of "Dawn of the Dead" actually DO taste pretty decent together. I'm not saying this movie is as good as either of it's primary stylistic forebears. Not at all. But a decent percentage of the fun to be had in both movies is also present here. Joss Whedon's directorial debut is an assured one, and even with the drama-shorting ending of this film, he successfully left me wanting to see more of this universe in a darkened theater.
     
  4. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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    Did Alan and Ron not want to be in sequels, or did Joss want the crew to be smaller so he wouldn't have to handle as much in potential sequels?
     
  5. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    I don't think it was either, he just felt that's how the story needed to go when he wrote it. From what I understand, both Alan AND Ron were very mightily surprised and a little distraught. The decision seems to be completely story based--which is why it's so weird that Wash's death doesn't even really serve a plot purpose or even a MOOD change. it just sorta happens and they move on. But he's got his out for that shortcut because he can say "Well, Zoe is a warrior princess. She wouldn't break down until she knew it was safe to. You don't have time for an emotional outburst at that point."

    Which sort of makes sense but still doesn't account for the scene feeling emotionally abrupt and shortchanged.
     
  6. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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  7. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    Good explanation. I like it. I wish the execution was a little better, but River being the pilot from now on works very well.
     
  8. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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  9. Eddy-C

    Eddy-C Supporting Actor

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  10. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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    Wrong thread.
     
  11. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    I just finished my review of Serenity after a couple days of false starts. Given my intense emotional attachment to "Firefly", this was an exceptionally tough nut to crack:
     
  12. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    Serenity is an excellent film, but it isn't perfect. In my opinion the film keeps hamstringing itself because although Whedon can hold a shot, he can't hold a dramatic moment for a sustained emotion--he always cuts it with a comedic tension reliever. This weakness (although it's not too major, just a bit disapointing) was highlighted for me by seeing how a film master handles drama and comedy and uses both to enhance the other (Curtis Hanson's In Her Shoes). It's not that I think characters should have acted differently, it's that I think the audience needed some space in several moments.

    Also the third act deteriorates into an unecessary pair of showdowns, although these are used to excellent effect within the film. Mal's fight was just unnecessary because the only person really dangerous to Mal is Mal himself, you know he'll somehow beat impossible odds to win the day. The concept of Mr. Universe is fun, but it's one that belongs on the TV series and not so much within the higher stakes of the film, the scenes derail the film in my opinion.

    An excellent film that is pulled off well, but not the shining paragon of genre perfection some of my friends claimed (but what do I know, I don't love Kill Bill either).

    Firefly may be the best TV series ever, but it managed that by letting the characters grow, bond and deepen with consistently powerful moments. The show could be light on plot, and often was, but the characters never were. It was a brilliant combination of horse opera, and a finely tuned drama/comedy blend. Serenity is still full of those elements, but it has been hijacked by action machinations. It's a wonderful experience, but a bit like the less interesting episodes of the show.

    Adam
     
  13. Phil Florian

    Phil Florian Screenwriter

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    Saw the Midnight movie last night. It helps to be among a ton of other fans of the show to boost ones enjoyment of a movie but I honestly think I would have been pleased no matter where or when I saw it. I think it was a well-shot, well-written and amazingly fun follow up to the series. It did a good job giving enough background for newbies (I think), even giving me more information to chew on (the Tam escape scene, history of Earth that Was which indicates that it wasn't THAT long ago that they left, etc.). Very well done action scenes (the space battle at the end was a hoot, the hand-to-hand was well above par...unlike most action movies that cut the hell out of scenes this one let the camera roll and enjoy the moves). Great dialogue, as usual. Enough character moments for the supporting cast to keep them in the game since it is understood that in a 2 hours movie it is impossible to equally serve a 9 member cast.

    I was very touched by the deaths. I thought that Book's made sense (the Kenobi to Nathan's Luke...he was ready to make moral decisions on his own) and the Wash, though abrupt, showed that Joss wasn't taking prisoners. LIke it was said above, it made EVERY injury in the scenes that followed more harrowing. This wasn't weekly television any more. This was it. A movie with a beginning, middle and end and if not everyone is on board at the end, so be it.

    I kept thinking in terms of television...that Wash would be saved by Alliance guys who found him and noted that, as usual, no major organs were hit. I knew I was wrong but I kept thinking it in the back of my mind.

    The group I went with concured that, even for vets of various horror movies, this was a tense ride. I think it because I didn't expect the horror elements to be so out there. You go to Evil Dead movie, you expect to be scared and while it is scary you still enjoy it like a roller coaster. For me, this movie had me thinking I was on a fun and loopy rollercoaster but instead was filled with insane zero-g plummets that were totally unexpected. That is fun filmmaking.

    I really hope this movie does well. Yes, it will allow more sequels (which, at best, will be years off sadly) but it will also maybe MAYBE be a clarion call to networks to let their genre shows flourish a bit and build up an audience. Fox would be raking it in right now if they gave the show the time of day and a chance at life but now Universal has it and I hope they keep it alive and kicking.

    Great stuff.
     
  14. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    My guess is that Universal will look at the DVD numbers of Firefly and the opening weekend box-office of Serenity and project a DVD sales figure for Serenity that will tell them whether or not to greenlight a sequel. My guess is that if the film opens in the 30 million range we'll see a sequel announced after we hear the second week percentage drops and if it opens well above that 40-50 (don't think it can manage) it'll be greenlight by next wednesday.
     
  15. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    I just came from it, and here are my disorganized impressions:
    The opening sequence onboard Firefly was amazing. There was some kind of steady cam shot that lasted forever, during which they managed to convey almost every bit of needed information about who was who without ever seeming to be giving the nod to the newbie audience members. Amazing.
    Before that scene, the very opening of the film with River's brother masquerading as an alliance soldier, I swear I did not even recognize him until just before he started the rescue. Good costuming, and maybe a little help from how many months it has been since I saw the show. But either way, great.
    The Alliance Assasin was a bit of a throwback to the dude who appeared on the Firefly in the last episode - in that he was similarly a starry eyed believer in something. But less amusing. A good character anyway.
    Every time Walsh spoke - which was only about four lines in the whole film - I couldn't help but imagine how the actor would be laughing it up on the commentary track that he has so few lines (and several of them at the end are all the same). His character was such a great part of the series, it was wrong to see him killed.
    Walsh's death - unkind. And far from raising the stakes, I started to fear that Whedon was going to go "Angel" on us and kill everyone who we'd come to like. Thank goodness he didn't, but still, not nice.
    The low low low low budget standoff in the hallway wasn't suited for a motion picture. But the Buffy moment was nice.
    There was no explanation given for why River "went Buffy" in that hallway showdown, without any cue for her to become that way. Should be deservedly criticised as a convenient and predictable out for the writer.
    My other general first impression is just that I was surprised that this film had no flashbacks to the original battle of Serenity Valley. I guess that would have been predictable, and of course the tv series did it enough. Courageous choice not to revisit it.
    Kaylee's clothes - loved them. The wild sleeves under the drab colors was great. Kaylee doesn't look right all thin, but, you can understand why an actress wouldn't want to appear heavy in her feature film debut.
    Ron Glaser's preacher's death, I could accept, but mainly because he was older.
     
  16. Chris S

    Chris S Cinematographer

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    Two words... SO GOOD!!
     
  17. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    I felt Wash's death was earned and added to the film, and I think the film is growing on me and I want to see it again outside the raucous vibrancy of opening night midnight screening. Wash's death raised the stakes as it was necessary to do, and it hurts and feels wrong because we like him too much than to want to deal with his death, it's like the end of HBP, or the middle of the Stand. I thoroughly expected River to do what she did at the end and felt it was in character and a perfectly appropriate climatic/cathartic moment for the film. On the other hand I felt the fisticuffs of Mal's final battle were just unnecessary, but that's really my only major quibble, I think now the film is better in terms of comedy/drama balance than I thought last night
    A friend who'd already seen the movie timed that opening steadycam shot. 4 minutes 55 seconds.
    Orson Scott Card on Serenity
     
  18. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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    I had high expectations for this movie... and not only were they met, they were thoroughly exceeded. Yeah I'd say its one of the best science fiction films that I've seen (if only because most "Sci-Fi" movies aren't Sci-Fi).
    Its hard to find fault with the movie. Yeah I'd like to see more Book & Inara (and maybe learn something about Book's back story) but there's only so much room in a 2 hour movie. Yeah it was sad to see Book & Wash die, but a "and they all lived happily ever after" ending would not have been as good as what we got. Having Wash die like that was a shock, it emphasized what a bad ass Zoey is as she goes about her business right afterwards, and it heightened the drama of the ending... we had no reason to belive that they would all make it after that.
    I suppose if I were to pick nits, I'd point to the CGI which was merely "adequate", but that short coming didn't stop the big Reaver/Alliance space battle from being ten times better than other recent "Sci-Fi" movies with bigger budgets for one big battle scene than this movie had in total.
    The characters, of course, were interesting, non-predictable & this movie had more funny one liners than a dozen summer blockbusters strain to achieve.
    With characters and writing like this they could make a truly great TV series out of this... [​IMG]
    I went with a work friend who had never even heard of Firefly and he enjoyed the movie also and now wants to watchthe DVDs of the TV series. I went right after work and the theater was crowded. Hopefully Serenity will have a good opening weekend and I expect it to have excellent word of mouth. With any luck the Firefly DVD sales will get a boost from the movie and I hope the idiots at FOX will finally realize what they had with the TV show.
     
  19. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    Tonight was my 3rd viewing (saw 2 previous preview screenings in the summer), and it was the first film where I noticed so many attendees sit up in their seats and leaning forward, watching in earnest, soaking every frame, every syllable. It was great to see the film in a theater full of people who love Firefly and left Serenity with nary a disappointment, even with the demise of beloved characters, and bursting into applause as Serenity moved out from under the rain clouds to take its place in space, to keep on flying amongst the stars.

    Though it was my 3rd viewing, Wash's sudden death gave me those shivers internally for a good while, even though I knew it was coming, and I thought I was braced for it. I could tell most of the audience had no idea it was coming because they roared with Wash's "I'm a leaf on the wind..." line and a split second later, they were in shock, uttering "oh no...no" in unison like no other on-screen death I've witnessed. That feeling of loss inside of me just would not go away easily for those long minutes as all hell was breaking loose until Jayne provided just enough comic relief to get me back on track for the remainder of tale.

    While not a perfect film, all the humanity and familial ties of Firefly remain, even on a bigger scale given the risk and hardship, knowing that mission success might mean death to the entire crew. The mid-section of the film sags a little as the pieces come together for the crew, but it's not as fluid as it could be, but still, it does more than an adequate job to keep both fans and new fans hooked into the bigger story. Some of the action sequences suffer from inadequate spatial relationships being displayed, so it was a little confusing at times.

    The 3rd act does a good job of exposing the whole crew to dangerous situations and ramping up the potential cost for each character after all was said and done. I liked Mal's words to Zoe, knowing that he had to make sure she was okay in spite of her loss, he framed his words in terms of the ship's condition, all the while reaching her emotionally wounded heart and providing comfort to Zoe. All of this in the span of 4-5 short lines of interplay.

    As the film came to a close, all I wanted was more...more Serenity, more Firefly, more time spent with this special crew on board the spunky ship that could.
     
  20. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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