Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Math on Serenity

On my test screening card I wrote of Serenity that it is more Star Trek the Motion Picture than Wrath of Kahn, but on careful reconsideration, I think it is best compared to Star Trek Nemesis. Both suffer from similar problems deficiencies in auteurs. Stuart Baird and Joss Whedon get themselves into sequences that seem to bore them, and specifically combat sequences. I guess in both cases you could argue it was a money thing, but I tend to think of the Go-Go Yubari sequence in Kill Bill - we know the outcome, it's the how it goes that makes it exciting. But Whedon stages sequences of the character Psychotic Little Girl who seems a Lot Like Buffy (PLGWSALLB for short) getting into fights with no flair. When you show things that have to happen to advance the story - but the director has interest in stageing them with any excitement - you've run into a situation where the film is damned, because though it only takes one uninspired non-set piece to ruin a film, and having more than one is cinematic death.

This might be palatable if the writing was as great as Whedon's rep makes it out to be but sadly none of the main characters are interesting. You have the slightly gay Han Solo clone, the slightly dumber Han Solo clone, PLGWSALLB, PLGWSALLB's brother - who is a personality vacuum, the cute bad actress who wants to fuck PLGWSALLB's bro, Alan Tudyk and his character's wife. Sound like memorable characters? There may be another character I've forgotten, if so I'll include the name Shecky as a fall back (I haven't seen this film in months). There's also Slightly Gay Han Solo's girlfriend, who's also a whore - but again, not all that memorable. They all also talk in that way that makes you think Kevin Williamson without the total referentiality, more in that Kevin Smith way of sameness in that the snark is interchangeable. Ultimately the film relies upon the audience's interest from the previous TV show to flesh these characters out. Going in cold, I didn't give a shit.

So then you have the plot which is that the GOVERNMENT wants PLGWSALLB, while the crew of Firefly don't want to give her up mostly... it's just PLGWSALLB is psychotic, but CBA really wants to fuck PLGWSALLB's bro, so they run around the world until they unveil the CONSPIRACY which kills a supporting player off, but only after he's delivered... The info... The main... Characters.... ne..ed...ed...

Whedon could be commended for his penchant for killing off characters (though that will be more effective for those who've watched the show), but in the end you're still stuck with a conclusion that revolves Fistfight With Obvious Conclusion, that never jumps to the how of it. In that way I was reminded of I, Robot, though partly for the setting. And reminding of I, Robot is never a good thing.

If Firefly was simply a throwback to the altogether preferable mold of Spacehunter then it might be easier for me to walk away from, but in the end this film has delusions of grandeur that only point off that it heavily sampled it's beat from Godfather of Pop Culture Fantasy (that being the mighty, mighty GL) but lost the funk in the mix. All swagger, no stones.

And still, I know people who really enjoy it. Now were I at Portland in a bar on Thursday night, I'd simply say "You're wrong" and be done with it. But as I've droned on before the fickle and selective nature of fandom celebrates certain mediocrities above others based on whims and needs, and is drawn into creating self fulfilling prophecies. Batman Begins is a rather good film, but it irrevocably and inarguably falls the fuck apart in its last act. I guess you can still enjoy the picture and note that, but it needs noting. And I don't think the flaws of Serenity should be swept under the rug, but since the film won't make that much money, maybe it's unfair for me to pick on it. But I can't help it, bad is bad.