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Buffy in Space.. Not

You’re either asking yourself one of two questions right now: “Where’s that elroy with my overdue movie review!?” or “What’s an elroy?”.

Well, you’re both right! Yes, after spending the last few weeks in hollywood (lie), interviewing movie stars (lie) and making out with supermodels (lie) I’m back in the saddle (lie) and excited to be writing reivews for the beautiful (lie) people (lie) of the Gamespace readership!

For my return review I’ll not be reviewing a latest release, but one that’s nearing the end of it’s run in the cinema. And it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year, but I’m bias. I like great movies (no lie).

A long while back I was one of the lucky ones to stumble across the latest work (at the time) from Joss Whedon, FireFly. I was instantly a fan.. probably, maybe, most likely even a little before I’d seen a frame of the show. Because, and there’s no shame in admitting it, I was a fan of the whole Buffy thing. But probably, definitely, because I’m a fan of your good, hard to find, no: Farscape doesn’t qualify, brilliantly written, character driven, directed like it counts, keep me wanting more, science fiction. And MOST definitely, without question and indubitably, FireFly qualified on all those counts.

Then the unthinkable happened. That is, the unthinkable that happens all too often: A great show was axed. The deal with FireFly was a harsh one. Unless you’ve been under a rock or managed to avoid people like me (they call themselves ‘Browncoats’ – beware!) then you’ve no doubt heard the horrible tale, so I wont bore you with the details here.. Just perform a Google search for “The Fox Network Sucks!” and I’m sure you’ll find mention of the axing of FireFly… Family Guy, Futurama, Family Guy, Wonderfalls… Family Guy.

Now, as I’ve now cast myself in the role of the painfully handsome, jilted fan, you’re probably expecting that anything I have to say about the movie that the ill-fated FireFly somehow managed to spawn will be tainted with embarrassingly girlie shrieks of how wonderful ‘Serenity’ is…. and you’re right… to a degree.

I love movies. And Serenity is a fantastic movie. I really enjoy being entertained. But what I enjoy even more than being transported away from my own tawdry existence for almost 2 hours is being ripped forcibly from it for extended periods of time, at random intervals, long after my eyes have adjusted to the world outside of the cinema.

I was lucky enough to have grabbed a couple of preview tickets to Serenity for a showing a couple of weeks before it opened in cinemas here in Australia (or indeed, anywhere). What was even luckier was that the screening that I saw was on the same night that Joss Whedon was being interviewed on Rove. Immediately after the, no doubt, intellectual, grilling from Rove, Joss made his way to the cinema and spend the next hour being extremely entertaining, open and hilarious as he patiently took questions from the decidedly brown (coated) audience.

I love movies. I really enjoy being entertained by them. Serenity has continued to entertain me. Despite the fact that I was treated to one of the greatest insights into the film/television industry that night, by the Writer/Director of the movie, it’s the movie that I keep going back too.. there’s just so much in it. However… There’s the problem.

Serenity isn’t just a movie. Even if you only count the actual running time of the film, it’s more than ‘just’ a movie. But it’s burdened with something other films aren’t: 14 episodes of brilliantly crafted, performed and presented character and story development.

Why Burdened? Surely I mean ‘blessed’ or ‘gifted’ with that kind of development? Nope: Burdened.

Burdened. Because it failed as a series. For all it’s originality and brilliance it failed – Forget that it was on the receiving end of some of the most appalling treatment that any creative endeavour has received at the hands of a network, seemingly hell bent on ridding the airways of creative thought. Because those who didn’t discover FireFly before (or since) it’s demise will only see it’s failure.

Burdened. Because I (and nobody that I can think of) could even begin to explain the complexities of the relationships between the crew at the heart of this story. Because the texture developed over the 14 episodes of the series can’t be presented in a trailer. And distilling the dialogue down to a couple of quips that, when taken out of the context of the subtle, snappy, intelligent, gritty dynamic in which it was originally revealed to fans of the series, comes across as trite and pathetic: When Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) rhetorically asks the ships unruly bruiser Jayne (Adam Baldwin), “Do you want to run this ship?” and is caught off guard by Jayne’s positive reply… I get it. It’s not funny, I know that.. but it’s like that thing that you and your brother laugh about. That thing that, when you try to explain it to someone else just comes across foolish and in no way even the slightest bit amusing. But you’ve lost count of the times that you’ve ended up in tears, laughing about it with your sibling.

Serenity isn’t Star Wars, it isn’t War Of The Worlds, it isn’t anything that you can point at and say “That’s Serenity!”.

I’d love to have the magic words that would get you to run right to the cinema and buy a ticket – I honestly believe you’d thank me for it if I did. But I don’t. And sadly, you probably wont see it while it’s still on the big screen and that, will be the death of the FireFly universe. There’s not going to be a sequel, because Serenity hasn’t made enough money to get the people who care about that sort of thing to fork out the cash for one. I love movies. And that makes me genuinely sad.

I hate to say it and, I know I’ve finished reviews with cornier lines than this, but you can’t sell this movie to people. Serenity is something that you’re going to have to discover on your own.

[Originally written for EON and published at Gamespace on Fri, 21 Oct 2005]

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