Saturday, May 28, 2016

TV/Movie Talk - Firefly and Serenity

Well, it’s finally time to show some occasional fondness for the man known as Joss Whedon. He’s known for things like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and some indie movie called The Avengers. Then there’s this not-well-known property, Firefly. For those who don’t know, Firefly is the one show of Whedon’s that has kind of has a cult following. Whedon took the final frontier of space and literally made a western of it. Unfortunately (to its fans), it was one show that didn’t receive more accolades than it could have gotten. I think I may be to blame as well since I missed out on this entirely.

The show debuted on FOX September 20th, 2002, my birthday. It then ended a few episodes later in December 2002. That has got to be one kick in the face. I missed out on this show since it aired on Friday nights. While it was on, I was in a marching uniform playing quads and trying to look good while doing it. I don’t think I ever saw an episode until it aired on the Sci-Fi Channel. I think it’s possible that I didn’t watch an episode until I found the DVD set at the library in 2011. Now, I did see Serenity, the blockbuster continuation, before I saw an episode of the series. It was playing on MTSU’s movie channel back in 2005 and I tuned to see it without knowing anything about it.

This is one show I’ve wanted to revisit for some time. For the past couple of weeks, I went on Netflix and more or less watched the whole thing. There are only 14 episodes, so it wasn’t a hassle. I watched Serenity afterwards. I actually bought this when our local Movie Gallery was going out of business. The show and movie take place about 500 years in the future. Earth was used up, so humanity took to the stars in order to live. They found worlds and terraformed them to make them habitable. A civil war broke out between the rich and poor planets with the rich (the Alliance) winning. We follow the crew of the Serenity a few years after the war ended. The crew, led by Malcolm Reynolds, does jobs that are sometimes not so law-abiding. Things begin to change when they let some new passengers on board.

Even though the show only lasted 14 episodes, this was good. First, there’s the premise.  We’re off in space but we aren’t centering on some Federation or a good rebel squad. We follow some folk who aren’t exactly good guys. I can’t call them all bad folk… well, Jayne’s a douche but he is a lovable, funny douche. If anything, you can just call them folk. The Alliance isn’t some evil entity either. You do find out the some in the Alliance aren’t good in the series and movie though. It also stays somewhat grounded. The closest we get to any weirdness is the Reavers, a group of ravenous men in space.
River Tam: Cool but crazy.
Simon Tam: Stiff but funny.

All the characters are pretty cool and interesting. They all had something different to bring to the table. It’s kind of tough to say who my favorite is since they all had their strong points. I did think the acting was on point for the most part. We get some growth with them but not a lot. This was an unfortunately short season, after all. I did think the different stories they came up with worked for the most part. I also liked the western aspect of the show. It does provide something different from other sci-fi related franchises. I thought the fusion of different cultures on the show was pretty interesting as well. They even had some memorable swear words though I think y’all can find them yourselves.

I did recognize some recognizable faces in smaller roles. I saw was Mark Sheppard (Battlestar Galactica and Supernatural) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men).When she popped on the scene, I think I almost turned into a wolf, I’m not sure. The action was good for the most part. You had some standard western antics as well as a little space action. The special effects look fine for a TV show from 2002. I do like the look of the Serenity. Lastly, the theme song is pretty cool. It’s pretty memorable and fits the western feel of the show. The music in the show itself also has that feel as well.

I do have to say that there’s not a lot of bad to the series. There are some episodes that are just okay. They’re not bad, but they aren’t the best either. Some action scenes aren’t that good. It’s mostly a couple in the beginning of the show. They do get better as the show moved along throughout the season. It does get a little clichéd at points, but this is primetime TV. You’ll find clichés everywhere.
Wash: "They don't like me? Everybody likes me!"

Even though the show was good to some, it still got cancelled. It got low ratings on FOX which is known for being harsh to sci-fi shows not called The X-Files. Being aired on Friday nights and out of order didn’t help either. Did someone just want the show to fail? I guess I’ll never know that. Even though it does end too soon, it does end on a bit of a high note with the crew going off somewhere. Luckily, fans didn’t have to wait long for a conclusion to the show.

Serenity was released in theatres in September 2005. It didn’t do well enough at the box office even with its low budget. The movie continues some plot points from the series. The biggest one is the plot involving River Tam, the Serenity’s residential crazy girl. Things start to heat up when the Alliance sends a ruthless operative to find River. She’s a telepath and she knows a dark secret that the Alliance wants hidden. Meanwhile, her moments of crazy are getting to the crew.
"All right, crew. We're going to a place that involves death and blood. Who's with me?"

This was a nice addition to the series. It picks up sometime after the show ended and doesn’t feel like anything is missed. Even if you’ve never seen the show, it’s pretty easy to get what’s going on.  I thought everyone looked and acted the way they should. We even get some growth with the characters. I also liked the story to this. It really goes into different avenues that the show didn’t have the chance to go to. We got government conspiracies, Manchurian Candidate-like stuff, and kung fu. We even get a pretty chilling origin for the Reavers. The dialogue is also as good as it was on the show.

I thought Chitwetel Ejiofor was a nice villain. He was ruthless but had a certain charm to him. I did like how that got ultimately resolved. The action got dialed up in a big way here. Whedon had a budget to work with and it shows for the most part. Things look well shot. The fight scenes were pretty cool. The space scenes looked pretty awesome especially the final “battle.”
While I loved Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther, Ejiofor was originally my choice.

There isn’t a lot of bad to it either. I thought a couple of effects looked kind bad. That Reaver ship that was chasing the crew at the beginning looked off to me. It also had a couple of dull moments in the beginning. Other than that and a couple of small things (why do the good folk have to die???), this was good. It works well as a continuation and a conclusion to the series.

Finally, here are my six favorite episodes from the show. There ain’t many, so this should be easy.
1. Serenity – It’s the pilot. Here, we’re introduced to the crew as they take on some new passengers.
2. Jaynestown – The Serenity goes to a planet where Jayne is hailed as some folk legend.
3. Ariel – Simon concocts a plan for the crew to steal some medical supplies from an Alliance hospital.
4. Objects in Space – Final Episode. A bounty hunter boards the Serenity in order to find River.
5. Out of Gas – An important part goes out on the Serenity. While Mal is fixing it, he has memories of his first encounters with the crew.
6. War Stories – Mal and Wash get kidnapped by a crime lord the crew screwed over.

In the end, Firefly was a show that didn’t get its chance to thrive. It brought something different to what’s been shown on TV. Had it been on another night and not screwed around with, it might have lasted longer. Heck, I do think it could have done decent on the Sci-Fi Channel at that time. Serenity did serve as a nice conclusion to the show, so we did get that. Well, I’m outta here. Peace, God Bless, and don’t worry because “I’m a leaf in the wind.”

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