Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Serenity

Warning, there may be spoilers.

So, Serenity. I haven't had a lot of time to watch TV in the past decade or so, outside a steady diet of Japanese comedy specials, so I never saw Battlestar Galactica until I bought the DVDs, and I never saw Firefly at all.

One of the few good things to come out of my recent two month "business trip" to Kanto, is that I sometimes have the time (and technology) to sit down and watch a film. First was Monsters (evaluation: Good. Pretty. Worth watching.), and Moon (evaluation: Fantastic. What thinking Sci-Fi films should aspire to.) This weekend, it was Serenity.

In short, this is a good film. It's a good film for fans. It's very different from Moon or Monsters, more like a bigger version of a TV show than a film. It was definitely entertaining, packed with action, very fun to watch. No regrets there. Still, this is not a movie that wil really stay with me. It didn't think any deep thoughts. Unlike Moon, I won't be lying awake at night thinking about it (unless it's to puzzle over some of the things I mention later). But, then again, you could say a lot of things about other, lesser movies, using sentences that begin, "Unlike Moon."

There were a few problems. The setting is an almost barely believable backdrop for a space-kung-fu-pirate-western that visits a different earth-like planet or two every week. It's perfect for episodic fiction. Too perfect. There was also the way the hero too conveniently acquires superpowers at climactic moments. The guy was run through with a sword, but he coughs a bit and gets on with business. And hey, it just happens that the favorite Vulcan nerve pinch of the villain doesn't work, because our hero had those nerves moved.

There was the dialogue. I understand that Joss Whedon is loved for his dialogue. I can see why. He does have a talent for it. On the other hand, maybe he should rein in that talent from time to time, or turn it in a different direction, because most of his characters sound like, well, how I imagine he sounds. They're all waiting, all the time, for the chance to launch a snark-missile into the conversation. Yes, it's funny, but it also sounds wrong when it comes out of the mouth of almost every character, in almost every scene. It's not terrible. Like I said, he's good at this. But it did, on balance, work against the film, I think.

One of the few things that I do wonder about the film even now, is how it was supposed to fit in with a TV series. Was it the climactic ending? Overall, it seemed good for that, but I wonder how River Tam fits in there. Was she a super killing machine in the TV series and the rest of the crew just never noticed until the movie? Or was this a prequel, in which case the funny pilot guy who gets impaled in a (largely successful) bid to make us think that maybe the major characters are actually in danger, was actually a minor character instead of an equal to the other, unkillable, crew members.

In spite of these, and another few nits I won't pick here, I still recommend it, at least for SF fans. It's fun, and maybe that's all it intended to be, which isn't so bad after all.