For those not in the know, Hero Complex is a website that covers the pop-culture beat with a focus on movies and comic books for The Los Angeles Times. (I know. Who knew there was another website like that?). Their third annual film festival saw them continue the tradition of screening classic genre films, accompanied by a Q&A with one of the cast or crew. Programming included Shaun of the Dead and its director/co-writer Edgar Wright, RoboCop and A Clockwork Orange with their respective leads, Peter Weller and Malcolm McDowell. This year’s closer was Serenity, based on the cult science-fiction TV series Firefly, with its star Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Malcolm Reynolds.
Firefly aired in the Fall of 2002 on FOX, but was cancelled because of poor ratings, though the network showing 11 of the 14 episodes produced out of order certainly didn’t help. Unlike the vast majority of cancelled shows, Firefly developed an intense fandom in its short time, made evident by their self-identifcation as Browncoats, a name taken from the series. They unsuccessfully tried letter-writing campaigns to save the show at FOX and get UPN to pick it up, but their intense support did lead to the series being released on DVD and contributed to Universal obtaining to the rights to make a feature film released in 2005, which allowed creator Joss Whedon to provide some closure. It wasn’t until 2011, when it aired on the Science Channel, that I watched the TV series. Though slow to find its footing, the series clickd after several episodes with the groundwork laid to make the audience care about the characters and their relationships.
The event opened with musician Tom Freund playing the show’s theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity,” which was originally performed by Sonny Rhodes. Then the lights went down and the movie began. Naturally, when Fillion’s name appeared in the credits, there was a burst of cheers and applause. However, when no other cast member got a similar response I was surprised. Not even the people wearing those goofy-looking knitted hats reacted to Adam Baldwin, whose character Jayne made the things popular. Now even Walter Koenig gets a little love from a few Trek fans, so apparently the Browncoats in this audience didn’t have the same level of fanaticism.
As often happened in the TV series, the Serenity crew have the Alliance on their tail, specifically an agent known only as The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor), because River’s (Summer Glau) psychic abilities may have picked up secrets they don’t want getting out. These secrets have the potential to topple the Alliance, and they won’t let anyone stand in their way. Fillion plays the lead, Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, who is torn between helping out River and her brother Simon (Sean Maher) and protecting his crew. The former not only requires many suffering a great cost but the task may be to difficult to complete, so the question becomes “what’s the right thing to do?”
Fans of Firefly should be very happy with Serenity. Whedon makes great use of the format to tell a big story that ties in quite nicely with the series’ mythology by answering some questions left unresolved in the TV series. All the actors slip back easily into their roles as if they spent no time away from the characters.
Serenity can be enjoyed even for those new to the material. It’s a well-written, action-packed, sci-fi story. The one weakness may be character motivations, which might not always be as clear without the benefit of seeing the relationships develop over the course of 14 episodes.
During the Q&A that followed, many audience members revealed their fandom to be more specific to Fillion than Firefly as every mention of ABC’s Castle got a response, which he and host Geoff Boucher played up. And it’s easy to see why from the video below. Aside from his good looks, Fillion’s charming, funny, and has a great sense of himself. When asked about playing Ant-Man in the movies, aside from showing no interest in the character, he stated he’s not yet in a position where a studio would want him to star in a movie like that.
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