“She’s about to damage my calm.”
Have you ever had a show that you fell in love with and then you realize that, obviously, not enough people fell in love with it along with you? Well, that’s not exactly how it happened with me and “Firefly.” Like “Freaks And Geeks” before it, I never watched a single episode of “Firefly” when it was first aired. But I watched it soon after it came out on DVD and couldn’t stop watching it. It’s one of the best sci-fi shows to ever hit tv and, like most great shows, it was canceled too soon.
Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and Angel, had a great idea. Put “Wagon Train” in space. Ok, so he wasn’t the first to come up with that idea. That would have been Gene Roddenberry. But he was among the first to do it so literally. (Unless, of course, you count the movie Oblivion and it’s sequel, which most people don’t.)
“Firefly” was the story of the crew of Serenity, led by Mal (Nathan Fillion), an ex-warrior in the revolution. His second in command is Zoe (Gina Torres) who served with him during the war. Her husband, Wash (Alan Tudyk), is one of the best pilots in the known universe. Jayne (Adam Baldwin) is a badass who, unfortunately, isn’t exactly the sharpest weapon in the sheath. Inara (Morena Baccarin) is not really part of the crew, but she may as well be. She’s a Companion. It’s kind of like a prostitute, but not quite. She actually trained for years to be a Companion. The main difference between a prostitute and a Companion (besides the capitol letter that I feel it needs to have) is that a Companion chooses her clients. And, of course, there’s Kaylee (Jewel Staite), a cute gear-head who can fix anything.
With the help of a few six guns and plasma grenades, they aim to do some mischief, but mostly for the greater good. They’re transporters who make their money not exactly legally. They’re bad guys, but they never do nobody no harm if they don’t have to.
And, yes, it all takes place in a strangely old West setting. In fact, after the war, the only two cultures that survived were Western and Chinese. So there are some long cussing sessions in Chinese. In fact, Tim League and his crew showed us a five-minute lesson with a relative of his wife’s teaching us how to cuss in Chinese. Unfortunately, I don’t remember any of them, but my favorite in English was “I will beat you until you squirt feces and urine.” (I know it ended in “piu see piu liu.” Heh heh.)
In the first episode of the show (and, sort of, the first ten minutes of the movie) the Serenity picks up a few new recruits. Simon (Sean Maher) is running from the Alliance because he’s just broken his sister, River (Summer Glau), out of a hospital. River has been mentally altered by the Alliance and turned into a perfect weapon. No one really knows why or how deep the damage is. But the Alliance wants her back at all costs. She has something they want.
The other new passenger is Shepherd Book (Ron Glass). He’s a preacher with a past that he keeps closer than his Bible. He knows a lot more about death and illegal activities than any preacher should know.
Serenity picks up pretty much right where “Firefly” left off. Inara has taken herself off of the ship because, despite their not so well hidden feelings for each other, she and Mal can’t stop fighting and hurting each other. Shepherd Book has also taken himself off of the ship to start up a colony of his own. (That wasn’t in the show, but it’s important to know because fans of the show were wondering where the hell he was.) The only thing that betrays where the show left off was the fact that River and Simon were, by the end of the show, pretty much accepted as part of the crew. (Simon more than River because he’s a doctor and she’s crazy.) At the beginning of Serenity the crew is wondering how they can drop them off at the next port.
Of course, they don’t drop them off at the next port and they end up getting tangled into a web of danger that reveals more about River’s mind than a lot of fans ever thought possible from a Joss Whedon film. After all, this is the guy who kept the whole “Key” thing from fans of Buffy for, what? Two seasons? People just kept asking, “When the hell did Buffy get a sister?!”
Having said that, this is a Joss Whedon film through and through. And all that that implies.
For those of you who loved the look of “Firefly” (and who didn’t?) it’s back in full force in Serenity. The handheld cameras on the digital effects. The out of focus effects. All there. (And they were all there before Battlestar Galactica got ahold of them! Fans of that show should watch “Firefly” to see where everything that it is came from.)
Everyone is awesome in the movie. Of course, they had a year to practice for it, right? But they also had five years off from these characters, so you might think that they would be a little rusty. No so. They’re all still there. That may be because Joss has been thinking about this movie for five years and he put his heart and soul into it, so they did, too. But I think the actors are so in tune with these characters that they can’t help but be great.
The new characters to the series, The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Mr. Universe (David Krumholtz) are equally good. The Operative is very creepy in an almost Tony Todd sort of way. He’s a badass, but he’s also sort of human. Mal can actually fuck him up if he’s smart. And Mr. Universe is…well…totally weird. And funny as hell.
We also get to see some old favorite characters that we never actually got to see in the original series. The Reavers finally get to play a big role in something besides scaring the piss out of everybody. And, damn, are they creepy. You actually get the idea as to why everyone is so scared of these guys. They’re evil. They are, as Zoe sort of puts it, an abomination.
There was really only one plot hole that someone in the crowd pointed out. But I won’t give it away because it comes at the very end. See if you catch it. If you don’t, e-mail me.
Jewel and Summer were at the screening tonight and they were as cute as ever. It was kind of weird seeing Summer actually act like a normal girl instead of a pent-up ball of crazy. She actually speaks! A lot! (ACTING!!)
Everybody had a lot of good questions for them: some fun (“What were your favorite hijinks on the set of the show or movie?”) and some that they couldn’t even answer (“What bit are you most proud of that is all yours and not Joss’?”). One girl even gave them pictures that she had drawn for them. Totally geeky, but really cool.
I think the question of the night, though, came from a little kid: “I just want to ask how old are you?” After laughing a lot, Summer said, “Not so old for you, baby.”
If you were a fan of “Firefly,” go see this movie. If you never watched the show, go see this movie. (Don’t worry. You’ll understand it and be into the characters.) If you’re a fan and are going this weekend, take some uninitiated friends. They’ll thank you for it. And so will Joss and his cast and crew. Maybe we’ll even get to see Serenity fly again! Summer and Jewel are hoping for at least a trilogy of films, but I think everybody would prefer that Fox pick them up again as a series. Look what they did for “Family Guy”! It could take the old “X-Files” time slot on Sundays. Screw the news!
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the hijinks questions, Summer’s favorite was when Nathan stole some crew member’s stuffed monkey and sent it on a trip around the country. He even cut off its thumb and sent it to the guy with a ransom note. Jewel’s was the first trailer they saw for Serenity where Mr. Movie Voice mispronounced two or three of their names.