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May 14 2007

"And Firefly did shine pretty brightly". A writer over at Stylus Magazine analyses Joss' sci fi western and breaks it down into three categories: the good, the bad and the questionable.

Most of that, although I disagree with much of it, is a legitimate perspective on the goods and bads. But let me be the first to say that it isn't "gorraned" and "rotting". That said, even if the author had gotten those words right, it certainly would not have changed their opinion of them, heh.

Also, it isn't "Zooey", which is the name of a male Salinger character, and could have been checked just by looking at the cast list.

It's actually too bad that there are so many basic errors like the above, because as I said, I think it's a legitimate take on things even if I don't agree with a lot of it.

But getting the basics right (like the spelling of character names) would help avoid unnecessary distractions from the overall piece.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2007-05-13 21:51 ]
Some good points, but unfair to pan Simon and River for lack of character development. They were, of course, meant to have several seasons to do that. You could say the same about Wesley on BtVS if you hadn't seen the next few seasons of Angel.

And the way Zoe and Mal handled the death of Wash was true to their military past. When you've seen dozens of friends die a sudden and violent end in battle you learn that if you don't want to be next you deal and move on. Quickly.

And bad SFX? What show was HE watching?
Since you mention Serenity, Serenity is closing in on that poll on BBC

bbc poll Which is the best sci-fi film?

14 votes shy of 1st place. If my math is right.

Which is the best sci-fi film?
Serenity
33.66%
Star Wars
33.70%
Blade Runner
19.67%
Planet of the Apes
2.11%
The Matrix
10.86%
35553 Votes Cast

[ edited by Anonymous1 on 2007-05-13 22:39 ]
Some good points made, but boy, somebody really needs an editor, or at least a spot of proofreading, a second draft..and spellcheck. Totally off-base, IMO, is the unfavorable comparison of the dialogue to Gilmore Girls banter.

[ edited by toast on 2007-05-14 09:54 ]
"Whedon's shows aren't quite up to the level of Gilmore Girls in terms of snap"...I wonder if he's ever watched Buffy and/or Angel?
Perhaps he meant "sap"?
"Which is the best sci-fi film?
Serenity
33.66%
Star Wars
33.70%
Blade Runner
19.67%
Planet of the Apes
2.11%
The Matrix
10.86%
35553 Votes Cast"

I'm a big fan and love the 'verse, but I cannot really believe people think Serenity is better than those other films...
Serenity 3 votes ahead! FOR NOW...

Which is the best sci-fi film?
Serenity
33.69%
Star Wars
33.68%
Blade Runner
19.66%
Planet of the Apes
2.11%
The Matrix
10.86%
35573 Votes Cast
I think if we focus on the article instead of getting bogged down with a discussion of yet another poll, it would be greatly appreciated.

The article makes some interesting points and there's been enough water under the bridge since Firefly aired. So are the points valid ?
I think I'm the only one in the world who likes Return of the Jedi much better than A New Hope, Apes didn't do much for me, Runner confused me often, and The Matrix felt too commercial (though honestly, it's still up there on my list of awesome movies). So my vote went to the movie I knew nothing about going in and wanted to keep forever coming out.

Back on track, though: I also disagreed with a lot of the guy's bad points (okay, all of them), but the second he mentioned that he never watched The X-Files, I was already gearing up to dislike his opinion. ;)

[ edited by LiLi on 2007-05-13 23:34 ]
It's all a matter of opinion of course but I loved River's character, I think Simon was as he had to be; like someone said, if you judge Wesley solely on his brief time on Buffy...!
There were a lot of "major" characters on Firefly, a half season simply isn't enough time to expand them all!
Completely disagree with the criticisms of Simon and River, and not just because there wasn't time to "develop" them; as far as I'm concerned, both were already complex. None of River's "crazy" moments felt false to me, at all, and Simon's conflicted feelings about being on the ship always came through. More than anyone else, he's the heroic side of Mal without any of the experience, just learning for the first time that things aren't as rosey as by all accounts they should be. And plus he gets so many of the funniest lines in the show in his subtle barbs. ("I'm sorry if I tipped anyone off about your cunningly concealed herd of cows.") I will admit that River, in particular, was written with more intensity by some writers than by others (Joss being the one who best captured her loopy logic--in "Objects in Space," natch), but them's the breaks in tv land.

EDIT: Oh, right, and the person who commented on the awesomeness of ZOIC's effects (on the site) put it better than I did. The space sequences added in camera glares, zooms; by making the camera shots look flawed they made them look real, as if Firefly were a show that could be cheaply shot within this future. Add to that the loss of sound and the outer space sequences are ruggedly convincing, with all the needed rough edges.

I do want to say though that, sacriligious as it is, sometimes I do like the fact that there were only 15 episodes; each episode becomes more special than the average episode of "Buffy" or "Angel" as a result. I wish the story had been told the way it should have been, but it is nice to have such a compact collection, burning, as he said, so bright.

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2007-05-14 01:35 ]
Well, he's entitled to his opinion, even if he is wrong. :)

"Cheesy Special Effects", but nobody bothered to tell the voters who gave it an Emmy I guess, huh?
I added my vote, and Serenity is slowly pulling ahead (you do the math for actual votes)

Which is the best sci-fi film?
Serenity 33.77%
Star Wars 33.64%
Blade Runner 19.64%
Planet of the Apes 2.10%
The Matrix 10.84%
35619 Votes Cast
And now Serenity's in first place.
Can't say as I agree with a whole lot of his particulars, even as I agree with his overall assessment that Firefly shone pretty brightly, indeed. I was one that didn't cotton to the show right off the bat, but was won over by several episodes - though shown out of order - and the entertwined strands of River and Simon's stories were instrumental in winning me over. Later on, I warmed to the other characters, Mal and Jayne taking the longest time...

The special effects? - well deserved Emmys for Zoic for Buffy, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. They're simply one of the best houses going.

And gotta, gotta take exception with both of his comments about the song. Loved the song from the very first show, and its final moment with the ship and the horses is spectacular. And Sonny Rhodes voice? Geez, mister, you gotta know something about a bluesman's voice - his "deep, chocolate-textured, blues-drenched voice," as one reviewer put it, ain't supposed to sound polished like crooners Frank Sinatra or Michael Bublé. And that rough and real quality was, I imagine, among the reasons he was chosen to sing Firefly's homey theme. It's just fine as wine.
While I might not agree with everything he said,
I am glad that Firefly is still being written about.

By the way, lionized? Is Firefly a Lion? :)
I'm glad the writer said it shone brightly, but boo to Simon and River, and bad special effects? TV special effects don't get better than that. Maybe I'm just too biased to comment. I can get not connecting with River at first, but Simon is such a great character...
I disagree with every single one of his bad points--and it's not because I'm a rabid fan, it's because I genuinely disagree--but he definitely got all the good points right.
I disagree with most of his negative comments, very strongly in the case of the Mandarin cursing, snappy dialogue, and special effects.

But, and while I'm much less negative about them than the reviewer, it did take me quite a long time to care about River (I know I'm vastly in the minority on that one!) or enjoy the theme song (ditto). And I do consider myself a rabid fan!
It took me a while to "get" Simon & River too, but they'd both grown on me by the end, particularly River. So I can see where he's coming from with that.

But as said upthread - nice for it to still be being talked about, and overall mostly in positive tones. Shone brightly, indeed.


[ edited by ZodKneelsFirst on 2007-05-14 10:50 ]
Those wascally witers ... ;).

I think he has a point about Simon, he was maybe a bit one note to begin with BUT for purely thematic reasons IMO. His role was basically to watch over River and we see in 'Safe' for instance that though he may not 'fit' on Serenity, he 'fits' wherever River is, that's his place, literally to his last breath.

I think though when River got to a slightly better place (as we saw in 'Serenity' which, presumably, may have happened sometime in season 2 on the show) then Simon would have developed as a separate character more.

Sadly we'll never know whether it would've become repetitive but I suspect not, it being Joss and the Firefly 'verse being so rich IMO (also, if you boil anything down like that it'll sound simplistic and repetitive). The song maybe seemed a leetle cheesy to start with but it grew on me very quickly (especially when I got to know Mal better), no problems with the performance, that slightly raspy, characterful voice is perfect for that sort of song. And I totally disagree about the effects, they were brilliant. Maybe he's mistaking a (very) deliberate stylistic choice (mis-focused shots, camera wobbles etc.) for bad work ?
And I totally disagree about the effects, they were brilliant. Maybe he's mistaking a (very) deliberate stylistic choice (mis-focused shots, camera wobbles etc.) for bad work ?

Yeah that's inexplicable - the effects were absolutely outstanding for a 2002 TV show!
It was the effects that first made me realise that I was watching something really really special when i threw on my dvd set and watched the pilot ep originally. I've never been a fan of the theme tune, and liking some characters more than others is fair enough even if I don't see it myself, but the effects are awesome.
The only problems I have with Firefly are "another episode, another cast member shot - how many times can that happen?", Inara (never warmed to her until she smiled at the end of the movie) and Saffron.

Saffron coming back ten episodes later in "Trash" felt rushed. For a new series, I would have wanted to see more new characters been introduced (after all they have a whole galaxy/solar system to play in) instead of relying on existing guest characters. Trash is a good episode but perhaps it would worked better in a second season.

I liked the effects as well, they looked gritty and real.
Might have been a bit quick Simon but I wonder if that's a function of how we watched it ?

Can't speak for yourself obviously but I first saw 'Firefly' on a Sci-fi weekend marathon so I watched every episode over the course of two days. Then later I bought it on DVD and again watched them all in fairly quick succession. 10 episodes obviously seem a lot further apart when there's, y'know, 10 (+ ?) weeks between them and I think maybe on first viewing it might've seemed less obvious. The flip side being that with some shows i'll remember big, momentous stories that, on contiguous re-watchings, only actually lasted 4 or 5 episodes.

(does seem a bit odd though, especially when you consider Niska also recurs in the same short run)
I don't think it's odd at all that Niska/Badger/Saffron appeared more than once. There wasn't really a central 'big bad' on screen presence, so I think it's only logical that they'd substitute in smaller connective mini-arcs to partially alleviate the wacky-adventure-of-the-week format.
Have to say I find it a bit annoying when a writer has to establish that he/she is not one of "them" - those people who enjoy watching sci-fi. It just seems like their opinion is partially based on their trying to be on the "right side" of perceived general public opinion.

Would it make sense for an editor to send someone who looks down on sports to cover a major game? Or to send a writer who only believes in listening to mainstream music to write about a concert with a cutting-edge band? Show a little more depth guys!

The media needs more writers like Matt Roush!
Interesting read. Looking back I have to admit that I initially found Simon to be a bland character and I never liked the opening song. It was a tad on the hokey side (sorry, Mr. Whedon). I liked Inara in the series but I saw the movie first and her character didn't really seem to fit. On a side note: I think it was funny that in the series every planet looked like California. Budget constraints? And my number one complaint about the series: Where the heck were the green slave girls and vulcans?

Other than that Firefly was pretty freakin brilliant.
I think it's a good indication of how people who didn't "get it" might feel after watching it. Even being a huge fan of Buffy, Angel, and Joss, I agree with a lot of the criticism. I cringe every time I hear someone say "gorram" (on screen or IRL). And the Chinese cursing would be fun if you speak the language or if there were subtitles. Otherwise, they might as well just be making up words. For the record, I also think BSG has gone "frak"-crazy and uses it WAY too much in situations where swearing would not be appropriate.

River always got on my nerves, but I was willing to take Simon for what he was because I predicted a Wesleyish turn down the line, had he been given a chance to develop. We got a little taste of it in Serenity.
Mycroft - "Is Firefly a lion?"

I don't think of Firefly as a lion. You might as well though, it does have a mighty roar ;)

Although I can see some of the points the writer brings up, I would have to disagree with most. It seems as if the writer gave the show only a surface viewing without pausing to delve into the characters or the themes. Although I preferred some of the characters over others, I liked all nine of the main characters, not to mention the three secondary characters (Badger, YoSaffBridge and Niska).

I myself thought the theme song was out of place for a scifi show when I first saw the pilot episode; however, within a few episodes I fell in love with the theme and think it was a perfect fit for the character of Mal and for the Western feel of the show.

The effects in the show were unusual and interesting and I really enjoyed the space shots (especially with Greg Edmonson's brilliant score overlayed over them). I have also never seen a more beautifully filmed show. The textures, colors, and warmth of the sets really came across the screen. And the actors looked positively gorgeous.
I didn't like Simon, River, or Book at first. I thought there were too many characters to keep track of, and those three were superfluous (I saw River as a maguffin and not much more). However, as the series progressed, I grew to love all three. None were shallow, and all were needed. While Simon does rank low on my favorites list, I still admire the character and his touching devotion to his sister. River grew more fascinating with each episode, and she was on-track to being far more then the crazy nutjob sister. And Book... besides be played by Ron--which gives him automatic points of coolness to me--his background was interesting, and I loved how he was filled with faith and was so pious, yet was still willing to be a part of the "gang" and all that entailed.

The only thing that bugged me about Firefly was the bonnets. I thought the old-fashioned costuming in some scenes was too self-consciously calling attention to THIS IS A WESTERN. I remember reading someone else comment about this a while ago, and it made sense to me: so, for some reason, bonnets are being worn, but baseball hats have become obsolete? I have no problems with the language, the cowboys, or the lack of laser guns. But some of the more old-fashioned costuming was distracting. Very minor quible.

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