Serenity – T-minus…

Serenity premiers tonight. Greggg has the advantage over most of the rest of us; he’s already seen it. For the rest of us – god, high hopes, fears, and I know whatever I see, I’ll be left waiting for more. Joss, you better be hard at work on Serenity II already. I’m a firefly newcomer; […]

Serenity premiers tonight.

Greggg has the advantage over most of the rest of us; he’s already seen it.

For the rest of us – god, high hopes, fears, and I know whatever I see, I’ll be left waiting for more. Joss, you better be hard at work on Serenity II already.

I’m a firefly newcomer; Doxy and Gregg both told me over and over to go fucking rent the DVDs, and so far neither one has steered me wrong on anything (Gregg, thanks forever for making me read Sandman). But I was hooked from the first episode, and then hooked even deeper on re-watching.

I was a huge Buffy fan; I loved it, when it was at it’s best. But Buffy was an idea with a shelf-life, and the show exceeded the shelf-life by three seasons at least. Joss was also still learning how to do a teevee show when he did Buffy and it showed. In some ways he did better with Angel; while it never hit Buffy’s highest highs, it also never got anywhere near Buffy’s deplorable lows. In terms of craftsmanship, it was simply a better made show.

But both show Joss’ gifts; as a writer, as a universe-builder, as a director. And as a character developer, because it’s really the characters that make his shows work. He fishes characters out of the oddest places and makes them live and breath. Fred, who is close to my favorite buffy character of all time. Spike, who was so obviously stolen from the pages of Swamp Thing and Hellblazer that I’m surprised Joss didn’t get sued. Drusilla. Cordelia. Willow, in all her incarnations. Giles, who seemed like a cardboard cut-out until they started to tease us with his ripper past.

The trouble with both shows is that there were also characters, and actors, that just could not hold up the quality. Some of the casting was painful, and when Joss stepped away from Buffy to do other things, the writing often veered into sheer horror. And then, some of the ideas, like the ‘Buffy’s little sister’ story line, and ‘Glorificus’, the three geek super-villians, the army of slayers, having Cordelia take on Doyle’s powers when Doyle left, possibly sounded good when they were brain-stormed, but fell badly flat on screen. Some of it was just the acting (Michelle Trachtenberg, who was sweet and funny in Ice Princess, could NOT manage the dialog or the characterization to carry off Dawn – and then there were all the young models cast as slayers, or glorificus, and many others). But a lot of it just has bad idea written all over it. There was nothing good about the ‘sister’ idea, and they clearly started up a lot of plots with no idea what they were going to do with a finale. Angel’s sone was another stupid clunker, again, not very well thought through, and an actor who couldn’t carry off the portrayal.

I think Joss lacked a clear and complete vision for both shows after the first few seasons; maybe he just lost interest, or maybe he burnt out on dealing with the egos of his stars and his networks.

With Firefly, he started things differently. First, he cast actors – damned good ones – right from the word go. His one huge mistake — Rebecca Gayheart, who’s totally lickable but can’t act her way out of a paper bag — was booted a few days into filming and replaced with the incredible Morena Baccarin, who’s far more lickable, and who is a gifted actress.

The super-solid casting is complimented by a clear vision of his story; he’s not leaning on the supernatural, he’s got a stage as wide as space in which to tell a story, and he’s got his usual crew of writers and directors much more in line with how to tell his story. Buffy was always presented as camp; at best, it was great operatic tragedy with a thin veneer of comedy. But often its need to be light and silly made the story-telling weak. Here, though the characters are all smart-ass and funny, the story is serious, people die, people are hurt. There’s a much deeper, more dramatic edge.

I think this show could have survived past a decent first season or two or three. It has more room to tell it’s story, and a more deft, sure hand at the helm than I think Joss started with. To me, it’s already the best thing Joss has done, and he’s only just starting.

So – do I have high hopes? Yes. Very high. I am set up for disappointment, but I don’t care. I’m going to see this moving expecting nothing but success. We’ll see.

7 thoughts on “Serenity – T-minus…”

  1. I think you will not be disappointed. It was great 4 months ago, I don’t see how they could have screwed it up since then. We have tickets for tomorrow night, and I can’t wait to see it again!

  2. I saw it this afternoon. My review: “Eh.”

    It sure was pretty. And the characters were, overall, pretty appealing. And… um… That’s about it. Very frothy, but very little substance. I wanted to like it, and I can’t say I *dis*liked it. But if this is what the TV show was, then I can see why they cancelled it.

    Let’s start with the utter non-story of it all. The Alliance was training River as a weapon … why? And they implanted that big secret into her brain … why? And once the good guys figured out what it was, they went there … why? And revealing the big secret would harm the Alliance … how? It all added up to not much, for me.

    And I kept thinking I’d seen these scenes before, in better movies like “The Matrix” and “”Resident Evil” and “The Fifth Element” and “Alien Resurrection” and “Pitch Black” and even “Star Wars.” It felt cobbled together.

    But the worst of it was the dialogue. Oh man, were there some klinkers in there: “It’s a year since anything been betwixt my nethers”? Ow. Of the worst of it, I can only say I haven’t heard dialogue that bad since any Kevin Smith movie — it’s the kind of stuff that sounds great in your head when your hands are poised over the keyboard, but falls DOA when it’s spoken aloud.

    I wanted to like this movie. I wanted it to be as good as the fans said it was. But at its heart, it’s just a TV show.

  3. Um. Chuck? You need to learn more about dialog before you bag on a couple of the best dialog writers in the business.

    I can see some of the other issues you had (they didn’t bother to explain some of the background, and some of it, like how river *read the minds of the alliance bigwigs* whipped by pretty quick. And some of it, sure doesn’t make a LOT of sense (like why they went off to the planet where everyone’s dead). I’ll give you a little bit of plot device on that. But dialog — there, you’re flat out wrong.

    But I’ll allow that you just didn’t like it. On that one, you’re on solid ground. B^)

  4. Karl, I’ve been writing dialogue for years — I’ve even been paid for it — so I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on the dialogue thing. I think I’ll just stick with my opinion on what’s good and what ain’t and let my example of what you call “brilliant dialog” stand.

    In my book, the occasional clever line doesn’t excuse the three tin-ear ones that set it up. But I wouldn’t say that makes you wrong.

  5. Saw it Sunday afternoon, and being a Joss junkie, I loved it. I’m happy with how it was handled. I’m not happy about two events (no spoilers) and I was hit harder by the second one than I was by the first, but I’m happy that a lot DID get explained finally, and to see the story advance.

    BTW, they didn’t implant the secret in River’s mind–she picked it up from her “visitors” from the government.

  6. Yeah I’ve had to ‘splain that ‘river read thier minds’ thing to about four people. Joss made that a *little* obscure, though it seemed completely clear to *me*. I’m just waiting to hear how the box office on it looks…

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