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I don't care, I'm still free...
Bar Harbor
kestrell and I went to see a preview of Serenity last night. Thanks to mikekn for scoring us tickets.

It's been a long time since I've been at a non-con-related fannish gathering. It was kinda cool. There were some ladies from the Rhode Island Science Fiction Club going up and down the line handing out free Serenity stickers that they had made. Lots of people had homemade Serenity shirts and other paraphenalia. There was even some official loot: everyone got a Serenity keychain, and a small teaser poster.

Before the movie, they showed a short film of Joss introducing the preview, giving thanks for all the fan support, and asking for more in promoting "our" movie. He is, as always, a wonderful speaker, and knows how to play his audience to a T. Plus, wicked cool grin at the end as he says, "And now, welcome to Serenity."

Short, spoiler-free review: I loved it. I think most fans will love it. I don't think it has much chance of mainstream levels of success. More spoiler-y thoughts below the cut, though I'll try not to discuss major plot points specifically.

I knew from interviews and DVD commentary that most of Firefly was rather lighter in tone than what Joss originally intended. Well, this movie sure ups the grimness quotient. Not to say that there aren't a lot of laughs sprinkled in as well, but this is a story about desperate people in *extremely* desperate situations.

It's also quite violent. The single combats almost reminded me of Sin City in their brutality, while the melees racked up impressive body counts. Our heroes' *direct* body count was easily double digits; the collateral damage caused (arguably) by their actions probably went up to four digits worth of bodies. But that's as nothing to what the bad guys do. I am reminded of a phrase from back in the early days of LARP (the second Rekon, to be precise): "Negligent Genocide". Brrrrr...

On second thought, Sin City is the wrong comparison. Mal reminds me of The Spirit, in his ability to take just *insane* amounts of punishment, and keep getting back on his feet to take another shot.

The movie is set several months after the TV show ended, and the status has not remained quo. The pieces aren't where they were left, though it's easy enough for the long-time fan to pick up roughly how they got where they now are. The TV show often suffered from "reset button syndrome". Just when you thought a relationship or characterization was going to progress, it backslides at the end of the episode. Not so here. *All* the major relationships change, and no one finishes the movie as quite the same person they started it as. Well, except Jayne, who I think is immune to introspection :-)

Although the relationships do progress, I don't think that non-Firefly fans are going to really appreciate that aspect. Given the large cast of characters, Joss does a lot more "telling" than "showing". I could easily see a civilian missing the brief indication in Act I that indicate that Zoe and Wash are a happily-married couple. And not knowing that simple fact would guarantee they miss a lot of subtly-handled character business in Act III.

The film reminds me in a strange way of The Wizard of Speed and Time. Serenity is, on a metaphorical level, about nothing so much as the process of its own creation. Mal/Joss gets obsessed with getting a message out to as many people as possible. In order to do so, he and his crew have to undergo great struggle and sacrifice, losing some of their principles, and even disguising themselves as something very other than their true nature. It's a message that says you shouldn't just lay down and die when others tell you to. And the only way to successfully get that message out is by the unshakable forces of belief and love. I fear that, like TWoSaT, Serenity will be much-loved by fans, and never heard of by the general public.

I'm hoping that the low resolution of the film stock was just because they were showing us a work-print, as opposed to being a creative decision. It looked like video blown up to movie screen proportions.

I didn't notice any direct lifts of dialogue from the series (kestrell was very disappointed not to hear "big damn heroes" at least once). There were a number of oddly-familiar situations, though. River is pursued by a charming-but-creepy black man, who has a disturbing philosophy, but who is competent enough to threaten the entire crew. Mal has a fist fight on the very edge of a mechanistic abyss. The crew pull a job that is interrupted by a Reaver attack, but Wash saves the day with a clever-yet-dangerous aerobatic maneuver. None of it an *exact* copy, but familiar nonetheless.

Oh, thinking back on the recently-released preview, though it does have a goodly share of spoilers, 90% of it is from the first 30 minutes of the movie, so there's still *plenty* of surprises left. Joss remains an expert at setting up a situation that you think will go left, but which suddenly takes an utterly appropriate hard right. All of the series regulars do indeed appear in the film in significant roles, though not all of them have *large* roles, nor exactly the ones that you might expect going in.

All in all, I enjoyed it a great deal. I'd certainly like to see more, but if this is Serenity's last outing, at least they went out with a bang.

EDIT: Another observation I forgot. Joss is a big LotR fanboi. I occasionally thought to myself "nice shot of Rivendell" or "nasty orcs, man" :-)

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I loved the grin. I think they had to cut the tape because Joss was about to cry.

I am looking forward to the cleaner, prettier final cut, with music in all the right places. It's amazing what a good soaring orchestral piece will do to get one over rough spots in the action.

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You got posters?! GRRR!! *jealous*

River is pursued by a charming-but-creepy black man, who has a disturbing philosophy, but who is competent enough to threaten the entire crew.

Yes, I'd noticed that -- enough so that I am forced to wonder if it was originally intended to be the same character...

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