Friday, September 30, 2005

YANSR (Yet Another Serenity Review)

I just got back from watching Serenity.

Holy s#|t.  George Lucas weaps in shame and wishes he had one eighth the writing skills Joss Whedon has on his worst day.

I detest simple story lines where everyone lives happily ever after at the end of a movie where no character’s had to sacrifice and everything’s wrapped up in a pretty package.  Life isn’t that way.  Life is wonderful, but it often sucks.  Badly.  People get hurt, people die, loose ends remain untied at the end of the day.

Serenity certainly doesn’t fall into that lame rut, and I loved the movie for its dark themes and sacrifices.  I really enjoyed doing literary analysis on good movies and books back when I was finishing up my degree in night school.  I loved comparing and contrasting various stories with the classical hero theme: a journey, arrogance, doubt, sacrifice, redemption, mercy. 

Serenity has all these elements wrapped into it in spades, plus there’s a great amount of humor.  One of the bloggers I linked in my previous Serenity post made the great observation that Whedon’s not afraid to let one liners fall flat, just like they do in real life.  The audience, admittedly a bunch of Firefly fanatics, repeatedly roared throughout the entire movie, and even broke out into applause a couple times after good lines.

Whedon maintained the depth in all his characters, something I loved about the series.  The interplay between all of them is terrific, although Jayne is much more assertive and stands up to Mal more than he did in the series — where he on occasion showed outright fear of Mal when Mal’s game face was on.  Z�e’s character also has some key questions for Mal at critical junctures, something which brings about Mal’s crisis of doubt.  Characters this rich are tough to find in any story.

Other “trivial” stuff about the movie: The action is great and fun.  There’s a large amount of violence, but I’d say the gore isn’t bad at all.  The violence fits right into an appropriate context, so it doesn’t bother me.  As noted on other blogs, some of the special effects are a bit weak, but I didn’t care.  The cinematography is simply incredible.  I love that Whedon kept the same flavor as the TV series with zooms (“The cheese factor” as Tim Minear said in the Making Of spot on the DVD set), bouncing/jiggling shots, and even some cool flares popping into the screen.

Serenity is by far the best movie in any genre I’ve seen in a long, long time.


Sue me for saying it, but I’m glad to see Ron Glass’s character, Shepard Book, killed off.  Book was a great idea, but I always cringed when Whedon had Glass trying to pull off something pious or deep in faith.  In the Firefly DVD set’s Objects in Space commentary, Whedon talks about his lack of faith.  I always felt the religious aspect of Book’s character came off very weakly, and I cringed at several points during the series when Ron Glass, a Buddhist, tried to pull off a priestly homily.  Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed Book’s character on most occasions, but boy, did I hate those instances where his lines just fell completely flat because neither Whedon or Glass had a clue of where the character should have been coming from.

Wash’s death hit hard, but man o’ man, was it incredibly well pulled off.  Z�e’s shock and loss (and the audience’s!) run head long into Mal’s game face hardass insistence on keeping moving to get the mission done.  Whedon carries the audience and suviving crew through the climactic crisis in the same numbed, get-the-job-done-and-survive fashion, then leaves everyone with a bit of breathing space to let the shock settle in.  It’s simply an amazing section of work that left me, uh, amazed.


Now Playing: Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young — American Dream.  Screw those pompous foreigners with their anti-American pandering.  I like my anti-American music home grown where the artists at least have a grasp of what life here really is.  (Or sort of have, should have, might have.)  This isn’t CSNY at their best, but I absolutely love In the Name of Love, That Girl, and This Old House.

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