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Serenity (2005)

I think for me the main problem with the film is in its first act where it tries to have its cake and eat it too. According to the Wiki, Joss was tasked to "explain the premise of a television series that few had seen without boring new viewers or longtime fans," and in that i think he failed - people who have never seen the series before are bombarded with a lot of characters and back story so quickly that it comes off as confusing and surface level. For die-hard fans, the tension between Mal and Simon/River is in direct contradiction to their relationship at the end of the series - first from the episode Safe, Mal goes back for Simon and River because "you're a part of my crew," yet in Serenity he treats them like guests and states directly "you ain't a part of my crew." second from the episode Objects in Space which feels like the episode where River proves her worth to the crew (although to be fair, the latter didn't air on FOX and was only available on DVD).

As a die-hard Firefly fan, the tension between Mal and Simon/River was so integrated into the first act of Serenity that it was hard to ignore and therefore got in the way of me getting truly immersed in the universe and the characters again, and it didn't help that actual character development throughout the film paled in comparison to character development in the series. And that's the second disparity between the die-hards and the newcomers - as a newcomer, the characters other than Mal and the Operator feel very one-dimensional and the relationships between any of them other than Simon and River and the aforementioned tension similarly feels one-dimensional. As a die-hard fan, the movie relies so heavily upon the audience interpreting what's happening on screen in the context of the various bonds and relationships between the characters from their intimate knowledge of the show, but that ultimately comes off as surface-scratchy and doesn't do justice to the characters or the series.

But i think that's the sacrifice that had to be made in order to drive the actual Story of the movie, and in that i think Joss was more successful in writing something that could appeal to die-hards and newcomers. You get an initial taste/reminder of Simon and River's story told in the context of the universe setting, you get a glimpse of the Reavers and people's attitude about it that sets up the big Secret Reveal on Miranda pretty nicely, and everything between is a decent blend of witty dialogue, signature Firefly action of a traditional/technology hybrid, and signature Joss blend of serious/humor amidst great visual set pieces.

the end result, then, is a compelling story with a mostly-skeletal form of the characters and universe that the television series created and unfortunately that means for me that the movie doesn't come close to living up to the series. but i always generally prefer TV series to movies anyway because everything has more time to develop, so given that bias and the bar that the movie set for itself coming from the origins of one of my favorite television shows of all time, i guess it was still pretty good.

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March 2017