Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#108 In which our hero strives for Serenity.

Everyone knows I'm a geek, right?

I mean, I'm not an uber-geek or anything, but I played more than my fair share of Dungeons & Dragons in my youth (and my not-so-youth) and I still read comic books and love bad sci-fi movies... you get the idea.

What I'm getting at, is that I'm about to geek out and I want you to be prepared. So... deep breath. Okay.


Now, before I even begin, let me be clear: I intend to talk about things that are huge spoilers if you've never watched the show or "Serenity," the movie that came afterwards. Seriously, if you have any interest in the show at all... stop now. I made the mistake of reading "just a little bit" of a site that had spoilers in it about the movie and it really screwed up my enjoyment of the film. So stop. Sheri -- I'm looking at you. I'm going to make you watch this show sooner or later and I'll be buying the film on DVD so... quit it!

Okay. Firefly is, of course, Joss Whedon's failed western-in-space series that was axed by FOX after only 11 episodes. I have to say that I tuned in with great anticipation being that I was a huge fan of Buffy and was all ready to be blown away by another Joss epic.

But I wasn't. I was, honestly, unimpressed.

The visuals were nice, and the world setting was interesting and the characters were... familiar. But not in a good way. I walked away from the first episode thinking I've seen all of these guys before:
  • Tough on the outside/caring on the inside captain
  • Aggressive warrior-woman
  • Hooker with a heart of gold
  • Wacky comic relief
  • Strong but dumb hired hand
  • Cute girl/woman mechanic
  • Preacher who has lost his way with God
  • Arrogant city-slicker that needs to learn how things really are
  • Gifted but damaged waif of a girl
The dialog was fun, as we have all come to expect from Mr. Whedon, but I wasn't really moved by the characters. After the show was cancelled after the 11th episode, I wasn't surprised. I had lost interest long before.

Now, if you're any kind of geek at all, you know the whole sordid story about how FOX execs demanded that Whedon scrap his intended first episode and start with a more "action-packed" one to get viewers hooked. And that this out of order schedule is what doomed the show. I blew that off as a weak excuse... it was the characters that bored me, not how the show played out.

Well, years later, on the insistence of a friend I went back and watched the show again (it didn't hurt that said friend also burned all the DVDs and gave them to me for free). And after watching the eps in the order they were intended, I walked out with this conclusion:

Holy shit, was I wrong.

Firefly was, in fact, a fantastic show. I was dumbfounded that simply changing the order of the episodes would make such a difference. But it did... to everyone that ever told me as such only to have me reply, "Pfft! That's bullshit." I sincerely apologize.

What made all the difference was the background on Capt. Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds. See... in the first aired episode ("The Train Job") he acts tough, talks tough... but we see him do things that indicate that he's "conflicted." A man of honor making a living as a thief! A hard-nose soldier with a tender heart! This is clearly a complicated man! And it all seemed so spoon-fed that I was instantly turned off.

However, in the first episode that was supposed to be aired, we learn more about his background, his motivations... and for some reason, that brought it all home to me. I suddenly did care about this character.

I even found myself grooving on the theme song, which I thought was just a dumb little ditty before.

What this is leading up to is the fact that after watching the entirety of the produced shows, I realize that I had to get my ass to the theater and see "Serenity" on the big screen before it was too late. It was still playing at the cheap-o theater near my house, so... one night after wife and children were in bed, I rushed out to catch the 10pm show.

By myself! This may not seem like a big deal, but I absolutely HATE going to the movies alone. I think I've done it maybe twice in my life before this. It just seems so sad... do I have so few friends that I can't find at least one person to go to the movies with? But, by God, I wanted to see "Serenity" and I went for it.

So after falling in love so hard with the series, what did I think of the movie? I thought it was okay. I wasn't blown away. The problem is that Joss Whedon tried to wrap everything (or just about everything) up in one 2-hour flick. It was just too much to ask. I thought that Mal's actions seemed forced and not consistent with his actions from the TV series. I think that what we were seeing was and entire season, or several seasons worth of action (say, 23-46 HOURS) and of plot crammed into two hours.

My thoughts on the big elements of the movie (seriously, look away now if you don't want to ruin it!):

Reavers: I love how this was explained. It's clear that Joss Whedon had this element of the show well thought through. And I appreciate that the crew of the Serenity didn't wipe out the Reavers with a miracle drug or somesuch... just exposed the truth. They're still out there ready to eat your flesh.

As an aside, I've read criticism online about Mal's disguising Serenity as a Reaver ship. "You just strap a few bodies to the hull and that's all it takes to fool the Reavers?" Well... yeah, it is. Did you SEE the mindless, bloodthirsty savages as they tired to eat the crew alive later in the movie? Do you really think they have a sophisticated communication network between ships? I think their entire "advance awareness" system is a guy looking out the window and making sure a ship doesn't have an Alliance logo on it.

Shepard Book: How much does Ron Glass kick ass? I watched a lot of "Barney Miller" as a kid, and I enjoyed him in that show. I would never have expected him to actually be a good actor and make this character come alive. That being said, as much as I loved him on the show, I didn't miss him much in the movie. And honestly, he didn't have much of a part to play before being killed... and his death was the stereotypical gasping last words of importance before dying in your arms shtick. Blah.

Kaylee: Holy boner, Batman! I had read how the actress was asked to gain 20 pounds for the series. And she was cute and all as the tom-boy mechanic... but she lost the weight again after the series was canceled and suddenly in the movie she's a total piece of ass! Nothing really revolutionary happens with her character -- yeah, she finally hooks up with Simon, we al saw that coming -- but I thought her new-found hotness warranted a comment.

Wash: This is the big one, isn't it? Wash dies... suddenly, needlessly, and, many have argued, pointlessly. But I don't agree. Wash dying was brilliantly done. Unlike the dumb death of Book, Wash's death was sudden and without comment. He didn't bravely sacrifice himself to save everyone else, he didn't even know he was about to die. Actually, he was jubilant in landing the ship in a difficult situation then BOOM! You're dead! No last words. No lingering goodbyes. Just death on a stick.

Now, here's where reading spoilers ruined the movie for me. I knew Wash was going to die. And I knew Book was going to die. But, I also knew that no-one else was going to die. BUT -- if I hadn't have known that, the stand-off scene that follows would have been incredibly tense. I mean, Joss Whedon just killed off a major character without a second glance... maybe this stand-off isn't going to come to a Hollywood ending after all... maybe the whole fucking crew IS going to die!

And this leads to my major criticism of the movie: Zoë. Second-in-command Zoë was the big, tough, warrior-woman in the TV series that didn't speak much... and she was pretty much the same in the movie. Out of all of the characters, I found her to be the most two-dimensional. Yeah, she talked about wanting to have a baby, and she questioned Mal at times... but by and large she kicked ass and followed orders. One hopes that if the series had survived that she would have been better fleshed out.

So, in the movie, Wash dies at the hands of the Reavers. They don't have time to grieve as the big showdown is coming. Jayne says something to the effect: "Zoë, now ain't the time for revenge," and she replies "I know what I have to do."

And that's it. In my world, here's what would have happened:

Zoë would have lost her shit. Totally and completely. There would have been uncontrollable tears and snot and heaving chest. She would have wailed and pulled at her hair. Fallen down and been unable to move. Mal would have seen all this and kneeled down at her side and made her look at him.
MAL: Zoë, are you going to be all right?
ZOË: No... no. I'm never going to be right again. Not without Wash.
M: Zoë, are you going to be able to do your job?
Z: (visibly collecting herself): Yes... yes sir.
And then the scene could have gone on as it was.

People that speak of more Serenity movies or the series coming back to television are just kidding themselves. Ain't gonna happen. I'm right there wishing with you... but it's over.

The Browncoats lost.


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