Stick and I went to see Serenity on Saturday. As we were on our way to meet up with his friends, who’d seen the movie on Friday but wanted to go again on Saturday, Marcus called my cell to say that he and his girfriend had just seen and loved it. That’s to be expected, though, he’s a serious Joss Whedon fan, and can hold long conversations about the peanut-butter episode.
Stick, however, does not enjoy the vampire soap opera genre, but he was kind enough to sit though a Firefly marathon at Jonathan and Allison’s place and catch up on some of the Serenity backstory (I knew he would). Which was really sweet of him, especially since the movie’s meant to be able to stand alone, and maybe it’s even better if the TV show hasn’t set one’s standards impossibly high.
There was a weird continuity error in the very beginning of the . In the show, Simon said that he used his contacts to free River, which makes sense with what he know of Simon’s character and skills. In the movie there’s an explosive sequence in which he rescues her on his own, using a combination of social manipulation and combat skills, neither of which he has in the show. I hate to sound like an inconsistancy-seeking Galaxy Quest conventioner, but this goes agaisnt everything we know about Simon’s character. For heaven’s sake, Simon had trouble pretending he wanted to buy mudbricks. From a mud-brick salesman. On a planet whose only export is mud bricks.
Moving along to the next Simon-related continuity error: The River off-switch. In total fairness, this doesn’t have to be a mistake. Maybe Simon really had the safeword the whole time (gleaned either from his river-smuggling contacts or his kidnapping missions — don’t think too hard about it) but he actually liked when River was a liability to the crew. IT’s part of his whole passive-aggressive thing with Mal.
The crew’s interactions are the best part of the TV show, but the dialogue in the film seems cut down to save time for explosions, fights and chase scenes. Kaylee’s adorable high-school crush on Simon becomes an overwhelming desire to get him naked, which is totally understandable if you have a nerd fetish. Shepherd Book, usually the crew’s witty and unbitter morality check, gets a dramatic deathbed speech, but that’s it. Zoe and Wash, usually adorably in love, are still resemble my roommate and her new boyfriend.
Inara is missing for more of the movies, to the delight of Stick and sorrow of every male Firefly watcher, and when she is present, she doesn’t actualy do anything. Her banter with Mal is all but gone, which is especially frustrating because her lack of banter with Mal is a plotpoint. (Mal gets a wave from Inara, and because she’s so cordial and polite, he knows something is wrong.)
The weakest spot in the Firefly TV series is psychic River Tam. She suffers from Green Lantern syndrome: she can do anything and everything until she can’t, usually for ill-defined reasons. She can outfight Jayne, outthink Simon, and at the end of the film, outfly Wash. Her backstory, the science fiction cliche of government-designed weapon, is well written, but she’s the deus ex machina for the crew one too many times.
At one point, Simon asks her what her enigmatic announcement of “Miranda” means, and then asks “Am I talking to Miranda now?” River shoots him a look that clearly asks if he’s gone round then bend himself. Brilliant sibling byplay, and an example of the crew’s banter Firefly fans wanted in Serenity. Miranda is actually the planet on which the Alliance tested a mind-altering drug an on unwitting group of colonists.
Miranda is also the daughter of Prospero in The Tempest. Her well-meaning but over-protective father tries to separate her from evil influences, especially of the male variety, but she must rebel agains him in order to grow up. This is what we English geeks call a metaphor.
On Miranda, the horrific villians of the universe, the Reavers, are finally explained in a believable way. When the Alliance tested it’s new calming drug, ninety-something percent of the Prozac-practice colony lost their motivation to fight, then work, and finally breathe. The Reavers are a small percentage of normal colonists who were accidentally induced to violence when this drug backfired. They mauled, killed and, um, ate their unmotivated neighbors, added some revolting body modifications, took some ships and took off.
Just mentioning Reavers strikes terror into the crew of Serenity. In the beginning of the movie, Mal shoots a colonist who’s been caught by Reavers to give him an easier death than the disgusting end the Reavers will give him. If there’s a better way to show horror, I can’t think of it. I’m not entirely sure why the Alliance, with greater numbers, better ships and a higher budget doesn’t take them on.
The day-to-day life in the Firefly universe is so completely thought out that it’s a shame to see a gliche. For example, the food on the ship is believably placed between protein cubes and synthesizer-gourmet, kind of what you’d eat on an RV in space. The Alliance is not a generic evil empire, but relates to it’s colonies and citizens as Romans to the provinces. Characters wear awesome Asian-influenced clothes and swear in Chinese. There are no spray-painted aliens and limited cyborg shininess, but huge variation of culture between planets.
All in all, a good time, if not as brilliant as the episodes. But might I suggest bringing a date who doesn’t cheer for the Alliance? I’m just saying.