It’s all Laremy [name removed to protect the innocent*]’s fault. I know, sounds like a made up name, but this is apparently a real guy, a fellow Seattle movie reviewer who emails me all the time. As you know I am one of them lone wolfs they got, so I don’t want any part of no critical community or nothin. So I’ve made kind of a sport of dodging this guy’s kind offers to go to critic’s screenings with him. He sees alot of the same movies I do, but weeks early and for free. So I really oughta go but I told him look bud, I like to see the movies with my man Joe Public. (Joe Public actually is a made up name, it is symbolic of regular individuals such as you or I and not critics. Just to be clear. I think you knew that though sorry)
Anyway, Laremy gives me a heads up on alot of these, and he has a pretty good track record. He told me about 40 Year Old Virgin, he warned me that Lord of War was not as good as hoped, and a couple other ones. So I took him seriously when he said “SERENITY will be HUGE. Nice flick, nice laughs, nice action, well done all the way around. Summer Glau is highly doable as well.” When I asked him if that was that one space ship movie he got a little more thoughtful and warned not to get too excited because “it’s better with no expectations, like peyote.”
Well I gotta agree with Laremy again although I’m not sure which one it was that somebody was gonna “do.” This is a well put together space movie, all made out of familiar elements but not feeling like your typical hollywood space picture you would expect to see in a theater these days. The story is about the crew of one medium sized spaceship (a little smaller than Hans Solo’s ship) which is called Serenity. That is why the movie is also called Serenity, it is the name of the spaceship. Anyway there’s maybe 7 or 8 people on this ship but the important ones are 1. the captain, who will serve as our rogueish hero and 2. a babbling/maybe retarded teenage girl named River who is wanted by the space government because they made her into a psychic/kung fu killing machine and she may or may not know their secrets.
And then the other most important character actually doesn’t have a name for me to forget, but he is a super secret black ops type deadly assassin motherfucker who works for the space government. And he has a sword. Not a light saber, a sword. He’s trying to kill the retarded psychic but they won’t give her up on account of morals so he starts massacring everybody they know. Alot of innocent people die in this movie.
This is a weirdly old timey kind of future. Yeah they got spaceships and planets and what not but they still use bullets and knives. They punch alot. And they talk this kind of cowboy talk like “reckon” and what not. But it’s also kind of current because they still have silk screened t-shirts, vibrators and other modern conveniences, not space-ified. This is maybe the first ever non-porno space movie to have a reference to a vibrator. Unless I missed something in 2001.
Also this story is based on the civil war, only in space, and not about slavery, so the south are the good guys. The captain and another member of the crew were veterans of the war, on the losing side, before they became smugglers or whatever it is they do now when not running from the nameless space assassin sword guy.
I like the idea behind this movie because it’s real different from the STAR pictures. Unlike STAR WARS it’s not a huge epic. No princesses or chosen ones. I admit they do take on the government and accomplish something big, but they really do seem like regular space joes. They just stumble upon it. And it’s not like STAR TREK because the “federation” (I think it’s called the alliance here) is the bad guys. Not comic book Darth Vader bad guys but bureaucratic government asshole bad guys. The movie does a good job of explaining this with the opening narration which tells about the war between the civilized worlds and the savage outer rim planets. And then you realize the narration is biased, it’s a history lesson being told to a classroom of rich kids. And history is written by the victors. Stupid victors.
Also, the heroes aren’t goodie two shoes. They shoot first, they like to kill, and they start off the movie by pulling a payroll job. They’re the heroic criminal types, which is one of my favorite types.
And maybe the most surprising thing for a modern sci-fi movie: not a single alien! Everybody is human earthlings that speaks English and Chinese. They do got these bastards called Reevers though, named after Keanu Reeves I believe. They’re roving bands of self mutilating cannibal rapist space savages. They’ve gone completely crazy so not only do they rape and pillage and eat people alive, they decorate their space ships with body parts and they roar like snorks. Or whatever those inbred troll guys in Lord of the Rings were called.
So you got some genuine threats in here. I don’t think anybody ever had to worry about getting raped in space before, although that Harvey Keitel robot in SATURN 3 was a real pervert and I didn’t trust him. Anyway there’s lots of tension which is good for a movie that is basically a series of chases. It’s a well paced movie with a good build escalating into a fun action/character climax.
But more importantly you got some good characters, likable and reluctantly heroic, played by good actors you never seen in anything before, except one guy I think was on Barney Miller. It’s a little bit scarier than a STAR WARS picture but it’s light-hearted and has some funny lines I think, although I’m not totally sure because of the trenchcoat wearing ponytail motherfuckers in the audience laughing over every god damn punchline cause they’d already seen the fuckin thing 3 times earlier in the day.
Which brings me to what and why it’s all Laremy Legel’s fault. Actually, it’s Laremy’s fault I saw the movie but in truth this one’s on me. Laremy gave me a chance. I could’ve seen it with a safe group of critics you never heard of before. But no, I had to stand up on some abstract outlaw critic code of honor, I had to pay money to see it myself. On opening night. With nerds. Stupid bastard.
You see, I’d rather not go into it because they explain it in every review, but it turns out SERENITY is based on a failed tv show. Actually nobody could miss this fact because it’s the whole emphasis of the advertising. “The cult phenomenon beloved by millions” I believe is how how some breathless narrator described it on the trailer. I checked imdb – this filmatist worked on shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE and ROSEANNE, so I guess that’s where he gets the fanatic following. The newspaper ads are all about how now YOU can be A PART OF the NEW SCIENCE FICTION PHENOMENON. You will be able to tell your grandchildren that YOU WERE THERE, you saw SERENITY. Fuck the Berlin Wall coming down this is god damn SERENITY. The cult phenomenon beloved by millions.
I thought that was just some pathetic horse shit cooked up by some marketing wackos, but then I waited in line to see this movie. I ain’t seen a collection of nerds like this in years, and that includes Star Wars 3 and the time the International Math, Chess, Video Game, Role Playing, Rennaissance Fair, Lord of the Rings, Robots, Virginity and Matrix Convention came to town. To be fair there were no sword fights, but there were many costumes, pins, novelty hats, suspenders, home made t-shirts. They say if you’re going to see Skynyrd or whoever, you don’t wear the band’s t-shirt to the show. Not the case with SERENITY. You want people to know you fucking know. Alot of people were talking about how many times they’d seen it already and whether or not there were enough people in the line. I got a sense they were doing their part for humanity, voting with their dollars by seeing the movie as many times as they could take. I’m sure they’re nice people (they passed around pizza) but I can’t quite comprehend these evangelist types. They have a dream for their children and grandchildren, and that dream is SERENITY PART 2. I mean I guess I would understand if it was DIE HARD. Or BLADE. Or GHOST DOG. I mean that would be different. But this space shit–
I don’t know. Maybe if it was THE LIMEY or POINT BLANK. LONE WOLF AND CUB. The MARIACHI series. Maybe KILL BILL. Something with DMX. Or anything with Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Bruce Lee or Toshiro Mifune.
Oh my God, I think I almost do understand now. I better stop thinking about this before it’s too late.
I consider myself a brave man but more than once I found myself eyeing the fire exit. I was planning my escape and it wouldn’t have been a daring one like in the movie, it would’ve been more like when Old Dirty Bastard fled the hospital without checking out.
Inside the theater was worse. There was a singalong of a folk song about the characters. There was people trying to talk in space cowboy talk. There was a trailer for DOOM, the new movie by the director of CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE, and these people were laughing harder than I’ve ever head anybody laugh, ever. It was like laughing gas was being pumped in through the A/C vents and only I was immune. I thought, are these assholes belittling my man The Rock? Until I realized that DOOM is based on an old videogame, and between this audience literally hundreds of thousands of hours of DOOM had been played. It’s a video game thing, I wouldn’t understand.
When the movie started it was troubling too because everybody would laugh HARD at every god damn thing anbyody said, often before they said it. It was like a movie with a laugh track. And no matter how good a movie is it’s hard to watch with a group of people that are clearly enjoying it WAY more than you are. I guess they love these characters and want to show their support. It’s an image projected onto a flat surface using light, though. I don’t think they can hear you. I could be wrong.
The director of this movie, who must get around because they all seem to be on a first name basis with him, I think he hates these people too. Because he makes sure some of their favorite characters get it bad. But he does appreciate them enough to make a decent movie for them. That is a sure sign of respect because I’m sure he could’ve just done a movie of himself taking a crap (in space) and they would’ve still gone to see it more than once. To support him.
Anyway I’m not trying to belittle these freakos. Like I always say, don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to The Rock. They are obviously happy. Very, very, happy. All I’m trying to say is, those ads are no joke. I didn’t pick up on it until it was too late, but those ads are a warning to non-members. See this movie, but for God’s sake not on the opening weekend. Believe me, you don’t want to be a part of this science fiction phenomenon/cult/beloved etc. You just want to see the movie and then go home.
*If you are googling Laremy please understand that he’s a nice guy and should not be associated with my anti-social behavior, etc. just because my review came up when you typed in his name. I don’t like having to change my review because of you judgmental potential employers, landlords and stalkers. I vouch for Laremy, or don’t vouch for him, whichever is more impressive to you. If you need a letter of recommendation or something let me know.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.