Lost In Translation

Joss Whedon did the best he probably could do in bringing Firefly to the big screen. Nearly everyone I have talked to, from hardcore fans of the show to people who had never heard of it before, enjoyed Serenity. Given the time constraints of a movie, he succeeded in carrying over and further exploring the major themes, and extending the overarching plot. Yet, Serenity also demonstrates the limitations of the big screen.

The biggest stylistic difference between the series and the movie is the downplay of the Western patterns. One of the my favorite scenes from the show is the shot of a low-flying Serenity scattering the horses at the end of the intro. It's a juxtaposition of the two genres that dominate the show - science fiction and western. In Serenity, the Western was de-emphasized and the focus was on action-packed space opera. It left behind the drunken brawls, the horses, backwards hillfolk, dusty saloons, the theme song, and even Mal's brown coat.

Also sacrificed was the sense of loneliness on the frontier. Some of the most beautiful scenes from the series were the shots of Serenity firing off with her stern a-glow in the silence of space with violins playing and bluegrass strings strumming in the background. They made her name ring true. In the movie, we get action, and lots of it, but little of what it's like to live in the quietness of barely-colonized space. Or the risks it entails, or the sorts of personalities that find their way out there.

Joss Whedon is a story teller. He takes his time in advancing the events that happen in the worlds he creates. In the process, he develops realistic characters and relationships between them, even if the world they live in is highly speculative. I can't help but think that people who see Serenity without watching Firefly first, even those who enjoy it, don't know what they missed out on. The transformation of River from mentally disturbed girl-in-icebox to Reaver-killing machine likely would have, and ideally should have, taken another two seasons to develop at least. We were being fed periodic small morsels - her dancing on Jiangyin, the confrontation with Badger, her blind marksmanship on Niska's space station, and her interactions with Early - to whet our appetite, and with each bite, she was growing into the most dynamic character on the show. Yet, in Serenity she reached the endpoint in a mere 119 minutes. For someone new to the 'verse, it would be tough to maintain the illusion that River was just a helpless girl when going back to watch Firefly.

Similarly, someone with no knowledge of Firefly would probably think that Serenity was a great space opera without knowing anything about the characters or the changes they've been through. They would be ignorant of Jayne's struggle with loyalty, Simon's slow acceptance of his status as a fugitive, and the nuances of Mal and Inara's relationship. While Whedon has shown that he can make a successful movie, he has the ability like few others to create magic in television. Movies cannot adequately develop the depth needed to fully develop each character in an ensemble cast. Though it won't happen, I'd certainly prefer more television from him, even a different series, than more sequels. My advice to any would-be Serenity watchers: watch Firefly in a marathon session before watching Serenity.

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I would not recommend a

I would not recommend a full-fledged marathon session before watching Serenity; viewing a couple episodes would be less imposing while still establishing the helpful background.

On top of that, however, as you point out, Serenity is a different animal... it was created to be appreciated on its own merit and it'll continue from there (if all goes well.)

The commentary in the post was good, though... I had not consciously noticed that the overt Western nature of the TV series did seem to be downplayed... except for the odd language and the backdrop of Western ideals.

This gets me thinking, too... one of the interesting things about Firefly was how it was shot... now I'm trying to remember to what extent these characteristics carried through to the film. I guess that's something specific to look for when I see it a 3rd time.

"Movies cannot adequately develop the depth needed to fully develop each character in an ensemble cast."

Hmm. I guess that might explain a couple things.

I read it, though I will say

I read it, though I will say you might have chased potential readers off with the gratuitous anime reference. That, and your review is really long. :mrgreen:

That would just make it even

That would just make it even more gratuitous... that is, if you weren't lying! Admit it - you had a huge crush on Kaji! :wink:

Bah! Nobody read my review.

Bah! Nobody read my review. :razz:

Other than burying the final

Other than burying the final bits of respect I had for Gainax, I choose to remember very little of that series.

Oh yeah. Duh. But I hated

Oh yeah. Duh. But I hated Evangelion, doesn't that count for something?

I made a gratuitous anime

I made a gratuitous anime reference?

Mal's brown coat was in the

Mal's brown coat was in the movie.

Other western elements: Quickdraw, shoot-out over californian prarie. An there certainly was a bar brawl.

I mean, you're right. My biggest complaint was the shortening of the scene with Jayne playing his guitar quietly with the crew around the fire. That was the breather, the we're all alone out here, that Joss originally wrote and should have kept.

I would agree with the end

I would agree with the end of your comment. I heard about it long ago, but I really discovered Firefly the week before seeing the movie. I watched the series three episodes at a time, four-five days in a row, then went to the theater the day after I was finished with the DVDs. Needless to say (I think), I was kicked in the guts by the movie in a way I would have never imagined.

This kind of experience is so rare I can't but agree with the advice of seeing the series prior to watching Serenity. If only, for the characters, I love them so much, but there are so many other things to love in that 'verse. =)

The whole show, and the movie... they just work.

I would not agree: I did not

I would not agree: I did not see Firefly before seeing Serenity.
I wanted to see if the movie was a good one and could stand on its own: for me it worked as I thoroughly enjoyed it!!

I have started recently to see the TV series and it is absolutely great. I will probably watch the film again and go deeper into its comprehension.