Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Firefly & Serenity

I'll just place a big SPOILER ALERT here at the beginning.

I became a fan of Joss Whedon in 2001 when I did a two-episode-a-day catch-up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was in syndication on FX. I then jumped on board with the final two seasons when they aired. A few years later, I did something similar with Angel. Most recently, I watched Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog online (as well as purchased it on itunes). Needless to say, he won me over but I never quite found enough interest in his ill-fated Fox series Firefly. The content didn't appeal to me much, I guess. But after several random recommendations lately, I discovered it at the library and picked it up. Here are my thoughts:

I can't say I was immediately sucked into Firefly, but over the course of the series, I grew to care about the characters and had hopes for the storyline. The idea of The Wild West mixed with a little outer space, sprinkled with a smidge of pirates is not one I would have come up with on my own. Leave it to the mind of Joss Whedon to come up with something so odd. But it worked. The main planets were much more advanced by way of technology, and then less-inhabited moons might as well have had tumbleweeds blowing by. Historically, it all kind of made sense.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion, was an interesting mix of pragmatism and sensitivity. He really cared about his crew and would risk his life for them, but he would also risk their lives if it was the right thing to do. He could be a jerk but you forgave him that because he had a lot of heart. Similarly to Buffy, he made a lot of snarky Whedon-y remarks in the face of danger.

Summer Glau redeemed herself as I didn't like her much from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (not really her fault as she is playing an emotion-less terminator, but her character just leaves me so cold). River is an enigma and I enjoyed watching her story unfold. River's brother Simon (played by Sean Maher) brought an interesting dynamic to Serenity as an uptight, highly educated, high-strung doctor.

Wash (Alan Tudyk) and Zoe (Gina Torres) didn't make a lot of sense to me as a couple. But they grew on me, and I guess the whole point was how different they were. Wash has some great comedic moments and is very likable.

I kept waiting for Jayne (Adam Baldwin) to show some sort of positive characteristics, or to have some sort of redeeming moment. His best moment was in "Jaynestown" but even then, I was left wanting a little more from him. But granted, we were only given fourteen episodes, and given Jayne's past, that is a quick redemption.

The cast was just well-rounded and really worked well together. You can tell they really enjoyed working together.

My favorite episodes were "Our Mrs. Reynolds" (Christina Hendricks of Mad Men played the heck out of Saffron, and I was taken completely by surprise when she revealed her true self; the episode was quite goofy), "Out of Gas" (Mal basically decides to go down with this ship, but not before kicking some butt, which ultimately leads to him saving the day), and "War Stories" (I have always enjoyed when side characters get sucked into the battles (see Marshall spying it up on certain eps of Alias) and no one thought twice about taking a gun and going after Mal and Wash).

Given that the feature film had a bigger budget (not huge, but bigger), Whedon had a while to work on the script, the story had to be good enough to haul people out to the theater, the actors were so glad to be back to work on Firefly, and especially that FOX was not releasing the film, I found Serenity to be very entertaining, and enjoyed it more than the series itself.

There were great action sequences, some real progression in the story line (especially with River). River got to kick some major butt, and it was shot really beautifully, kind of like a dance (I understand Summer Glau is trained dancer). Chiwetel Ejiofor was great as the operative without a name. He is just the guy that gets it done. Er... most of the time, anyway. Might I mention that Nathan Fillion looked more handsome in Serenity? Perhaps, it was the new hair, or the couple of years aging in between. Whedon never shies away from killing his main characters, both to keep viewers on their toes and to be realistic. The death of Shepherd Book was harsh, but as soon as I saw the ravaged haven, I thought it was a possibility. However, the death of Wash was unexpected and really sad, especially as he had just saved the day!

All in all, I enjoyed the series and feature film. It did not catch my attention when the shows were originally airing, but now that I know the story, characters, etc. I would be very interested to see where else things could be taken (a new movie would be great!).


Anonymous said...

I'm an old hand Firefly/Serenity fan. Jayne bears re-watching. There are little nuances and almost throwaway things he does which gave me [at least] extra layers to his character. E.G. quite tenderly brushing Helen's hair in the tin foil whorehouse. Later, he even stays the whole night with her and trusts her to feed him his guns the next morning. One might ask where all that came from [GG].

Linz McC said...

Yours is the kind of opinion I was looking for on Jayne. I wondered if perhaps he might be more appealing to other people. He is certainly good for a laugh. You make some good points. There is also a scene (was it in Serenity?) where he runs to check on River to see that she is OK.