A few weeks ago, after much urging I finally watched Joss Whedon’s Firefly. The space western cancelled before its time, with only 11 of the 14 filmed episodes actually airing on FOX Television. Tonight, I wrapped it all up, by watching the standalone movie Serenity which effectively brought closure to the series. Ambitiously planning the series to run for seven years, Joss Whedon did have an overwhelming (or all-encompassing if you prefer) story arc in mind for Firefly that could not be completed and left many unresolved subplots. Thanks to a very dedicated fan base, there was enough support to justify making the movie; unfortunately, that fan base appears to have been rather small, as there was never enough support to justify keeping the show on the air, and the movie (from my quick IMDb glance) appears to have finished off about $14 million in the red.
Both the show and movie were good, but as you can see by my ratings of 3½ stars each, I wasn’t head over heels with either one of them. The show was enjoyable, and perhaps I would have felt more passionately about it if I had watched when Firefly originally aired, but I didn’t. I watched the show some ten years later on DVD. It was already finished; it was finite. I had no week to week expectations for each new episode, and I had no grand disappointment to come when the show ended without warning. I knew that the series ended prematurely, and that the movie existed and would probably serve to close things out.
Starring Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds; commanding the Firefly class transport ship Serenity (see where they got the names for everything?); along with his first mate Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), crew member Jayne (Adam Baldwin), engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite), and their passengers Inara (Morena Baccarin) a “companion” (professional prostitute of a sort), Shepherd Book (Ron Glass from Barney Miller fame) a “priest” with a mysterious past, and fugitives Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) and his sister River (Summer Glau) travel the stars performing any legal or illegal task that comes their way and pays enough to keep their ship spaceworthy. The show mixes “high tech” spaceships and lasers with “low tech” frontier towns and pistols, with enough of a balance that it really doesn’t fall into the western or science fiction categories completely. The dialogue from the show was pretty snappy, and the characters were interesting enough, but they didn’t really get a whole lot of development (in my opinion) until the fifth episode, which was really supposed to be the eighth episode (Out of Gas). Though the Tams were supposed to be a driving part of the plot; Dr. Simon rescued his sister from government experimentation and they are now on the run, hiding out with the crew of Serenity; they didn’t really do a lot. River would act strange, do something cryptic and then disappear into the background as the crew resolved whatever issue came each week; and Simon would patch up whoever got hurt. After reflecting on the series, my favourite characters were Mal and Kaylee, and this makes total sense to me as two of my other favourite characters were also a Captain and an Engineer, but their names were Kirk and Scotty and came from that other “wagon train to the stars” show that also has a devoted fan base.
The series had a lot of things going against it: the time slot was changed, and that usually means death for any series; but also, this was a “western” and a “sci-fi” show, two other things that can severely limit the audience. Add to this that the episodes were not aired in the proper order, that the original pilot “double episode” was deemed unsatisfactory so episode two was used to open the series; well the writing should have been seen on the wall from the beginning. I personally thought that the intended first episode was a little slow, and that the second episode was much better, but if I hadn’t seen the “proper” first episode, I would have had no clue what was going on.
While many people argue that Joss Whedon is a “nerd god” I’ve been a little let down with my experiences. While I loved Toy Story that he wrote in 1995, I didn’t enjoy Firefly or Avengers nearly as much as everyone told me I should have. I’ve never seen Buffy, so I can’t comment on it; but perhaps that’s a good thing. It seems to me that most people who have seen Buffy, went on to watch Angel, and then went on to watch Firefly and Dollhouse, etc, etc. They’re almost like Whedon-zombies. Credit to his fans for being so loyal, but they seem to follow everything he does blindly, and perhaps because they loved the first show so much, they fail to find any fault with anything else he has done. You can love your favourite shows, actors, directors, and writers; and you should; but you should also hold them accountable when they don’t meet your expectations. Always be critical in your viewings. “Cult following” is really just a figure of speech. Not enjoying their later work as much should in no way diminish the earlier things you loved. If you know me, you know I’m a gigantic Doctor Who fan. I love that show. I always will, but I’ve been quite critical of the last two seasons. I’ve enjoyed them, but not loved them. I had reviewed the episodes of this current season as they aired and was not still wholly impressed. I do have strong hopes for the second half as it returns on Easter weekend, and I think that is the mark of a true fan. I’m loyal, but I’ll also admit when my favourites drop the ball, in fact, it should be the true fans who are first in line to complain as well as defend.
Oh yes, as for the movie Serenity, it did tie up most of the loose ends and still left things open for sequels down the road. My biggest fault with the movie was that it seemed at times like either a two part episode of the series, or a made for tv movie. There were scene transitions that felt to me like they were just screaming for a commercial break to be inserted, and in my opinon, that really doesn’t translate well to the big screen. Another big problem for this movie is that it was entirely made for the fans of Firefly. If you had not seen the series, you would have been completely lost. There are no character introductions, and it assumed you know the plot going in, though a very brief recap is shown.
All in all, I enjoyed the series and to a lesser degree the movie. Unfortunately, the movie has several problems. I was glad that the series (and hopefully most of the fans) got some closure, but I don’t know if a theatrical movie was the best solution. Just my 2¢, now to prepare for attacks and defences from the Whedon-zombies…
Posted on 13-02-24, in 3.5 Star, General, Movie Reviews and tagged 3.5 star, Alan Tudyk, Firefly, Jewel Staite, Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Serenity, space, Summer Glau, western. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.