I am sated

I've seen three movies in as many days. Well, technically, two movies in three days, one twice. Still, I'm movied-out.

I saw Serenity twice, of course. I should have known that no movie would live up to my expectations, though. The second time, I kept clarifying the points that had aroused vague dissatisfaction in me the first time 'round. Hm. Can I do this without ruining it for those what haven't seen it yet? Is there anyone who reads this that hasn't seen it yet? OK, I'll try to be vague, but if you haven't seen it yet and you want to remain untarnished, drop everything and go see the damn movie now. This'll be here when you come back.

OK. I mean, I did like the movie, I'm glad it was made. But...

1) Of the two deaths, one fit and one didn't. I mean, if this were a game, and these were your characters, which death would you be happy with? One was lacking story-juice, to use a friend's lovely phrase. There're movies where bad things happen to good people and life is unfair and arbitrary and generally bleak. Then there are movies where 90-lb girls kick the shit out of ravening hordes and still get to dramatically pose, unscratched, against a backdrop of explosions. Mixing those two genres leads to dissonance.

2) For some reason, the "future-hick" dialog style seemed jarring instead of unfamiliar but natural.

3) After hearing from people who saw the movie without seeing the series, it seems that the movie didn't provide enough background to stand alone, while at the same time changing some stuff that the series had established. Examples off the top of my head: a) Simon's confrontation with Mal seemed not to fit with how things had been going by the time of "Objects in Space." b) You needed to have seen the series to understand Zoe at the end. Without that context, it seemed like she didn't care. c) What happened to the hands-of-blue guys? The series didn't give the impression that they were after River for something she knew, but because of what she was. But in the movie, when The Big Secret came out, she's of no interest to them any more.
In fairness, I don't know what could be done to totally fix this, and it's hard to deal with that many characters in a relatively short movie and make you care about them all.

4) The whole idea of important information existing in only one instantiation is getting obsolete even today. The initial recording, sure, you can see why. Afterwards? Why not blanket the solar system with copies? Leave them in caches. Broadcast it to whoever you can... why is reaching everyone at once such a goal? Again, even today people are pretty inclined to not believe media, or at least believe that it can be altered (if The Operative were such a fanatic, wouldn't that be his first reaction at least?). Hell, you find people still believing that the moon landing was faked. And while the Alliance is supposed to be a democracy (at least, they talk about Parliament and representatives), they've certainly played it as a less than ideal one. So, as in the current time, the real powers are probably almost scandal-immune. Also, some idea of public reaction would have been nice, some idea of consequences apart from The Operative saying "Yeah, it sort of worked." Well, I guess that's what sequels are for.

4) Corpses wouldn't remain intact through ablation. OK, this is minor.

--------

But onto the other movie I saw, which was a complete and utter delight. My face hurt from maintaining a delighted grin for two hours. Go see Mirrormask. Not so much for the story, which is Labyrinth, or Wizard of Oz, or any other variation on the dream-quest archetype (though of course, Gaiman retelling myths is never a bad thing) but for the visuals. And for possibly The Best Line in Any Movie Ever, which I won't repeat because I don't want to spoil it for you plus its impact relies somewhat on the buildup. I loved this movie.

(and part of it was set in Brighton and in the scenes on the balcony I think you can see the corner of the flat block where I lived for a year!)

13 comments:

  1. Terry said...

    I'm assuming it's the second one that lacked 'juice'. It really worked for me and a simple reason for that. When it happens, the fact that it gets 'skipped' really makes you think there is more to come. "Omigod, they didn't have time for juice on this character... That must mean it got bumped by the stuff yet to come... EEK!" And for the rest of the movie, I completely believed that anyone in the cast was fair game. I've never been so on edge at a movie before. These are characters I know and love, and thanks to that 'juiceless' ending, I really honestly felt that more were not going to make it out alive...

    For example, when said 90 lb girl tossed the bag back, I thought we were saying goodbye to her.

    But remember Joss has always been known for his genre-busting. Remember that he created a character in Angel specifically to die, because he really hated the TV rule that "Anyone in the credits can't die in the show."

    BTW, I've now completely ruined the movie for you. Shoulda turned back when Amy warned you. :)  

  2. Amy said...

    I'm assuming that everyone realizes that discussion is going to include spoilers. :) So the circumlocutory gloves are off... full disclosure ahead!



    Yep, I was talking about Wash. For me, I don't think like "they didn't have time to do this properly, therefore there must be awesome stuff coming!" That didn't happen for me at all. My reaction (and I didn't know anything ahead of time, btw) was shock, followed swiftly by a profound feeling of being ripped off. Killing a character in such an offhand manner just seemed like a cheap way to do something unexpected.

    I think Book's death established that the characters were mortal; I don't think Wash's death added anything to that. And no, I didn't expect River to live either. When she did, I was even *more* irritated at Wash's death; that the story had jumped the genre rails just so he could die, then gotten back on so River (and Simon, who was wounded just like Book) could live. Cheap.

    Maybe Mr. Whedon was hoping for your reaction... on the edge of your seat because the arbitrary plot hammer could come down on anyone. But for me to enjoy a movie there has to be some trust that it won't. I mean, any of the characters could have an aneurysm and just up and died at any time. It happens in real life. But it's not a good story in the Firefly genre.

    I don't mind character death. I really don't. It's one of the reasons I like Martin's Game of Thrones series so much. I disagree as much as Mr. Whedon with the credit-name/death rule. But when I'm being entertained, I like deaths to mean something. Even if Wash had died *so that* the ship could have landed safely, I'd have been happier. People die all the time for no good reason in real life. I want my escapism!  

  3. rilla said...

    Wash's death was pretty much heart breaking for me. I was totally shocked and the rest of the movie sort of "washed" over me. Since he was, quite possibly, my very favorite character I was pretty distressed.

    That being said, I had the same reaction Terry had about wondering whether any of them would make it out alive. Part of my was expecting a horrific TPK. I was relieved that nobody else suffered fatal injuries, but part of me sort of wishes (in a purely this-would-be-beautiful-and-sad-so-it-would-make-good-story point of view) that Zoe die in a vengeful blaze of gory glory. This could also be encouraged by my love of Wash.

    Also, Book's death, while sad, didn't affect me quite as much. This is partly because there are a few episodes in Firefly in which he is absent, or plays little to no part, and so I'm not as attached to him. I was sort of meta-movie-ing thinking, "If they're going to write out a character, unfortunately, he's the easiest one to write out."

    I agree with your reaction to Simon's confrontation with Mal; it did stick out, but I kind of appreciated seeing Simon showing some actual emotion. Of all the characters that seemed the most wooden, he was it. That sequence with the fight was a nice change.

    I have lots more opinions, but that's probably long-winded enough.  

  4. Johnathan said...

    I found the movie to be typical of Joss' style of writing, and agreeing with Rilla and Terry, that Wash's death made everyone else seem mortal and they could have died at any moment. He has pulled this trick before but this time it really did highlight that no one was immune.

    I mostly, though, wanted to address the "two by two, hands of blue". I had mentioned to Rilla that it was obvious that Joss had written the movie to highlight something that the first season of the series could only touch on (River's abilities etc.) to get people who wanted to know more (and capture the non series watchers) but allowed him not to blow his wad for a second or more season. Through various sources it has been stated that Blue Sun is a major antagonist and that he would spend some time working on that. Not having touched on it leaves him plenty to do with future seasons. I feel that the "hands of blue" are a way to consistently allude to this major antagonist.

    As for Shepherd Book. I think Joss got lazy or thought better of the character. I was really interested in the character from a mystery point of view if only because he is not "supernatural" like River is, which has gotten boring. Don't get me wrong, I think she is a decent character and allows Joss to highlight where he wants to provide meaning in screenshots (notably where she is outlined by the burning swing) that show his writing to be a little deeper than an entertaining prepubescent roleplaying power fantasty.

    As you would say: that is my $0.02

    p.s. Hi.  

  5. Suz said...

    Well, other than the first half hour of the movie which really disappointed me because it didn't have the feel of the series. Like the actors were getting to know their characters again and it took some groups acting scenes to get it together again. That feeling eventually came, but only because I was already interested in the characters from the series.

    When Book and Mal had the discussion when they first went there, I remember Book saying something and my thinking, "He's going to die." I wasn't shocked by the death of the village because I knew it was coming and it didn't really mean anything to me.

    When Wash died, (I'm tearing up just starting to write this) I didn't get it. I didn't know what had just happened to him and it came on the heals of my laughter about "leaf on the wind" because that was dang funny and soo Wash. I figured it all out, but I hated it. I didn't know if everyone was going to die. I honestly thought they would at points. This was the most meaningful part of the movie for me.

    And the guy leaving them all alive at the end - his particular brand of crazy only pertained to keeping the secret. It doesn't mean that the Alliance isn't still going to want River. And yes, I was waiting for "two by two, hands of blue".

    And I didn't like River's "okayness" after discovering Miranda. Crazy is crazy and she's crazy. She was much less crazy throughout the whole movie than she was in the series. She was crazy to a point of being unreliable in the series.

    There was a lot I really liked and really disliked in this movie. I don't think I'd go to see it again in the theatre.

    But I really, really want to see MirrorMask. [sigh]  

  6. Amy said...

    Well, I'm hearing that Wash's death *did* do what it was supposed to, then... shake you up and get you wondering who else might die. All I can say is it didn't do that for me. Like I said, Book's death was enough to break the "main character immunity" field. Not that that's very strong for me anyway... I'm too cynical/realistic/pessimistic, I guess, so in *any* movie I keep thinking "if this were realistic, they'd be so dead..."

    I still can't shake the image of Mr. Whedon sitting around thinking "OK, I've gotta do something really unexpected and shocking... hmm..." instead of "what would make a good story?"

    Suz sez: "And the guy leaving them all alive at the end - his particular brand of crazy only pertained to keeping the secret. It doesn't mean that the Alliance isn't still going to want River."

    Well, I thought his brand of crazy was making a perfect world. It went way further than keeping that specific secret. And Mal showed him something that violated the fundamentals of his belief that a perfect world could be imposed on people. He seemed to adjust awfully quickly. I'm picturing Keegstra being shown really convincing proof that the Holocaust happened. I don't think his *first* reaction would be "Oh dear, what a silly I've been, let these fine people go and give them what they want!" The Operative's "conversion" didn't ring true.

    And as I recall, he said "I told them that Simon and River Tam were no further threat... the damage is done." or something of that nature. I mean, I agree that that seems a *really* strange thing to say if he knew (and why wouldn't he?) that she was a psychic assassin. The Miranda thing was only a tiny little reason to want her back.

    Hm. Maybe I should do another blog entry. :)  

  7. Amy said...

    Oh yeah...

    John sez: "I think she is a decent character and allows Joss to highlight where he wants to provide meaning in screenshots (notably where she is outlined by the burning swing) that show his writing to be a little deeper than an entertaining prepubescent roleplaying power fantasty."

    I'm not sure why you think he needs River to do this. The burning swing shot could have been effective with any of the characters:

    Kaylee: She'd played with the children of Haven, almost a child herself
    Inara: Contrasting her smooth poise and beauty with the chaos and brutality of war... also the sheltered courtesan faces harsh reality
    Zoe: (if you've seen "Heart of Gold") because she's thought about having children and knows what war can do
    Simon: A doctor mourns the senseless waste of human life
    Jayne: There's some things even he wouldn't do
    Wash: The perennial joker is silenced by tragedy

    Now I feel like Steve Martin in Roxanne with the "20 ways to insult my nose" challenge. The point being, I don't think River is near as interesting as the other characters. Her craziness and "talents" are just too convenient. *There's* the prepubescent roleplaying power fantasty, IMHO.

    Man, I should stop before I talk myself out of liking the series. :)  

  8. Terry said...

    Eh, just the fact we can have this conversation about Firefly/Serenity makes me love it even more. :)

    And for the record, I do see Amy's point. The cast from this show has ALWAYS reminded me of a tabletop gaming group. And I know if I was playing Wash, I'd be like "Uhh... that sucked."

    But that death is a big reason why I'm giving this movie a big thumbs up. I've never had the empathy for a cast like this one (I LOVE these guys) and I've never felt like 'anything can happen' in a movie like this. After Wash, I really did believe Mal, Zoe, Inara or Jayne (ok, maybe not Jayne) could die right now.  

  9. rilla said...

    Re River and her Sanity: I think that there's a lot of potential for her to continue to have periods of mental instability as other secrets need to be discovered. I mean, it's not likely that the alliance only did one horrific thing... there's probably plenty. I'm also okay with it if she does remain mentally stable. From the info we're given, she was perfectly sane before she was sent to the "special school," so I wouldn't mind if she really was fixed now. I do agree though that she was a little more together in the movie than she was in the series, although she seemed to be getting much more coherent and reliable as the season progressed, so one could interpret this as a natural step.

    Re Oddness in the first 30 minutes: For me, part of the feeling of displacement was simply me trying to get my bearings. I was trying to figure out which crew members were playing evolved aspects of their characters and which were playing themselves as I knew them. I'm not sure whether this incongruety is because the actors were feeling uncomfortable or whether I was feeling uncomfortable... maybe it was both. (Am I the only one who though Kaley looks sweeter with an extra 15 lbs? Am I the only one who noticed this?).

    Re The Agent: Honestly, I think that Joss just wanted to wrap up the movie and this was the easiest way. I didn't see a lot of logic in him helping them get back on their feet and on their way. I suppose he could have been touched by Mal's mercy (unlike the Agent, Mal would never kill a helpless man) or perhaps, upon watching the footage, he truly did have a moment of revelation into the totalitarian nature of the alliance and thought twice about his allegiance to them. But, I do agree that if he was truly a fanatic, it shouldn't have been so easy for him to aid them instead of kill them.

    I think that's part of the problem with having merciful/just characters as the heroes. It's hard to have a happy ending when such gruesome events are taking place: Scenario One: Mal kills Agent - Serenity is still torn to shit and we all know he would never leave his ship behind. Scenario Two: Agent kills Mal: TPK here we come. Scenario Three: Mal and Agent both live but Agent continues to swear vengeance: Still the problem with Serenity and the additional bonus of fighting through a whole crapload of soldiers. Scenario Four: The way the movie actually ends... it may ring a little hollow, but it was the easiest way for Joss to have them escaping the alliance yet again.

    I mean, I *did* want them to get away, so it's hard to nitpick at the incongruety that allowed them to. Maybe if there had been an extra two minutes of footage of explanation or of a tight close up of the agent suffering a mental break-down or an emotional outburst... maybe then it wouldn't stand out so much. But the con to that, of course, is that we've got two minutes of screen time on a character that isn't as interesting as the main characters when we really want to see how their coping with their life and death situations.  

  10. cenobyte said...

    I hate it when I can't read the blog and the comments because I haven't seen the movie because I don't go to movies in theatres anymore.

    But if you've never watched The Princess Bride with a soon-to-be-six-year-old, you should do so. Renews your faith in why you bought the book, the movie, and the collectible card game.

    I'm kidding. I never bought the collectible card game, which I only assume exists.  

  11. Terry said...

    "Am I the only one who though Kaley looks sweeter with an extra 15 lbs? Am I the only one who noticed this?"

    JEWEL STAITE
    Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
    For Radio Free Entertainment
    September 15, 2,005

    ML: Is it true that you intentionally gained weight for your Firefly role?

    JS: I did. I was asked to put on weight. [Firefly creator Joss Whedon ] felt that Kaylee would be a more voluptuous type of girl. He wanted her to look like she really enjoyed life. She really indulged in all that life had to offer, which I appreciated. I'm naturally thin. I'm 23. My metabolism is incredibly fast right now. I'm sure things will change. And so he asked me to put on 15 to 20 pounds. So I did. I put on about 15 pounds. And I ate and I ate and I ate and I ate for about three weeks. They only gave me three weeks, And then I was on set. And I struggled to keep it on for the whole duration of the series. And then I lost the weight naturally after we were canceled. And when we got greenlit to do Serenity, Joss said, "By the way, don't worry about it, I'm not going to ask you to do it again." Because it was tough for me! It was hard. It made me feel sluggish. It just wasn't natural for my body type. And you know, when you're doing something like that, when you're force feeding yourself, when you're eating when you're full, you're eating before you go to sleep, it's not entirely healthy. And I can't imagine what my cholesterol level was like, because all I was eating was cake and ice cream and bacon and burgers and fries dipped in mayonnaise. I'm telling you, I was gorging myself!

    ML: When was this element of the character presented to you?

    JS: Well, basically, when I read the breakdown of the characters before I auditioned, and I read Kaylee's synopsis, she was described as chubby. And I thought, "Well, I'm not chubby. I wonder if I'm going to get this?" And when I did get the role, immediately they said, "Listen, before we move forward, this is something that Joss requires. This is something that he wants to see in the role. Would you be willing to gain a few pounds?"  

  12. Marko said...

    Wash! *sob* WHY!? KHAAAANNN!!!
    Very frustrating. Still angry.  

  13. Alan said...

    So, finally saw Serenity and I feel the need to blurt/respond.

    I really didn't see any oddness in character or dialog, I just sat back and off I went on the trip to that world.

    Book's death. So? You mean Book was a main character? Since when? Sorry, but I always saw Book as a tacked on part of the series that didn't fit. I never considered him to be a main character and in fact I tend to forget that he is even part of the series. Good on Joss for tying up loose ends. I guess I also had a meta-movie feeling to that one.

    Wash. Okay, I forgot the kind of writing Joss does. Silly me. Once I saw the death, I paused, not for dissatisfaction with the death but more because my reaction was immediately, "So... Joss... writing hasn't changed -sigh-." Wash was, for me, the first main character to die and I feel he did so after a great achievement, namely putting the ship safely to the ground. I was under the impression that all would have died if not for Wash. I was disappointed but that was more of a regular "Oh damn, a good character died" feeling.

    With regard to Amy's comment that "Simon's confrontation with Mal seemed not to fit with how things had been going by the time of 'Objects in Space.'": I feel that the confrontation was natural given what was being asked of River. We have seen that where his sister is concerned, Simon is overly protective, and I can't help but feel that the bounty hunter would have increased this rather than decrease or even maintain the existing level.

    I didn't really feel that River was either cured or out of the realm of pursuit. I felt that River was saying that she felt better, not that she was cured. I also felt that we had seen the parlimentary agent of the alliance dealt with - the agent of those with secrets to keep. I felt that this plot line was completely independant of the gents with the snazzy gloves - which I admit did colour my initial reaction to the movie as I felt that they just *had* to show up in the movie.

    So there you have it, my initial reaction to the movie in its abbreviated form (although still far too long). I think a second watch is in order.  

 

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