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Since I found Serenity...

Since I've had a night to digest "Serenity," and poke around online to see what others are saying, I've come to a few more thoughts about the movie. But since not everyone is interested, and some who are might not have seen it yet, I'm sticking them in the "extended" section.

One of the major points of the movie is that Whedon started off with an ensemble cast of nine, and not all of them survive the movie. But neither of the deaths are simple throwaways.

The first one is almost a cliche. It serve to prove that the movie is, indeed, "serious" and to give some serious emotional investment to the remaining characters. It also leaves a lot of questions about that character unanswered, but life is rarely tidy.

The second, though, is so perfectly in tune with what one should expect from Joss Whedon, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. But it is to nearly everyone.

Whedon has said his secret is no great secret: give the audience what they need, not what they want. He refuses to cater to our wishes.

That second death literally comes out of nowhere. It's right after a very, very tense, exciting, frightening sequence. All the characters (and the audience) are all breathing sighs of relief, laughing, rejoicing in their survival. One of them even starts a wisecrack.

But it's never finished.

In that instant, everything changes. There's no last-minute heroics, no grand sacrifice, no greater good being served by that character's death. Right in mid-sentence, they're gone -- in a way that leaves no doubt that they're dead, and in a way that'll bring a brief instant of recognition to Buffy/Angel fans.

In the following battle, as nearly every single character is wounded, we find ourselves terrified that they, too, will die. There's no "they have to survive" feeling, no "they'll be fine" sense of comfort. They very well could die at any instant, and we know it. Joss has given us no promises, no warranty, no guarantees of any sort that any particular character (or, in fact, any of them at all) will survive. And that provides far more tension than in any other movie I've seen in a very long time. Three are shot, one poisoned, one slashed, and a fifth is shot, stabbed, beaten, and suffers all sorts of other injuries -- and at any moment, they know they could die.

And so do we.

And for those who despair about those that did die, don't worry. In the Whedonverse, death is not necessarily a career ender. In fact, in one case, it was a damned good career move -- Mercedes McNab's character was barely above an occasional background character up until Harmony Kendall was killed at the end of Buffy Season 3, but she came back in better and better roles -- until she actually became a regular on Angel.


Comments (9)

Per the second death, I don... (Below threshold)
Adam:

Per the second death, I don't think the human brain is intended to ever go through that again.
The extent of my nerddom for the Whedonverse comes mostly from absolute love the entire Angel series (less so Buffy, less so Firefly), but that particular character had stood out for me as one of my favorites in the entirety of the Whedonverse. I felt emotionally stunned, almost empty, after that scene. Your typical haute movie critic will of course throw it away as a cliche surprise death, but to anyone who watched the show it felt a huge knife in the heart. Not just because of what happened, but WHEN it happened. It's hard to go from proud/happy to devastated in literally less than a second.

Nonetheless, I sincerely hope the movie does well. I read most of the reviews over the weekend and thought all but one of the negative reviews was a poorly written hatchet job. "Joss steals everything," "This is just Star Wars," and "Science Fiction really sucks. Go watch the Constant Gardener" just doesn't cut it for me.

Here's hoping for 30 mil?

The book is out - and since... (Below threshold)

The book is out - and since I'll not have a chance to see the movie for a while, about all I can say is...

If the book's any indication, that movie's DAMN good. Normally the book incarnation of a movie sucks big-time, but this one? Wow.

Gotta get to the theater soon...

J.

"I am a leaf in the wind. ... (Below threshold)

"I am a leaf in the wind. See how I soar."

No one in the theater I was in expected the second death, but to be honest, I really didn't expect the first, either. I was hoping to find out the secrets that character kept before s/he died. Maybe that will be part of the sequel. Or maybe we'll just never know.

One thing I've noticed abou... (Below threshold)

One thing I've noticed about the negative reviews, from both professionals and amateurs, is that they seem to have come in ready to hate the movie.
Most of the negatives also seem to have missed the point about the young River's answer to her teacher in the opening sequence: They thought the Alliance was engaged in actual mind control, not that the girl was using a metaphor.
Nearly as many also missed the point about the Pax: It worked too well on 99.9% of the people, on the rest it had the complete opposite reaction from what was intended. Many negative reviewers thought the point of the Pax was to create the .1% reaction. That kind of mistake I put on their own reasoning/watching abilities. Maybe they are the .1% of the audience that Whedon's magic backfired on :)
Finally, the nuts that read politics into the movie. Out on the message boards, hoards of moonbats are squeaking about wingnuts, WMDS, yellowcake and who the real facists are (I am not making this up).

You're right; I DID feel th... (Below threshold)

You're right; I DID feel that tension as the other characters got injured.

I walked out of that movie in the same state I exited the Lord of the Rings movies when I first saw them: a state of bemusement, simply overwhelmed by what I had seen. It was too big for a simple "cool" or "sucks!" reaction. I do know I replayed the movie in my head all during the next day, though. Something that stays with you that long did something right.

Why, oh why, must every mov... (Below threshold)
Whitehall:

Why, oh why, must every movie have some Superchick Kung Fu fighting scene? Or, in this case, two?

My Deliberate Suspension of Disbelief refuses to suspend in such moments.

I know who the evil Alliance guy is supposed to be - Condi Rice.

Whitehall, in defense to th... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Whitehall, in defense to the Superchick Kung Fu fighting scene charge, it must be said that Joss Whedon pretty much invented the modern version of it with "Buffy The Vampire Slayer." His basic stroke of genius was to take the classic cliche' and reverse it -- have the girl hunt the monsters. All that followed owe him a huge debt -- and I'm talking about Xena, Tomb Raider, The Matrix, La Femme Nikita, Dark Angel, and a ton of others. So if The Grandfather Of The Superchick wants to use it again, I'm willing to indulge him.

J.

I have to agree with you Ja... (Below threshold)

I have to agree with you Jay. It was the rollercoaster ride that has me telling people, "You have to go see this movie. You're not going to believe what they do "

I liked the fact they didn't tell us Book's backstory. That way my, oh, imagination can fill in the blanks if I'm so inclned. I get to work for some of it.

Jay, I agree that in the Wh... (Below threshold)
ZP:

Jay, I agree that in the Whedonverse dying is almost a right of passage. But there was one death that occured in the past that did not fit that mold. And since you say you have the entire Buffy collection, I'm sure you'll know this one, the death of Jenny Calendar. Of everything Joss Whedon has ever done, that one death stood out. And in a way, that's how I took the second death in Serenity. It seemed too final for the Whedonverse.

By the way, you wouldn't happen to have the scoop on whether or not Joss was paying homage to the Buffybot and the troika villains with Mr. Universe's bride? Too similar, I thought, for any other reason.

Anyway, very cool blog. Nice write-up on Serenity. I hope the fans come out and can make this work. Joss has a mind for the uniquely brilliant, and I really hope he can continue on the big screen.




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