Great Films Hunting

Will I find them or will I die trying?

Serenity (Joss Whedon, 2005)

Serenity (2)

I decided to try Serenity(2005) immediately after watching the whole Fireflyseries. Serenity is the movie tie-in of the series. I find Serenity disappointing, as far as my memory of Firefly is concerned, even though it is directed by the same person who created Firefly, Joss Whedon, who later directed the hit action movie The Avengers (2012).

The story begins presumably after the last episode of the Firefly. Captain Mal, together with his crew, tries to prevent a government military team in retrieving and/or eliminating River, a highly intellectual girl who has been under study by the government but was freed by his brother, Simon, and later gain the title as fugitives.

Before I mislead you, the film is as good sci-fi genre as you can get these days, even though I might imply that it is not later on. It does provide an elegant cinematography that the series never had. At the beginning of the film, there is a long continuous shot taking as a tour in the ship. We certainly didn’t have one in the series. I’m not saying it is better, but it does help in creating credibility in the world the film is trying to create. For sci-fi films, credibility matters a lot, same reason why laughs and jokes matter in a comedy film. Like the series, the film contains witty remarks to help you keep going. Okay, that ends my praise for the film. Before you go any further, be warned that after this paragraph, you’ll hear a rant of compare and contrast between the film and the series.

I think what makes me itchy with the film is its consistency in series. The whole narrative is depersonalized. The characters are not as faithful as to their identity in the series. Perhaps, it is something to with the time gap between the making of the movie and the last production of the series. The character’s nature might have slowly slipped out from Whedon’s mind as time went by.

Serenity (3)

(1) Mal’s firmness is reduced. It is evident when Jayne tries to stand up with Mal, and Mal just loosely says, “You wanna run this ship?” In the series, Mal would have opted for a straight glare. I might not know the exact response,but certainly Mal wouldn’t say, “Well . . . you can’t.”  (2) Simon slightly gets berserk. There’s a scene where Simon punches Mal. First, he would never do that. He’s a humble and patient character. He prefers to talk things out. In the series Jayne double crossed the siblings, and Simon, instead of stabbing syringe, says, “Just don’t do that anymore. I believe you”. In both cases, it has the same stake: River is in danger.

(3) There is also the absence of the bubbly love of Kaylee and Simon. In the series, they are not love birds, but certainly their shy love affair still gives an appeal. The film tries to compensate it at the end, but I hope they did it also at the beginning. (The mood is downright deadly. They have been cornered by the enemy. Kaylee is shaking, and accepts her death. Simon: My one regret in all of this is never being with you. Kaylee: With me? You mean to say as . . . sex? Simon nods. Kaylee cocks the gun. Kaylee: To hell with this, I’m gonna live!) In the series, we get a lot of Kaylee-Simon dosage. (4) Another point for Mal. He mentions in the early part of the film that all of passengers are just guests. The moment I heard that I thought I was going to puke. He refers them as “crew”, and for that word, the meaning for him is like a family. To mention them as guests is degrading. It’s like disowning your son. (5) The odd interaction between Book and River, and much more. Most of the necessary ingredients that make up Firefly’s greatnessall went down.

Serenity (1)

I guess Whedon was battling with the constraints of the film duration and trying to make the ends meet. There are a total of 9 main characters, and all of them couldn’t be portrayed well in a regular feature length. This is perhaps what jeopardizes the film’s unity with that of the series. There were no more casual conversations within the crew, which I guess the primary reason why I managed to root for them in the series. Their interaction and relationship has been deteriorated. In the series, the characters are memorable. They embody a personality. In the film, the whole narrative is preoccupied on moving the plot forward.

Viewers, who haven’t watched Firefly, can mostly benefit from it. Firefly may not be the best sci-fi series ever made, but it will certainly not waste your time. A thing about Firefly is that it was cancelled half-way through its first season. It might not have generated enough buzz to attract the larger audience or it may have just been ahead of its time. Fortunately, the unprecedented fan base didn’t give up, and continued support. Eventually, the Firefly DVD was then sold out more than what it was intended for, giving the production company more thought on the series. That’s why Serenity was filmed.


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