Posts Tagged ‘firefly’

V-Day for geeks

Having been looking around for something for my GeekHubby for V-day one of my awesome friends sent me to this site.

http://www.geekyclean.com/

YOU MUST GO THERE NOW!

Yes!  SHOP MINIONS!! 

Soap of WIN!!!!

Look!  Your man can smell like Malcolm Reynolds.   And seriously, who wouldn’t want that?

Serenity

Reviewed by Nic Campos

Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Chiwitel Eijofor, Alan Tudyk, Gina Torres, Adam Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Ron Glass & David Krumholtz

Rest assured you’re about to read the most spoiler-free review I can possibly give you for Joss Whedon’s much-anticipated Serenity.  I can’t stress how important this is, although I should point out that my fierce protection of unspoiled eyes and ears is for the benefit of those who are familiar the film’s earlier incarnation – 2002’s miraculous Firefly, the TV series which was axed after a shameful mishandling and poor marketing by Fox. The show whose loyal, dyed-in-the-wool – or perhaps Chinese silk – fans just wouldn’t let it die.  God bless you, Browncoats, for your tenacity, because Serenity is likely one of the most entertaining movies you or anyone else will see all year.

For the uninitiated, here’s your rundown: It’s the future, about 500 years hence, and mankind has abandoned an overcrowded Earth for a distant galaxy with numerous terraformed planets. A recently-fought intergalactic war resulted in the core-planets’ government, the Alliance, victorious over an Independent faction of outlying worlds, and there’s still a lot of bad blood flowing over the defeat.  Several pints of which courses through the veins of Malcolm Reynolds (Fillion), a veteran of the Independents who now ekes out a living with his dedicated crew aboard the Firefly class starship Serenity, performing illegal salvage, the occasional armed robbery and the like to keep food on the table and their ship in the air.

Enter the Tams: Wealthy, brilliant young doctor Simon (Maher) and his psychologically-damaged yet staggeringly gifted sister, River (Glau).  In a barn-stormer of an opening sequence, we are introduced to the siblings’ background which viewers of the show already know – that River was experimented on in an Alliance-run lab posing as an academic facility, until her brother was finally able to track her down and rescue her.  New to this fable, however, is our first glimpse into why River – also gifted with psychic abilities in addition to physical and mental prowess – is so important to the Alliance that they would stop at nothing to get her back.  And the man now tasked to complete that mission is the mysterious, uncompromisingly ruthless assassin known only as The Operative (Eijofor).

How the Tams come to reside on Serenity with Mal and his crew is then quickly, yet fully explained in a series of exchanges which sets the tone for the plot trajectory of the rest of the film.  Despite its flaws – and we’ll get to those in a moment – Serenity is quite remarkably structured given its unique genesis: the screenplay gives newcomers to the storyline all the information they need for a self-contained, entertaining adventure, yet doesn’t overdo it with laborious set-ups that are bound to piss off the Firefly fans who have the advantage of 15 hours of back story they’ve watched countless times. Whedon has pulled off a marvelous hat-trick with this script, and while his direction is solid it still can’t quite match his skill as a writer.

The tricky dichotomy of satisfying both newbie and die-hard isn’t totally seamless, mind you.  Don’t worry, I’m still not going to spoil anything! – but suffice to say that on occasion, there are developments with beloved characters – whether it happens to badassed first-mate Zoe (Torres), her wiseacre pilot-hubby Wash (Tudyk), sweet mechanic Kaylee (Staite) or lunkheaded brute Jayne (Baldwin) – which while interesting or amusing to a new audience will simply have far stronger resonance with regular viewers of the series, who already know and adore these characters before the opening titles have rolled.  While the entire talented cast gets a chance to shine, Mal and River are the leads of this particular venture, and Fillion and Glau have the heaviest load to shoulder;  both are magnificent, him a magnetic, charming scoundrel in the Harrison Ford mold and her an ethereal, emotive powerhouse with a lethal roundhouse kick. Even those characters who have significantly less screen time – high-society companion Inara (Baccarin) and Shepherd Book (Glass), everyone’s moral and spiritual touchstone – ultimately play key roles in the story.

A story that, to the benefit of newcomers, is packed with action – from the moment the title dissolves from the screen into the emblem on the side of the ship, to a series of bang-zoom set pieces on remote outpost prairies and in smoky, dangerous nightclub dens.  Except for one noticeable (tho somewhat brief) period where the action lags somewhere in the fourth act, the thrills do not let up  Nor does the often uproariously funny dialogue, which fans of the series will be delighted to know has survived the transition to film intact. However, as was hinted in the months leading up to production, Whedon has made good on his promise to make this his original vision, a darker realm than what Fox commissioned for the series and often uncompromising.  Still combining the best of B-movie sensibilities with A-list inspirations from Star Wars to How The West Was Won and everywhere in between, no cow is sacred this time around, and as regulars of the Whedonverse in its previous incarnations – Buffy in particular, but also Angel – have come to expect, anything can happen and often will. (This is your warning, nebulous as it is.  I can say no more…trust me.)

Which leads nicely into one of the best surprises about the film, and his name is Chiwetel Eijofor.  The Nigerian-born Brit has already done brilliant work in both TV and film, but here Whedon allows a newcomer to his ‘verse to sink his teeth into one of the most brutal, cunning and frightening villains to grace the screen in some time, and Eijofor is outstanding. His scenes with Fillion are rife with antagonistic menace; as the Operative pursues his target, his willingness to kill so easily for an objective he has no emotional investment in is directly at odds with Mal’s value for the lives of his loved ones, rooted deeply in his experiences of loss at the hands of the Alliance on the battlefield and every day since.   The two’s rivalry, as fugitive and pursuer, bears fascinating similarities to Victor Hugo’s Javert and Valjean.  It’s an especially nice revelation considering the returning villains from the series – the horrifyingly savage, deep-space-trawling cannibals called Reavers – lend themselves better to a collective presence instead of a single voice of evil.  Not all the new players are so lucky – the otherwise exceptional David Krumholtz appears as intergalactic hacker Mr. Universe, and though he tries his best the role ultimately never rises beyond a useful plot device – but for the most part, all additions to the mix work like a charm.

You know, I’m just realizing I could go on for another three pages – about both the rollicking score and budget-conscious yet lovely production design. (Elements of the series’s Asian/Western influences still abound, though perhaps a bit muted  – if you’re wondering, the Chinese dialogue peppered throughout still isn’t subtitled.  And it doesn’t need to be, dong ma?!)  I could also stretch my unwillingness to venture to spoiler territory by discussing how wonderfully the events of Serenity open up the possibilities for more films, or even a return to series television (Boy, that would be unprecedented!)  But I still don’t want to risk spoiling you, my darlings – I’m not kidding, once you’ve seen the film you’ll know why I’m going on and on about keeping tight-lipped! – nor should I speak too soon of such thing as sequels (More to the point, the trilogy that Joss has promised us he’s got in mind.). It’s going to take a reasonably great box-office take for sequels or any such life beyond this to exist for our beloved Big Damn Heroes, especially given its unknown genre commodity with limited star power.

Still, stranger things have happened at the box office in recent years, and the good news is that Serenity has so very much going for it out of the starting gate.  Though not quite as high-gloss as your average midsummer $200M blockbuster (frankly, the lack of total reliance on CGI is a blissful relief.), it’s got more brains and heart than a dozen Bay or Sommers vehicles.  All those Browncoats who have been waiting impatiently for this film have plenty to celebrate, as Serenity represents a rare gift that most fandoms smacked with premature cancellation can only dream of.  Yet even if you never watched Firefly – besides clamoring to catch up on DVD, which you will be, and I’d put money on that – what you’ve got here is one crackin’ good time at the movies.

A Browncoats Defense

A Browncoats Defense: Or, why we love it the way we do.

Browncoats have been getting a raw deal lately, at least on some websites.  We’ve been told that we have no business pushing our love for this show so hard onto others.  I myself don’t see that we push (okay, some might be a little overboard, but no more so than some of the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Trek Fans out there) that hard. 

I go out of my way to share with people I know will enjoy this wonderful gem the fact that it exists and they should see it and Serenity.  They need to discover the characters that Joss Whedon brought to life and infused with such an amazing history, even if there was just over half a season of it.

We’ve been getting a bad rap, and I feel the need to defend my love for this show that was on so briefly.

Firefly, in the short time it was on, and in the episodes we’ve got, covered so many issues and emotions it staggers me to try and think on them.  The relevance of the storylines are universal and very poignant now in the climate of the world at large. 

Huge, overly powerful governments, that hiding behind a mask of wanting to create a utopian society of “happy” people, who are really out for their own best interest, are not lost on we the viewers.  Those ideals are sadly very real and very now. 

But it’s not only the political themes that make this show powerful.  The religious aspects are also threaded into the mix with an artist’s hand. 

Book brings with him a grace and calm that Mal and his crew need while being lost in the black.  The play of Book and Mal against each other is a game of tolerance. 

Book senses the hole in Mal’s soul from his lost faith.  He seems to know this is a man that once truly loved his God and believed deeply.  He knows his pain and wants to lead him back from it.  One of the most beautiful things in Firefly is this wonderful meshing of religions and the way the bright spots and what is cleansing and holy can be found in the simplest things and in places one might not think to look. 

Book dances around the unease Inara brings to him at first.  But soon, the two of them come to an understanding, and at one point seem to transpose roles when Book suffers a blow to his faith and wonders if he is where he is supposed to be.  This juxtaposition is so very reminiscent of the Old West, and feeds the western vibe that runs through Firefly. 

Back in those days women in Inara’s profession brought a kind of salvation to men in the frontier.  In Firefly’s case this would be “The Black”.  Companions bring a peace to those they service, a connection with someone.  This was the case back in the time of gold miners and the vast unknown west of Earth That Was.

Kaylee’s smile and the way she can find joy in something as mundane as a strawberry or a pretty dress. She brings a happiness to everyone she meets. Even when she’s got oil and grime on her, from head to foot, she shows that pureness of spirit that seems to have been lost to so many.  The crew of Serenity is brightened by her presence, like an angel in space.

These characters are written with such depth, such a realness of spirit that we are touched by them.  We see ourselves in them and know what they feel.  Whedon’s gift for writing and creating makes you care, and in those few episodes we are lucky enough to have, we connect with them. 

Even in the first episodes beginning minutes, how many of us cannot relate to Mal’s need to win the fight.  Trying to keep up spirits and defeat a force far more powerful than ourselves.  The look on his face as those Alliance transports fill the sky, as he loses faith in everything that he’s ever held dear or believed.  It’s so very real, even after seeing it numerous times.  The effect is still the same, still as heart wrenching.  You are watching a man die inside; he dies as surly as the solider next to him who is shot down. 

Characters like Mal, who are fighting still for what they think is right, and fighting a war within themselves, make this show what it is.  They make it the reason it is so special to us.  The love that fills all these characters makes us love them.  And love is one of the strongest threads that weaves this show together.

The love that Simon has for River is a big part of that.   A brother’s love for his sister, a need to protect her from those who have harmed and violated her.  It touches anyone who watches it and reminds them of family, even if you’ve never had a sibling.  Summer and Sean bring these two to life on screen and it is a sight to behold.  You believe in them and that’s what matters.  That he would sacrifice so much for her speaks to the heart of anyone who watches.

Then there is Zoe and Wash.  A sort of switch on the roles in a marriage as set forth by society.  They show us the strengths of their relationship through how they interact with one another when no one else is around.

They work, even if they seem an odd couple.  And Wash’s concern and warmth for his wife, even though she’s been through far more risky situations than he has, shows through.  

Zoe loves her husband, and shows him a side not even Mal has probably seen.  Her tenderness when they are alone and her ability to be more feminine and lose her hard exterior.  These points, along with her desire for a baby, when her husband doesn’t want to risk it, shows how these two can switch back to the more conventional roles of a marriage.  Their dynamic is one of the greatest parts of the show, and makes the film Serenity that much more of an experience once you’ve seen the history behind the characters.  The love between these two is unexpected, but very strong.

Even Jayne, with all of his bad ways and gun for hire attitude shows us humanity can pull through those levels of hardened heart.  With the episode The Message, I think this shows through the most.  When he is talking to Book about how he wants to do something when faced with some form of death, how he wants to feel alive when made to think on the subject.  We see that Jayne isn’t quite as stone as you’d think.  You can also see this  when he’s watching Kaylee from the wings, anxious to know if she’s going to be alright.

These points are all good reasons to want to share this show with others.  But along with these you have believable acting, great writing, beautiful sets and special effects.  All this comes together in perfection and with only 14 episodes you are entranced by this world that has been created.  The work and thought that went into it, the little things that made up the whole, came together to make a powerful story of people doing what they must to be free and to live their lives as they wish. 

I don’t think we are out of line for wanting to share this.  I think we are in the right.  Shows like Firefly are few and far between nowadays.  I haven’t had a show grab me like this one in a long, long time.  It means a lot to me and has introduced me to some very neat people.  Series like this, that grab your imagination and make you care about the characters, that make you think, seem to be a dying breed, much like Malcolm Reynolds.

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