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September 29 2005

Revenge of "All The Serenity Reviews You Will Ever Need To Read". Part three (already?) of Whedonesque's coverage of the Serenity reviews. So links to reviews are to be posted in this thread. And seeing as it's now the 30th, Serenity opens today in the United States. Best wishes to everyone involved in the making of the movie.

Link to the first review thread

Link to the second review thread

What should be posted in this particular thread:

Post the movie review link and where it's from i.e. the New York Times.
Include a brief blurb regarding whether the reviewer liked or disliked the the movie (find a quote you like).
State whether the review has spoilers in it (minor or major).
And please do not talk about spoilers in this thread.

Now Certified Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes with 80% both in general and Cream of the Crop.

Take that all thsoe who said 70% was dreaming....
(Now posted in the correct place)
The New York Times

Manohla Dargis, snooty reviewer for the one of the most widely read and respected papers in the country, says, "Damn good, although not as good as Firefly." (I'm paraphrasing here.) Who would've thought? Also, points for describing River as "whedonesque."

As both a writer and a director, he isn't staking a claim on genre; he's just using it for a short while to tell a story about some decent men and women struggling against both the tyranny of bureaucratic control and their own very human failings.

No spoilers.

[ edited by bobothebrave on 2005-09-30 00:19 ]
On big screen, 'Serenity' loses gravity
Christian Science Monitor

Grade: C+
(Also appears to completely misunderstand River's situation.)
I'm going to see Serenity in 19 hours. Its the first showing of the day.

Has the NY Times review been posted yet? Edited. Never mind. Now it is.

[ edited by eddy on 2005-09-30 00:21 ]
I knew the movie was good, but come on, film critics hate genre films! And they hate TV! I never thought it would get this many good reviews. COTC is up to 88 percent on rottentomatoes. 88 percent! Go Joss.
Anyone want to take a stab at helping me find a short pull-quote from that NY Times review?

I mean, is it fair to turn that opening paragraph into, "Superior ... engaging." Heh.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2005-09-30 00:23 ]
*expelling a deep breath of long-held anxiety*

Pretty good NY Times review. If I knew nothing about Joss & Firefly, I'm not sure it'd get me into the theater. But it would certainly pique my interest.
Serenity opens today in America? And my American clock still reads 5:18 on the 29th of September. =)

I know it's the 30th SOMEWHERE in the world...just having a little fun. I already have my Serenity bash planned. I won't be able to see it opening night, but I already have a ticket for the 10 PM screening on October 1st...MY BIRTHDAY! What a birthday present!

And as if that weren't enough, my birthday present from my parents (at 23, you only get one) is a bomber jacket. Which is getting shipped to me tomorrow in time for me to wear it to the screening. That's right, it's a BROWN COAT! Along with my Wash shirt and khakis, I'll be 'versingin style.

Best. Birthday. Ever.
Onetruebix, how about: '"Serenity" is more engaging than any of Mr. Lucas's recent screen entertainments.'
Caroline: Yeah that's too long for my quote-filled fan-poster image, heh. It's either going to have to be "superior ... enagaging" or "fun to be had" I think.
Caroline: This is coming from someone who thought Revenge of the Sith kicked ass (and I Loooove Serenity), so I'm gonna be a bit more defensive about this. But honestly, considering Revenge of the Sith is the biggest movie of the year, a quote like that really would only appeal to a certain segment, since Sith was far better received and reviewed then the other prequels. But I will say a quote akin to, "Even better then Revenge of the Sith" would be a tweak that could sell.
Not as sanguine about the snooty NYT review...what the hell does "unassuming" mean in this context, anyway? And it's all over again with the TV-scale movie complaint, that is simply silly on its face.

Also, and I doubt this is even remotely spoilerish, but it's *not* just as simple joyride...there are profound elements to be found in Serenity, if the arrogant critocracy would even bother to look.
Now Certified Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes with 80% both in general and Cream of the Crop.

Take that all thsoe who said 70% was dreaming....

Cream of the crop now at 89%!
But I will say a quote akin to, "Even better then Revenge of the Sith" would be a tweak that could sell.

Well, you can't really interpret and change someone's words when you quote them, so you have to work with what's there. Personally, I don't like the comparisons much as a marketing tool (even though I agree with them). I just feel like it could piss off SW fans, and I think Serenity can be praised on its own merits.

[ edited by jam2 on 2005-09-30 01:00 ]
Excuse me, but, although it(the NYT) was a terrific review, esp. for that reviewer, I strongly disagree with her re: Nathan's not "owning" the screen or having the magnetism of Harrison Ford. She is dead wrong on that one. Way dead wrong. So dead wrong. Am I right or am I right? Mandy
Austin Chronicle review, very positive, from a non-Firefly watcher.
Wow, Dachelle, that is a great Austin Chronicle review. Loved this quote: "the dialect achieves a peculiar sort of poetry."

Indeed it does.
Excuse me, but, although it(the NYT) was a terrific review, esp. for that reviewer, I strongly disagree with her re: Nathan's not "owning" the screen or having the magnetism of Harrison Ford. She is dead wrong on that one. Way dead wrong. So dead wrong. Am I right or am I right?

Mandy, you're probably right. (Although I have to acknowledge that there's a small possibility that you could be right.) ;-)

Seriously, though--I thought Nathan Fillion had real Movie Star charisma (I didn't feel that way about everyone--Sean Maher, for example, still seemed a little TV-ish, if that makes sense).
I'm positive I have more grey hairs than I started out with this morning. What a roller coaster ride this is turning out to be!
Nathan rules... but I gotta say there's only one Harrison.

Harrison back in the day I should say. Not the Harrison who barely seems awake these days. Too much pot is no good Mr. Ford.
They changed the featured critic quote on Rotten Tomatoes. Now they're using the NY Times review.
Reviews counted: 13
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 10
Average Rating: 4.2/10

Into the Blue ratings anyone? Looks like a blue bakini can't save this flick from sinking....
The review on ABC Australia's 'At the Movies' with transcript of the discussion that followed is online here . Not spoilery if you've seen the trailers. Overall a positive review from influential reveiwers who have not seen firefly - though somewhat deflated by part of Margaret's concluding paragraph:
But there’s a lack of real character development and interaction. However as a celebration of the value of freedom, independence and mischief I think it succeeds well.
the discussion ends
MARGARET POMERANZ: It's been quite well written.
DAVID STRATTON: Very well written actually. I'm giving it three and a half.
MARGARET POMERANZ: I am too, three and a half.
TV Guide's Maitland McDonagh gives the film 3/4 stars.
Is anyone else loving the "Fox made a terrible mistake" drumbeat in the reviews? Oh, the schadenfreude! Read these reviews and weep, Fox ignorami!
Don't think the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's review has been posted anywhere yet. A great article, part rave review, part Browncoat exegisis, and all Serenity/Firefly goodness. Here's my favorite quote:

"Structured in a way that draws newcomers smoothly into the story, 'Serenity' incorporates the most beloved aspects of the TV show while tossing in twists and turns to keep experienced fans guessing ... and gasping."

Pull quote:

"Packed with..humor, swaggering panache and so much screamin' action that viewers will have to pluck their fingernails from the theater seats when it's over."

A little long, but really evocative. This critic totally understands it. has a movie review up now. However, there are definitely spoilers.

With or without a sequel or new episode order, Serenity stands on its own as a great night out . . .

Also, the Hollywood Reporter has a review up (including spoilers). It's positive overall, but is decidedly mixed.

[A]n appealingly low-rent, if not earth-shattering, 26th century "Star Wars" with faint glimmers of "Blade Runner," "Buckaroo Banzai" and "The Manchurian Candidate" for good measure.

Hello all. This is actually my first comment, so let's hope I do this right. I've looked and I haven't seen these posted elsewhere, but I might have missed them.
I know what you're saying about Harrison Ford back in the days when he was Nathan's age, but he isn't anymore, that age, I mean, why make comparisons? Everybody is unique and making comparisons just tries to tie the new to the old, to make some point of reference or something and I think it takes away from the experience of the new...makes me think that reviewers that do that have limited imaginations. Why can't Nathan just play the character he is playing without having to be compared to another actor, from a while ago, playing another character, for heaven's sake. Firefly/Serenity might be of a certain "genre" but for me, that is where all similarities end. I guess that remark just frustrated me....Mandy
At The Movies

Australian ABC TV program, reviewed on wednesday night. They basically the most respected of the Oz Critics. They're positive review is what we needed in Oz. It's not a bad one, lemme tell ya.
USA Today chimes in with a stunningly awful review (in that they didn't like it, but also awful because their "criticism" amounts to "They talk funny, and wasn't Firefly a failed TV show anyway?").

So, that kind of sucks because they're a big-name paper, although it's oddly heartening to me because it seems like most of the negative reviews are coming out extremely juvenile while the mostly positive ones seem very well-thought out, and I tend to judge a movie's quality based on the review quality.
That USA Today review is a poorly done. I can deal with a bad review, but that was poorly executed snark, with no substance.
OK, I'm looking at the Rotten Tomatoes thing and it has 80%, which is gerat... but it says there are 32 positive reviews and 8 negative reviews... I can only find five... am I just stupid-slash-insane?
Okay, to paraphrase from Henry V, regarding the not favorable reviews, I was not angry since I came to this site until this moment!

This USA Today review is simply ridiculous, and, as SerenityScape notes, with no substance, none at all. Just irresponsible drivel, sorry if that falls into the personal level, mods, but something that obnoxious (and in a big circulation paper) is irksome beyond the telling of it.
Ish... just read the USA Today article. Indeed, very irksome. I mean, I can andle well written negative reviews, but this is horrible. My English teacher wouldn't give it more than a D. And my English teacher is a very easy marker. Very easy. So... yeah.
Especially odd considering Whitney's review through USAToday...
Dachelle, how spoilery is the Austin Chronicle review? I'm from the area and read the Chronicle regularly. Just wondering if i should avert my eyes until I see the film tomorrow night.
Metacritic at 72 based on 17 reviews. Only two of them are below 70, though. I suspect both this and Rottentomatoes will settle a bit lower than the heights they are at now - but it's a damn good start!
From the left side of the political spectrum, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo (one of the blogs that was part of the last minute preview screening event) had this to say:

"...the movie was a lot of fun -- even for this guy who'd only seen a few episodes of Buffy and never even heard of Firefly. Everybody I talked to after the screening loved it. Not high concept exactly, or maybe more of the concept would have been discernible if I'd seen the series, but fast-paced, electric and exhilerating. Sort of a mix of the Matrix, with Total Recall, various Harrison Ford movies, dystopic science fiction and the language and moral outlines of old-fashioned westerns. It ran about two hours but felt like about twenty minutes."
We've really been doing remarkably well on the review front tonight--there've been a small clutch of bad reviews, failed attempts at wit mostly, rather than reasoned criticism-- but given the overwhelming nature of the response I'm beginning to have a suspicion that this film might actually do ok. Possibly have a bigger opening than expected, perhaps...

[ edited by The Devil's Robot on 2005-09-30 04:30 ]
For Toronto fans: I have been reliably informed the Toronto Star review will be very, very positive: 3 stars out of 4. (All right!) They are stingy with the kudos.

But it won't be online until early morning. Will watch.
Well overall it's safe to say the official movie critics have been very kind. I never dreamed it would hit 80% on Rottentomatoes. Here's another one I don't think has been put up yet, Filmforce, it's a pretty good one. The only other ones I'm still waiting on are Moriarty and Bernardinelli. (Yer late, guys)

I too am a little tired of the comparisons between Harrison and Nathan. I love both, but it's hard to compare. Ford has been seen in an extremely rich movie career, and I really only know Nathan from FF/Serenity and Buffy. There are some similarities in type, but I think they each have several different things going on compared to the other. Let's see if Nathan stars in a zillion blockbusters and I'll get back to you in 20 years.

(Btw, I do think Nathan has the edge in comic timing and delivery though)
Yes, there will probably be some settling, but keep in mind that metacritic hasn't even added the New York magazine or Empire magazine reviews yet - both of which are highly positive reviews. New York magazine will probably be a 100 on the metacritic scale. Also, I think they might count the Toronto paper measured above. Personally, I'm anxiously awaiting the LA Times and reviews. The latter in particular makes me nervous, as they can be harsh. They even tore apart Sideways.
bonzob - On the other hand, Salon writers tend to be fairly receptive to genre material, and Stephanie Zecharek *loves* Buffy. So there is hope!
On the other hand, Salon writers tend to be fairly receptive to genre material, and Stephanie Zecharek *loves* Buffy.

Yup, how right you are. review by Zacharek, and somewhat spoilery. It's a great review -- not because it's all-fire positive (it's not) but 'cos it's very well-written and passionate. She writes with delicacy of the things to love in this movie: the images, themes and emotions that Joss can evoke. Her only problem with the film? It's not Firefly:

Joss Whedon's feature-film debut, the science-fiction western "Serenity," is beautifully made, written with more wit and intelligence than we get from most contemporary movies of any genre, and features an ensemble of actors whose rhythms are almost supernaturally in tune. There's only one problem with "Serenity": It's not "Firefly," the TV show that first gave these characters, and this story, life in autumn 2002 on the Fox network.

[ edited by dottikin on 2005-09-30 05:14 ]
The Salon review is seriously cool :) It takes its time to delve into things and ramble a bit. I loved it! The Dickens/serialized tv comparo was fantastic and fun :)

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2005-09-30 05:39 ]
These reviews are better than I ever would have imagined. Even some of the slightly critical ones (say, Devin's at CHUD) are perceptive and intelligent. Some are not, of course, but I find it rather easy to ignore stuff which is thought-free. As for the USA Today piece, all I could think of was the ire that Robert Bianco must be directing at his colleague . . . and, not to reopen old battle wounds, but I genuinely didn't find the NY Times review that snooty.

'Course, none of this is to say that critical enthusiasm translates into box-office returns, but it damn well doesn't hurt. But who'd be a creator? I've been reading some of these reviews with fingers half-covering my eyes - and I'm just a humble fan. How on earth does Joss approach such stuff?
The Salon review is probably my favorite so far. Though Devin at has written the best critical (as in, what went wrong) review. I don't agree with a lot of his conclusions, but he is very persuasive about his problems.

The critics I'm still waiting on (and no guarantee that either will actually review the film, as they pick and choose): David Edelstein of Slate and Glenn Kenny of Premiere.
I don't see this posted, hope it's not a repeat...

IGN FilmForce
"The film is teeming with an overwhelming amount of integrity, heart, soul, and some of the best written characters to invade genre fiction in quite some time."
Only very minor spoilers.
I don't see this posted, hope it's not a repeat...

IGN FilmForce

Heh, just posted that a few posts up. But I've probably done that myself a couple of times today. Who the hell could keep up with three threads of review links??

but I find it rather easy to ignore stuff which is thought-free.

I wish I could say the same but the notion that people get paid for those thought-free pieces drives me 'round the bends.

I've been reading some of these reviews with fingers half-covering my eyes - and I'm just a humble fan. How on earth does Joss approach such stuff?

I know! I'm nervous about the opening weekend, because you just can't help feeling so close to all this. Joss and the cast are pros of course, but we all know how much heart and soul (not to mention blood sweat and tears) went into this! You know it's going to be heartbreaking to them if it wouldn't do well.
The Featured Critic box at Rotten Tomatoes seems to have started rotating between the splatted Variety review, the fresh NYT review, and the fresh IGN review, which is nice as it's one of the more eyecatching bits of the page. The Variety review seems to come up much more often than either of the others still though.

I'm with the other people who are pleasantly surprised at how well the reviews are coming out so far. I was steeling myself for a lot of dumb-snarky reviews like the USA Today one, but so far they've come out amazingly well, and from a lot of big-name places that are often pretty rough on movies that I like. I'm still not going to be able to relax until the weekend totals come in on Sunday, but this is very encouraging.
Here's a not-so-glowing review from Dark Horizons. "At times it does soar, especially when it returns to the more offbeat elements of the show, but this new direction is not Whedon's forte and it shows." Gives it 2-1/2 of 5 stars and has a few nice things to say (very few). Barely spoilery.
Here's a not-so-glowing review from Dark Horizons"

Well, if you ask me, Dark horizons is a great movie rumor site, but it's not a place to go to when you want quality reviews. Even when I agree with Garth I think his writing is a tad sub-par.
Grrr, arrrgh. Silly Dark Horizons--you should review the film you saw, not the film you wished you'd seen. These reviews are beginning to make my brain ache. It's all too much--I'm off to bed. Even robots need their beauty sleep.

[ edited by The Devil's Robot on 2005-09-30 06:31 ]
The only other ones I'm still waiting on are Moriarty and Bernardinelli.

I've emailed Bernardinelli about it, and he said that he won't be able to see the movie until the 30th. The review should be up shortly after.

[ edited by NickSeng on 2005-09-30 09:24 ]
Glowingly positive review in Detroit. My favorite quote is the title:

Energized 'Serenity' screams franchise

Anyone see the consensus?

Snappy dialogue and goofy characters make this Wild Wild West soap opera in space fun.

Goofy characters?
The Oregonian
Space Cowboys (SPOILERS, but at the level of movie trailer or familiarity with the series.)
by Shawn Levy

"All of those influences are visible in this rowdy, smart, funny and gripping film, a wild and woolly cross of Western, zombie movie, martial arts film and situation comedy in the skin of a science-fiction epic. It's infectiously good fun -- the most, no doubt, that some people will have at the movies this year."

FWIW, this makes three for three here in Portland, with Willamette Week, The Portland Mercury, and now The Oregonian. Waiting to see if Portland Tribune has one tomorrow.
One major Toronto daily and two weeklies have spoken and like the film -- the Toronto Star a lot.

The Toronto Star summarizes: 3 stars out of 4:

"The good spaceship Serenity makes a safe and mostly happy landing in creator Joss Whedon's big-screen expansion of his cult TV series. Fans get priority seating on the ride, but there's plenty of room for rookies to clamber aboard."

Thrill ride on the wing of Serenity

Eye magazine has four stars in its eyes:

"Translating a barely seen TV show with nine main characters to the big screen forces Serenity to play catch-up for viewers old and new alike, but Whedon pulls it off through sharp writing and loads of action. "

Go here for four paragraph Eye review

Now magazine figures it's worth three stars (n's) out of five:

"The acting and emotional moments have a strong whiff of TV, but that's more than made up for by Whedon's gracefully loopy dialogue, here brought to full flower."

Very short Now review
This is a good day.
"Serenity triumphs as sci-fi fun"
The Toronto Sun newspaper gave it 3.5 out of 5. He liked it, but not without some reservations (his review seems to add up to more of a 4 out of 5 to me, but ah well).

"The result is no classic and is obviously flawed (including odd camera angles on close-ups [me: bwah?]), but well worth seeing."

I like how much props he gives Chiwetel Ejiofor, I hope to see a lot of mentions about him in more reviews (though they might do better to mention Dirty Pretty Things as another of his roles rather than Amistad, since I'm pretty sure more people saw DPT and it's more accessible). The Operative is a very worthy villain.

"What the movie an ultimate secret that has any Earth-shattering impact. But it is not as big a deal as the movie makes it out to be. In fact, it is anti-climactic."

Whoa, huge disagreement there. The

Ah well, I didn't expect him to absolutely adore it or anything. He reviewed the Firefly DVD set when it came out and called the series really campy, never quite found its legs, etc. I got the impression he didn't watch all the episodes, but I could've been wrong.

[ edited by Kris on 2005-09-30 08:45 ]
Another glowing review from Utah. We have good taste out here.
My poster-with-quotes jpgs really are beginning to get seriously overcrowded, even without trying to fit them ALL in. Heh.
Box Office Mojo's review is not all that pleasing, nor particularly well written.

"Serenity is not a bad movie. It is an obnoxiously loud movie."

Makes it sound like someone who abhors, um, sound.
Nothing yet from the Washington Post, but the Washington Times review is positive:

Joss Whedon's space Western lasted a measly 11 episodes three years ago. Today, that series begets "Serenity," a science-fiction event that could lure fans of both "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" from their respective folds.

"Science-fiction event." Heh.

The LA Times turns in an extremely positive review as well:
A strongly acted, well-written story fortified by riveting action sequences — a rarity these days among studio releases — "Serenity" should delight Whedon novices as much as the already converted. ... Whedon knows that he's blazing down a well-worn trail, but he addresses that by deftly adding elements of humor, action, romance and horror and continually confounding audience expectations.

It's not by Kenneth Turan, unfortunately, but you can't have everything.

Yes, Simon, it IS a good day.

I checked Original Firefly board and lots of very positive reviews being posted there (thanks Ying! for the link)
Box Office Prophets, which has been promoting Serenity, nevertheless puts it a close second to Flightplan in their weekend forecast, with $13.1 mil. I hope they're wrong (so do they).
I didn't see this one posted: Arizona Republic review

4 stars out of 5, the reviewer attributes the cancellation to poor ratings "and poorer handling by Fox," all around encouraging. The Republic is pretty well circulated in our nation's 6th largest city, so encouraging.
has anyone posted that NEW YORK POST review if you even want to call it that... I just wanted (to stuff him with marshmallows).

...and right now the movie is 77% at rotten tomatoes and 72 at metacritic.
The homepage of ROTTEN TOMATOES now has the following headline when you scroll down a bit:

Critical Consensus: "Blue" Sinks, "Violence" Kills, "Serenity" Soars

And their article has the following to say about our BDM:

Fangirls and fanboys of the world, rejoice! Your beloved, swiftly cancelled TV series, "Firefly" is on the big screen, and it's getting really good reviews! A tale of a ragtag bunch of space fugitives, "Serenity" is winning praise for its great ensemble chemistry, genre jumping audacity, and punchy dialogue. At 80 percent on the Tomatometer, Joss Whedon's space opera will leave its cult following with a feeling of "Serenity."

Call me crazy, but I see some sequels coming over that horizon.....It's a great day for all of us fans and for all of those involved with creating and making the gems Firefly and Serenity...shiny, shiny gems!!! Congratulations Joss and cast especially!
I'm with the other people who are pleasantly surprised at how well the reviews are coming out so far.

I'm not. Having seen the movie -- and just returned from a midnight screening 30 minutes ago -- Serenity is a gem when you consider most of the movies reviewers are paid to review. The movie has energy and wit even though it's not perfect, it plays intensely and with feeling. Most Hollywood movies, even the not-bad ones, are so enervated, while the last half of Serenity is practically blazing with feeling and energy. I knew the official reviews would be good.

And the SF Chronicle one is not yet in, but the blurb is:

This new space opera clearly was written by someone who grew up worshiping at the alter of Han Solo and the space marines in “Aliens,” but it’s still a thrillingly original creation. Writer-director Joss Whedon essentially remakes his failed TV show “Firefly,” while placing more emphasis on his thoughtful vision of the future of man. The finished product is mostly a huge gift to science-fiction geeks, but it’s good enough for mainstream audiences to enjoy as well.

-- P. Hartlaub, SF Chronicle

They give it the highest rating: the little man jumping out his chair. Interestingly, they give MirrorMask and A History of Violence the lower rating, with the little man politely clapping. I haven't seen either, but that is mostly likely good taste!

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