Ghostt revisits Serenity
“Time for some thrilling heroics”
I unwittingly stumbled across Serenity in a video store back in 2006 (for the kids, a video store is a magical place where people used to rent movies…). In case you’re new ‘round these parts, Serenity is the other masterpiece written and directed by Joss Whedon. I knew very little of Joss Whedon or of Firefly (the cancelled television show that sparked the movie), but the cover and the ironic title set off my nerd radar something fierce. I remember becoming damn near giddy as I watched it for the first time; the action, the humor, and the sci-fi was right up my alley. Serenity sits tight in my top 10 list of movies, which is no small feat, me being a cynical sonamabitch.
I have thought a lot about Serenity the last 6 months due to an unhealthy, obsessive anticipation for a little indie film by the name of the Avengers. I generally watch Serenity a few times a year, but this year, I was no longer just ‘watching’ Serenity; I was picking every scene apart and examining the dialogue and catching subtle comments that are easily missed. I was surveying the action scenes to see if Whedon could handle the kind of action needed for the Avengers. I was critically looking to see if what people were saying was true that his movies were ‘not cinematic enough’ and ‘look as though they were filmed for TV’ (which I don’t get). I was desperately trying to get into Whedon's head so I could figure out the Avengers.
As much as I loved Serenity, I was acutely aware that Whedon’s style was not for everybody. My wife didn’t get Serenity and turned her nose up at it like she was watching some crap like the Dark Knight (just kidding, Nolanites) or Green Lantern (not kidding, nutjobs). I figured Avengers would be a love it or hate it type movie, and was pleasantly surprised that the majority of the world loved and embraced it.
As I watched Avengers on opening night, I found myself thinking about Serenity, and noticed some interesting parallels to the two movies. The first and most obvious is the team ensemble. Whedon's penchant for team ensembles is unrivaled. Whedon captures well the complex dynamics that go on between people when they are put together in a team. In both movies he established a hierarchy and then constantly challenged the hierarchy. He gets how to illustrate the tension of working with other people in high stress situations and then he mixes it with humor at just the right time to relieve the tension.
The more striking parallel of the two films may be the villains. There seemed to be a common equation in both movies with respect to the villains:
A solo antagonist who is the primary physical threat + a force behind the scenes that is pulling the strings and manipulating the solo antagonist + a faceless, non-verbal army of goons.
In Serenity the main physical threat is an assassin known as the Operative, while in the Avengers it is Loki. They are both dangerous solo threats, not easily defeated by any one team member; however, they are also both not the ones pulling the strings, as they are both being manipulated by an outside force. In the Operative's case it is Alliance, in Loki's case it is Thanos. Then there is the random army of nonverbal goons. In Serenity they are they are the Reavers while in Avengers it is the Chitauri. These two armies are warriors put in the movie to look scary but have their asses handed to them by the heroes. Nothing wrong with that. One last thing, towards the end of both movies, the each solo antagonist becomes a bit more sympathetic as we find out that they too are being manipulated by outside forces.
Both movies flow so well. Whedon truly has a gift for story telling. In both movies he makes you care about all of the characters, which is not easy with so many characters. Whedon also brings a sense of 'cool' to a movie that would make Tarantino jealous. I feel like I need to say which one I liked better, but I can not yet do that. That will have to wait until I watch Avengers numerous times on blu-ray.
And now, some fun quotes!
"This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then - explode." - Capt. Malcolm Reynolds
"Can I make a suggestion that doesn't involve violence, or is this the wrong crowd for that?" -Hoban 'Wash' Washburn
"Ain't logical. Cuttin' on his own face, rapin' and murdering - Hell, I'll kill a man in a fair fight... or if I think he's gonna start a fair fight, or if he bothers me, or if there's a woman, or if I'm gettin' paid - mostly only when I'm gettin' paid." -Jayne
"Boy, it sure would be nice if we had some grenades, don't you think?"
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