Stuff from WayBack . . . and Firefly, and Serenity

Totally and completely  unrelated photo
Totally and completely unrelated photo

Someone recently reminded me of a new offering by Joss Whedon . . . the movie Much Ado About Nothing.  Hearkening back to his Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Blog effort, this is another of Joss’s “I am bored; let’s do something” side trips.  I will probably watch it . . . maybe . . . sometime in the future . . . or so I thought until I found out it’s not translated.  

Probably blasphemy for me to admitting it, but not a fan of Shakespeare am I.  I wonder 

Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer  The Slings and Arrows of outrageous prose,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of pretense, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep

To die to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream of wondrous tales of robots and dragons.

I’m also not a Joss Whedon fan.  I am a Firefly fan, I liked the movie Serenity, I did not care for Buffy, liked Angel for a bit, thought Dollhouse was crap, did not care for the development of the plot in Dr. Horrible.  I have never been a fan of personalities, groups, identities, and so on.  I am a fan of individual pieces of music, individual movies, specific shows.  I don’t care who stars in them, who directed them, who wrote them, and even if I become aware of their identities, it does not mean I will automatically like other stuff they do.

So when I say I am not a Joss Whedon fan, I don’t mean I don’t like him (I don’t know him, so I don’t know if I would like him); it means I won’t like something just because he’s the one doing it.  Like everything else, it get evaluated on merit alone.

Non-Sequitor  . . . when I applied for being a contributor to Slice of SciFi, I was asked to provide examples of stuff I published.  Well, I didn’t (and don’t) have anything published, so, as example of my writing, I sent in reviews/opinions with regards to Firefly and Serenity (the movie, not the ship) I had posted in various discussions boards and forums.

Since some of those boards and forums are no more, I’m posting those below, that they may live a bit longer in the mind of some, and potentially be ignored by a larger audience than in their previous incarnation.

By the way, I did get the writing gig, but I always suspected it was because I was the only one who applied.  

The following three Serenity reviews/opinions, and subsequent opinion about Firefly coming back as a series, were written for various Firefly/Serenity forums and boards.  Be aware they contain spoilers.

Serenity – Review No. 1

First let me preface with saying that both my wife and I liked the movie. We liked it a lot, and have watched it at least as many times as we did the series (and we lost count of that).

BUT . . . there is always a but (one ‘t’ only please).

The dynamics between the characters had changed, and some of the behaviors were out of character with what we saw in the series.

The first was Simon, who seemed uncharacteristically hostile. Especially when they came back from the heist. If the series should have proven anything to him was that the best chance for safety was on Serenity.

The series stressed the love/family/loyalty theme, but in the movie it seemed to all fall apart.

Contrast the last scene in Objects in Space with Mal’s attitude before the bank heist. To an non-fan, he must have just looked like an a**hole. Come to think of it, he seemed like that to me as well.

And why, after the whole “We’re getting off the ship” thing, did Simon allow Mal to take River back to the ship? Why did Mal take her? And just before that, was he going to shoot her? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Even my favorite (Jayne) was made to act out of character for sake of the plot. What did he intend to do to River when he went into the storage room where she had been locked up? Was he no longer afraid of her?

Like that one, many of the plot points seemed contrived and unrealistic. The rest of the cast fared little better. Not for the movie itself, but to a fan that had followed these people’s adventures through 13 prior episodes.

And maybe that was the problem. The movie had to be a stand-alone effort for those idiots that had never bothered to pick up the series. But it also tried to feed the fan’s hunger. At best, it did both jobs just this side of mediocre.

I’m sure people not familiar with the series were somewhat lost in places, and many fans were scrambling to reconcile this new version of the ‘verse with the more familiar one of the series.

This is perhaps a good point to reiterate that I liked the movie. But in part it was my familiarity with the characters that made it work for me. And yet . . . it was not the same ‘verse.

I’ve read, and heard, many explanations as to why. I don’t buy any of them. Joss, whether asked to or of his own volition, changed both the dynamics of the characters, and their behaviors . . . except, perhaps the two he killed.

Right after watching the movie I got on a board (don’t remember which one), and vented my anger. Then, as now, I see those deaths as a cheap plot point. Perhaps his television roots showed through. Numerous shows will kill off a character when things get slow. From a fan standpoint, it does nothing to make me like the show, or movie, more.

The explanation that it served to put meaning into Mal’s words, or that it heightened the suspense at the end, is a rather thin one in my book.

I don’t watch these shows or movies to be reminded that life sucks, we are mortal, and good people die. I already know that. I watch these for the escape from all that.

Perhaps the most unforgiving part of all is that I, like other fans, will repeatedly watch both the movie and the series. Now, along with “Why the %^&$# did Fox cancel this show!?!?!“, I also scream out “Why the @&^%$ did he kill off Wash?!?!“.  

True, I don’t miss Book as much, and I can almost live with his death, especially since it was a hero’s death, but that was also a contrived plot point. What Joss accomplished is not giving “more meaning” to the film, but reducing the enjoyment I get out of watching the series.

Whenever I watch one of his scenes, it hurts to know Wash won’t be growing old with Zoe, won’t have little Washes, and Zoe will likely be alone. Yes, they are characters in a story. But the fans chose to make them a part of their lives.

On this point I think Joss blundered. He took more away than he gave back.

Oddly enough, I don’t go through the same feelings watching the movie. Perhaps because I see the series and movie as two separate entities that just happen to have similar characters. And hence my disappointment with the movie. Yes, it was great. Yes, I liked it. Yes, it beats all other SciFi movies out there.

But no, it did not satiate my hunger for Firefly. And I can easily say that at least six of the episodes were better than the movie.

If we get more movies, Serenity will just mark the beginning of a new series. Separate from the first, and likely not as good.

Of course, that is just my opinion.

~~o~~  End of Review #1  ~~o~~

Of course, people replied . . . opinions were shared, discussions were had, and I kept on posting.

Serenity – Review No. 2

I wonder if it was Universal’s decision to go away from an ensemble-type movie. Contrast the movie with the pilot for the series. The pilot essentially was an entity to itself (as were the rest of the shows), but it left you wanting more.

The movie, in my opinion, closes a lot of doors. The air of finality in the closing scenes of the movie is not conducive to non-fans wanting more. It comes across as an end of the story, not so much the end of a chapter.

Frankly, the “new” River should make them immune to anything that might get thrown their way. As much as I enjoyed the action, and the final shot of River with the dripping cutlery, Joss has made her larger than life. He made her bigger than all the other characters on there.

I know Joss has gone on record that both Wash and Book would be a part of any sequel. I’m thinking that was said to appease the fans, but I seriously doubt it could be pulled off in a movie. 

While it may work in the context of a series, where audiences can be groomed over a number of episodes, I have a hard time seeing it pulled off on a movie that would have to, like Serenity, live out there on its own.

One hope is that, creativity being what it is (generally lacking in mainstream TV and movies), there is still a chance something of the ‘verse will come alive in some incarnation or other. But, it’s already bordering on too long for the same actors to reprise their roles. I hold out some hope, but it is but a whisper of what I had, and the best I can hope for is different stories based on the same ‘verse.

Essentially I’m resigned to enjoying the treasure I hold in my DVDs. Like other movies I enjoy, Firefly and Serenity are slices of worlds, people, and situations that serve as an escape for my life. I may have wanted more, but that part is often best left to my imagination.

Ultimately Firefly and Serenity, and all the other movies I like, will still continue to provide the escape they were intended for. But, like those other movies, they already are at the point where the addition of more material may be more of a disappointment than a significant contribution to the legacy.

The movie made me see that, so in a way it did provide closure.

 ~~o~~  End of Review #2  ~~o~~

This next entry was in response to someone saying there will be more material, in one form or another.  Many are still holding out hope for the original cast coming back, but I see no chance of that happening, not back then, and certainly not now.

Serenity – Review No. 3

No doubt there will be more. I’m just saying that as far as I am concerned, anything short of the original ‘verse I will treat as something separate from the series.

Joss has already shown me he is willing to let go of parts of what made the original great. I don’t trust him not to take away more, so whatever he presents I’ll approach with suspicion, and a strong shield surrounding the memories of the original.

He has one chance to show me he has my best interests at heart. He may have a story to tell, but I will only listen to the point that he fulfills my needs. Past that he will lose me as a fan, much as many other series lost me once the entertainment value diminished.

Firefly was -*is*- something great. There was a small window for it to continue, and now it’s even smaller. I hold on to hope, but will not accept a modified substitute. If his next effort threatens my enjoyment of the original, as Serenity did, I will not be interested in the least.

As far as comics, while I have some enjoyment for them, I found the effort between the series and the movie lacking. I did not read it until after I saw the movie, and found it added nothing to my understanding of the situation as presented in Serenity. Plus, it did not “feel” like the characters of the ‘verse I was familiar with.

I repeat that Firefly is an escape for me. I identify with the troubles, conflicts, hopes, and fears of the characters. But I have no need to see them die, or crippled, or anything else that will essentially remind me of the horrors of life. I want to be reminded of the hope, the joys, the victories over adversities. I want the fantasy world.

If Joss is going to give me the “real” world, then have Mal shoot the Operative in the head, as he did with Dobson. If not the first time, surely the second time around.

Have the Operative give the command to destroy Serenity just before they engage the Reavers. Have River shoot Mal before he can get his gun trained on her (at the bar scene) – or did she “know” she was going to be put to sleep? Have Jayne be crippled after having a mini-harpoon stuck in his leg, and said leg stretched between the mule and the Reaver ship.

I could go on picking on the various inconsistencies, but I am willing to suspend belief and enjoy the promised ride. Having the “real” world thrust into the fantasy world breaks that suspension of belief, and makes me re-evaluate what it is I am watching.

Perhaps in that respect I am not a “true” fan. I will not to be blindly lead, as a puppy on a leash, to the whims of Joss, and to whatever destination fancies him.

He may have created the ‘verse, but it belongs to the fans as well. I, along with the rest of the fans, bought into the original premise, and if that is changing, it makes me re-evaluate what it is I am watching.

And the conclusion is that I am not watching a continuation of Firefly, but something different. Good, but different. So different that I may have to close the book on Firefly, and open a new one that starts with Serenity.

And this new book will be subject to the same stringent requirements I have for any new show that is going to try and claim some of my precious, and limited, time.

p.s. one of the bad things with writing, especially this kind of writing, is that it does affect my mood, stress level, and consequently my tone. If I sound overly harsh it is because I’m a little worked up, as I am whenever I try and fathom the unfairness of life, and realize that it is just life. There is no fairness or unfairness, and Joss did me a disservice in rubbing my nose in it.

 ~~o~~  End of Review #3  ~~o~~

As labeled, these are not so much reviews, as opinions . . . but they are meant to give feedback about the show and the movie, so “review” is what I’m sticking with.

This last Firefly/Serenity related piece presents my logic as to why I am one of those fans who have no interest in seeing the show or movie come back, or indeed for the story to continue.

Serenity/Firefly – Don’t Come Back

I’m going to blasphemy . . .

. . . I’m not to anxious for Firefly to come back. By this I mean a continuation of the characters and story from the original series in the Firefly verse.

Before stones are cast, and invectives slung my way, hear me out. There are two big reasons why I say this:

1) The original was, is, and is likely to remain one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I don’t believe that character dynamic, story line, and congruence of other factors can be repeated.

2) As much as I liked the movie, it did cap the story line. But more important, it changed the character dynamics from the original show, and of course, it killed off a few. While I can understand the reasons for Josh doing what he did (I say that, but not really), I am not willing to take the chance another movie will further alter the universe I’ve come to rely on as an escape from the drudgery of life.

Those two things combine add up to one big reason. As Firefly has grown in importance to me, I am less willing to risk changes to my understanding and appreciation of the verse.

Perhaps Fox actually did us a favor (not intentionally, of course). Perhaps it stopped at the time when the jewel was near perfection. A few more episodes, and there is the chance the jewel might have been marred, as much as enhanced.

Serenity the movie made me realize that. It scared me. As much as I liked it as a movie, it diminished my enjoyment of the series. Now, when watching the original episodes, I’m aware two characters are heading toward their eventual demise. The movie made it harder to watch the smiling Wash and caring Book, knowing they are not long for this world.

It took a little away from my enjoyment of the episodes.

I’ve handled it somewhat by compartmentalizing the series and movies as two separate entities, shutting one out when I watch the other, but it’s a poor solution at best.

As much as I would like another movie, series, miniseries, I dread other changes are in store that might alter my enjoyment of the series . . . because I don’t have confidence Josh has my best interests in mind.

Serenity showed me that. So no, I don’t want to know what happens to our beloved characters.

Play with some new cast, on some new adventure, on another ship, but leave this treasure alone.

 ~~o~~  End of Opinion  ~~o~~

So, there . . . my opinion of a show and movie that I like.  

BUT . . . I am nothing if not long-winded.  I mentioned in the opening that I did not care for Dr. Horrible and it comes down to a single thing . . . (* * * spoiler * * *) Joss kills off Penny.  

At the time I wrote a semi-tongue-in-cheek opinion at a site called Deep Geeking (then associated with the Slice of SciFi crew).  The piece was aimed at fans of Joss Wheaton who equate him on par to some deities.  The site is no longer live, but the WayBack Machine has a snapshot of my lone contribution.  I reprint it here to, as I said, give it a new home, at least for as long as I continue this blog. (And how about that title, eh?  Clever, am I, or not?)

A Penny for My Thoughts

One of Joss Whedon’s recurring character types is the strong, independent, and smart female.

I was not, and am not, a big fan of Buffy. Not a small fan either. In fact, not a fan at all. But one cannot deny she was indeed a strong female lead. His other works are also littered with examples of strong females, all working to create positive examples for women.

I believe the culmination has to be Zoe, from Firefly. Some might argue River. That would be River in Serenity, the movie. River in the series was a mixed bag, and we got very few glimpses of what she could be.

Given his track record, it was with great disappointment I came across Joss’s latest effort. Some of you might think I am referring to Dollhouse, and that was in fact a great disappointment. For the life of me I cannot see what anyone, and especially Joss, sees in Eliza Dushku . . . actually, based on her outfits, one can see a lot, so maybe I can guess what others find attractive. But, that is a story for another time.

No, I am referring to Penny. Yes, the sacrificial lamb in Joss’s Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Blog. First let me say I like the actress, Felicia Day, and this is not a reflection on her.

Her character, however, was cast with one end in mind; to be fodder. She is unassuming and weak. And not just weak of body, but of mind as well. This person is presented has having no initiative, no self worth, no desires, no personality. Sure, she is presented as nice, as innocent . . . well, not really innocent. She’s willing to get it on with the first man that asks her, and she is blind to the fact he’s a jerk.

So, aside her personality being as limp as a wet washcloth, aside possibly having little or no morals, she has no will of her own and is easily manipulated.

. . . and then she dies. Not a purposeful death, but rather one devoid of all meaning save to serve a cheap plot point. A convenient death, for an unimaginative turn to the story. Nothing more than a trick, really.

What kind of an example is this for young women out there? What kind of role model is Joss presenting to viewers of the female persuasion? Why, it’s that of the traditional film female; that of a person of little consequence save to stroke the egos (and as hinted at, potentially more) of the male characters. Nice.

Now, some may say the story rivals great moral tales strewn throughout human history from the time of verbal recounting, to the glory age of books, to today’s vacuous on-line offerings. Bull! Joss was bored, and decided to mess with his audience. An audience who is apparently as blind and as willing as Penny to follow him whichever direction he yanks the chain of their figurative nose-rings.

Enough, I say. With this piece Joss has shown me he is no better than any other chauvinistic male out there. Sure, I had some inkling from Dollhouse, but this cements it in my mind. For all his talk of admiration for strong independent-thinking females, his true colors are finally shining true . . . come to think of it, there’s very little shine there.

~~o~~  End of Opinion  ~~o~~

So, that’s where I’m at; where I now stand.  I’ll probably give Much Ado a go, sometime when I am bored. Maybe.  

If you are one of them people who appreciate honesty of opinions, don’t you think you should share it with others in your life?  Others who might appreciate the above, and find a similar escape in it?  

. . . but if you are one of them Joss-fanatics, and hated the very idea of anyone criticizing The Joss, and all you want is to slap me silly trying to get some sense into me, all I have to say is . . . “Get in Line!”.

e-Coli and Friends
e-Coli and Friends

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  If said astute person is curious about them, click on it for an explanation of their origin.

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