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September 30 2005

Son of "All The Serenity Reviews You Will Ever Need To Read". Part 4 (blimey it's now a franchise in its own right) of Whedonesque's coverage of all the Serenity reviews out there. So all links to online newspaper/blog/magazine reviews will be posted in this thread.

Link to first review thread

Link to the second review thread

Link to third 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.

Moriarty's review at AICN

Major Spoilers in this one

Despite being very anti-Browncoat, he says:

I had a good time. I enjoyed most of the film. My gripes are small gripes, and it’s more a reaction to the things I liked than it is any major complaint. I just wanted more. I wanted it to be a great movie, and not just a good one.


Wired News

Major spoilers in this one too

A mostly very positive review.

This film is intended for grown-up adults and smart teenagers, and the story never seems dictated by what might be called the action-figure imperative -- the need for a movie to drive toy and video-game sales.

The little man is junmping up and down in the San Francisco Chronicle! Someone quoted a portion in the previous thread, but this is the link to the full review, which appears to be written by a critic who got the movie without being too familiar with the source material, Firefly.
Washington Post weighs in, mostly positively. The standard spoilers in each article.

First link is the main review, second is from "The Family Filmgoer" (who is quite . Third link is not a review, but an article by Post entertainment writer Richard Harrington about how Firefly was resurrected as Serenity:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/29/AR2005092902146.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/29/AR2005092900603.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/29/AR2005092900594.html
Washington Times with a largely positive review:

http://washingtontimes.com/entertainment/20050929-094637-6642r.htm

Good quote: "Firefly" faithful, dubbed Browncoats in honor of the series' anti-heroes, will swoon with every pre-packaged punch line and plot twist. Those who missed the "Firefly" madness can still appreciate the film's ramshackle appeal.
Warning: I did not read these reviews as I want to stay unspoiled
May Contain Spoilers

Toronto Star - 3 stars out of 4

Globe and Mail - 3 stars out of 4
First link is the main review, second is from "The Family Filmgoer" (who is quite . Third link is not a review, but an article by Post entertainment writer Richard Harrington about how Firefly was resurrected as Serenity:


Quite mad? Quite the man about town?

I'm in a somewhat giddy mood today :). Cheers for the links.
The film critic for The Patriot-News finds Serenity to be an “oddly compelling and busy film” that is “pretty easy to follow” and “the result should be a pleasure for fans and an intriguing space escape for newbies”. But he is also of the opinion that “the plot is a rehash of sci-fi plots of yesteryear”.

“His cinematic technique feels like a careful reconstruction of sequences and looks from past movies, similar to the way a DJ mixes old records and sound bites to create something that feels entirely original.
Though I’ve never seen “Buffy” or “Firefly”, I sense that Whedon’s fans are drawn to his ability to mix utterly silly antics with some heartfelt themes of loss and faith in a higher power.
The action is tight, the plot always involving, but as with the cut-and-paste DJ, the result is entertaining but never transcendent.” 2 1/2 stars
Here is a a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette feature story on "Serenity," featuring Joss Whedon and some schmuck who looks and sounds exactly like me.

Here is a somewhat middling review of the film from the same paper.
Okay, Simon, that was posted pre-coffee...quite postitive, I meant!

All in all, very good coverage in the Post, a huge paper.
Well I heard some bimbo on the radio today saying: "Okay, Serenity? That sounds like a stripper name. Why not just name the ship Candy or Ginger." Not a good start to the BigDamnWeekend for me. Anyhoo, the Providence Journal gave 3 out of 5 stars, but gave a really decent review. The guy wasn't wild about the movie at first, he said he was horribly reviewed but then it all came together.
Other than the six-episode "Police Squad!" (which begat "The Naked Gun" franchise), Fox's 14-episode 2002 series "Firefly" may be the shortest-lived TV series to inspire a big-screen flick.


Should a film revival of four-episode Wonderfalls be next on the agenda?
The (New Jersey) Star-Ledger review--which contains some spoilers--is mainly positive, but the reviewer for some reason thinks Joss is repeating himself by having River go all kick-ass (as if she were a self-ripoff of Buffy...go figure.) Still, a decent review:

http://www.nj.com/entertainment/ledger/index.ssf?/base/entertainment-0/1128058343317070.xml&coll=1
BTW - we are at 400 entries for September. Is that a record?
Yes. And it looks like this will be our busiest day ever in terms of page views. The previous busiest day was on March 4th 2004, with lots of interest in the news that Universal had greenlit Serenity and of course the awful aftermath of Angel getting cancelled.
Finally one from the UK. It has been mentioned briefly before but here is Empire magazine's review in its full glory. (One big spoiler somewhat hidden in the review towards the end as far as I can see).

A mostly very positive review with one caveat:
Thankfully, through pluck, talent and enormous imagination, Whedon’s done it, cheerfully Frankensteining the smart mouth of Buffy, the dust of Deadwood and all the fun bits of Star Wars. Which, in some ways, is the movie’s sole problem.Serenity exists on a plane somewhere between cinema and TV. For much of the running time it feels like an extended episode of the series, with televisual staging and a slow reveal strategy that seems to be saving something for next week’s show. […]

Gloriously, though, around the halfway point Serenity blossoms, breaking free of its small-screen confines. [..] Bring on Episode II.

The verdict:
If you’re a novice, this is a plucky introduction to Whedon’s world and the most fun sci-fi of the year. If you’re a devotee, this is the magnificent return you’ve been praying for. 4 stars out of 5.


Phew. Wipes sweat of brow. If this one had been bad, I would have had to cry into my tea. Plus now I don’t have to cancel my subscription. Also this one is important as it is the biggest selling movie magazine in the UK and they don’t hand stars out like toffee let me tell you.

(Ok I just realised that I am now duplicating the link somebody else posted on the main page, but for completeness sake it is worth sticking it into this thread, I think. Plus the Empire site is incredibly slow just now because of the relaunch. Mods if you disagree, please delete, no worries.)
From the Raleigh News & Observer, 3-1/2 stars (out of unknown maximum).

I haven't read all, so it may contain spoilers. However, this paragraph near the end really bugged me:

A new generation of geeks shall revere the name River Tam and so bechristen their puppies and kittens with it (the few of them that mate with human companions shall pass the name onto their own daughters).


I will be so glad when the age of snark-as-a-substitute-for-intellect finally passes.
Cinescape Gives Serenity B+

Remember way back when everybody was excited about the first STAR WARS, not just because of the special effects, but because its universe felt actually used and lived in? Okay, imagine that feeling and now imagine that it was served by topnotch dialogue and an across-the-board limber cast, and you’ll have some sense of what SERENITY is like.


Click Here for Full Cinescape Review (spoilers)

[ edited by Shakespeare on 2005-09-30 15:21 ]
Amen to that, MissKittysMom! But like I said on my other post re: the political blogs, I feel this enormous wave of goodwill from most of the reviews/reviewers - like the power of Serenity's heart to embrace whoever is willing and bring them along is a real and true and good thing. And it is the magical combination of all that is Joss, his cast(and all that they are) and his fans (and all that we are) that is the engine. Do you think this could be a phenomenon in the making??? Mandy

[ edited by Equalitynow on 2005-09-30 15:22 ]
Wesley Morris at the Boston Globe with a mostly positive review. As with others, the actual writeup sounds better than the two-and-a-half stars rating. A choice quote...

"For folks like me, who missed "Firefly," the short-lived TV show on which the movie's based, watching "Serenity" is like showing up for a big lecture course at the end of the semester. And yet, after an hour of intense disorientation, the movie's arch sarcasm becomes oddly entertaining."
Short but sweet three-star review from the Boston Phoenix. Choice quote...

"The word on the Net is that if this film is a big enough hit, there may be a sequel. Let’s hope the geeks are right again."
And completing the Boston-area trifecta, the Boston Herald gives it mostly positive three stars. Choice quotes...

"Joss Whedon's 'Serenity' is 'Buck Rogers' on Red Bull, a hipper, funnier, action-packed throwback to the original 'Star Wars.'"

"...the film is marred by Whedon's still-boxy, TV-dictated vision and by too many talking-head shots, blurry backgrounds and cheesy effects. Its universe is literally square, and one 'chase' sequence is risibly slow. But it's so much fun and the cast, including David Krumholtz of TV's 'Numb3rs' as an intergalatic DJ with a robot Barbie girlfriend, has an infectious group chemistry."
Cheesy effects? Risibly? C'mon....
Mandy
A review from the Akron Beacon Journal

Critic George Thomas gives the movie **1/2 out of ****.

Mildly spoilerish, but does kinda vaguely hint at bigger things. If you want to get the most out of Serenity, one sentence in this review makes it unsafe to read, but the rest is fine. Just skip the sixth paragraph (which is actually just one sentence by itself).

A choice quote:

If you're looking for a stand-alone story in the case of Serenity, think again. This is strictly a love letter to those Browncoats -- as Firefly fans have become known -- who provided enough support to resurrect the series as a movie. Whedon, who writes and directs, provides only cursory explanation of his universe.


I myself thought it would work pretty well as a stand-alone, despite some quibbles with newbies actually getting much out of Book or Inara.

[ edited by UnpluggedCrazy on 2005-09-30 16:03 ]

[ edited by UnpluggedCrazy on 2005-09-30 16:05 ]
Very positive and somewhat spoilerish review in The Weekly Standard, by Jonathan Last, who once becan an article in the conservative policy journal by saying "Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the best show in television history."

http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/139qmnhw.asp
More reviews from Ohio...

Cincinnatti CityBeat - C-
(trailer-level spoilers)
Serenity has the pulpy look of a B movie with spacemen who prefer six-shooters to laser guns. The action is intermittent enough to notice that the alien terrain resembles Southern California. During the film’s quieter moments, Whedon fails to develop his characters beyond their cliché molds: the sarcastic captain, the plucky girl mechanic, the muscular assistant, the pretty love interest.


Cleveland Sun Newspapers - *** (out of ****)
(mild spoilers)
"Serenity" is OK, but it's not better than an average episode from any of Whedon's TV vehicles, which includes the terrific "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel." In fact, one new character, River (Summer Glau), is more than reminiscent of a vampire slayer in how skillfully she fights insurmountable foes. The only thing missing is a stake.


Columbus Alive - B+ (You must click on "Film" and scroll down to find the review.)
(trailer-level spoilers)
Whedon may be best known for cult-inspiring television shows, but here’s hoping he sticks to films for a while. The medium’s wider canvas better suits his imagination, and he certainly seems to know what he’s doing with it.


Dayton Daily News (Reg. Req.) - Extremely positive
(trailer-level spoilers)
...the season's wittiest and most entertaining action movie. "Alien" aside, it might be the most fully realized space opera since "Star Wars."

It's on the front page of the NY Times Weekend Arts section, with that great photo of Inara and the Operative.

There's also a full-page, color ad, with fabulous pull quotes from New York Magazine, The Village Voice, and Premiere Radio Networks.
Seattle Times *** rating (of four); no spoilage.

"Fox Broadcasting Co.'s blunder three years ago with a little-seen TV program called "Firefly" is the big screen's gain today"
Providence Journal *** rating (presumably of four); MASSIVE SPOILERS. Registration or bugmenot password required.

Overall he liked it, but he has some uninformed criticisms as well (and reviewers who casually let out the kind of spoilers he does lose sympathy & credibility pretty fast).

"It's not quite Star Wars, but it will please fans of the TV show and may win some new ones." In one breath he says it isn't as good as Star Wars, but in another says Serenity has great humor that is very "like" Star Wars (clearly he hasn't been watching the same Star Wars).

He thinks the ship ("The" Serenity) is extremely ugly and that the sets are "cheesy", but he likes the actors' chemistry and camaraderie.
DIG THIS, FROM THE MILWAUKEE CHANNEL: "You see, I like movies that don't insult my intelligence. Whedon's characters are fully realized, complete with flaws, foibles and phobias. The dialogue is crisp and quick; if you don't pay attention you will often have to nudge someone who did to catch up. You'll find yourself laughing out loud at many points, as the characters crack wise in the face of ever-mounting troubles. You'll also find yourself identifying with the crew, and here lies Whedon's truest genius. He creates characters you'd want to have a beer with, and quite possibly two or three. Or, be they villians, you'd want to grab the nearest sharp object and poke them smartly." I love it.
Mandy
Whedon fails to develop his characters beyond their cliché molds: the sarcastic captain, the plucky girl mechanic, the muscular assistant, the pretty love interest."

The cliche "plucky girl mechanic"? I don't know of any other story that has one. Some naysayers just run on automatic pilot sometimes. And besides, I prefer my characters a little "cliche" and larger than life sometimes. =)
No one seems to have reported from my lil ole' hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, whose reviewer, Kevin Crust (who he?), really liked Serenity:

"A highly entertaining piece of genre-blending fun . . . The comic exchanges among the crew initially seem like mere banter until you realize that Whedon is presenting well-developed relationships involving rejuvenated archetypes — something that will not surprise Whedon fans, who will be the ones in the theater laughing the loudest. Don't worry, the rest of us soon catch up. There's no need to have seen a single episode of "Firefly" to digest any of this as Whedon craftily weaves the complex exposition into the main story."

His conclusion? "'Serenity' should delight Whedon novices as much as the already converted." The review has, at most, trailer-level spoilers only.

Yay. I'm just a wee bit sore that Metacritic converted such a glowing piece into ("only") an 80. Seems like a 90+ to me. Still, the SF Chron was given a 100. Which is nice.
Where do we post about non-online reviews? The morning show at one of my local radio stations (Alice 97.3 in the Bay Area) just talked about Serenity for a good 8 minutes. Admittedly, the first 4 was them rambling on incomprehensibly, hopelessly muddling the scenario, plot, characters, actors (Adam Baldwin is a cousin of the Baldwin brothers?), etc, but once the co-host caught on that this was the movie adaptation of Firefly, and the co-reviewer took over, they ended up raving about how good the movie was, how you don't need to know anything about the TV show to enjoy it, how lovable the characters were, how there are no big name actors but they don't need them b/c the movie is so good (unlike movies with big name actors that suck), how there are no loose plot points for no purpose, everything's tight and comes around full circle, how awesome the fight scenes were, and how overall fun and awesome the movie was. One reviewer gave it 4.5 out of 5, and the other gave it 5 out of 5, and both highly recommended people see the movie.
I linked to and quoted from the LA Times review, but it was in Review Thread #3, and it's so good it bears repeating. :)

Turan apparently decided to review A History of Violence instead. I would have been interested to see his take on Serenity -- provided it was as good as this review, of course.
Still, the SF Chron was given a 100. Which is nice.

The headline is even better than the review: something like "Whedon earns place on Sci-Fi's Mount Rushmore". How shiny is that?
Ya see, I did the search for "L.A." and "Angeles," but not "LA." More fool me . . . ;) Ah well. Thanks, wt. But I honestly can't recall reading anything by Mr. Crust before.
But I honestly can't recall reading anything by Mr. Crust before.

Me neither. But after today he's on my Christmas card list. :)

One thing that's been striking me about these reviews is how Joss is drawing on such a huge reservoir of good will from the critics. Not to detract from the quality of Serenity standing on its own, but so many of the critics are obvious fans of his TV work -- they get it -- and these reviews are making me realize how really vast is the appreciation and affection for all those years of imaginative television that he brought to us.

Regardless of how well the box office does, I hope that reading these reviews is a really proud moment for him.
Another mostly very positive review from a big UK film magazine ‘Total Film’, just hit the newsstand today (not sure if there is a web link, can’t find one and I don’t normally read this one):

“[…] with Serenity Whedon has delivered a universe as quasi-philosophical as The Matrix, a crew dynamic as soap operatic as Star Trek and a sense of fun and wonder last seen in a galaxy far, far away. But with better dialogue.

[…]on the downside, budgetary issues seemed to have hampered a couple of the CGI moments and there’s a touch of portentously solemn acting (yes, you Chiwetel Ejiofor). But, really, anyone who doesn’t enjoy genre filmmaking this smart is taking themselves, or their science-fiction far to seriously.

Verdict: Fans of Joss Whedon will love it and non-believers should also have fun. A seriously entertaining piece of sci-fi. A sequel wouldn’t go amiss…”
4 stars out of 5.

They also have an ‘Ultimate Winter Preview’ DVD attached to the magazine which includes a look at Serenity (haven’t watched it yet, just come home), plus another 3 page article in the magazine titled “Space Cowboy. They’re calling him the new George Lucas. Or maybe that’s just us.”
David Edelstein of Slate.com (the best critic currently writing, for my money) loves it.

http://slate.msn.com/id/2127100/

Having missed the fleeting run of Joss Whedon's TV series Firefly (despite an on-and-off but often obsessive relationship with his Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I arrived at Whedon's feature-film follow-up Serenity (Universal Pictures) in a state of absolute ignorance. And I couldn't believe what I was watching: an outer-space Western with smartass Whedon banter! Cool! I had such a good time I couldn't wait to get hold of the complete series on DVD.

Well, now it's ten days later and I'm afraid I've almost forgotten Serenity. In the interim, I've become a Firefly freak. What a show: like Star Wars if it was just the stuff on the Millennium Falcon minus the fast-food Zen plus hipper quips and knottier relationships; or like Star Trek and its spin-offs if the characters had been on coffee and cigarettes (and bourbon) instead of Valium; or like Stagecoach if the Indians had spaceships and ate people. Oh, forget the comparisons. What's heartbreaking is that if you know Buffy (or Angel), you can sense that Whedon had all kinds of surprises in store—dramaturgical jack-in-the-boxes wound and ready to spring in the coming seasons. Twisted trajectories. Mind-blowing back-stories. Dark secrets of the universe. Whedon was obviously in it for the long haul. What a shame that the studio (Fox) never got on his wavelength.

Fans sure did, though, and the upshot is Serenity (the name of the ramshackle space ship), which doesn't deliver the same kind of easy pleasures—the kind that build up over time as you get to know the characters—but works just fine as a Flash Gordon-esque series of battles, chases, and cliffhangers.

It keeps going, and gets spoiler-y. So wait until after you've seen it to read the rest.
For those of you who are going to see the film for the first time and those who've kept their spoilery thoughts to themselves all these weeks, you are welcome to discuss it off site at Whedonesque.org. That way we keep all our personal thoughts in one handy thread.
Big, BIG spoilers in that Slate piece. Take MattM's advice if you haven't seen it yet.
The Rocky Mountain News' Denerestein liked it. Gave it a B. This is impressive for Denerstein. There are spoilers.

"Whedon has given us a kind of cynical version of Star Trek, which is to say that the movie runs on the fuel of sly intelligence..." he comments that the our heros are "A group of perfectly cast actors are in tune with the material..." and also says that while the fans clearly got the nuances of the relationships better than he did, he had no trouble understanding the movie, and that shouldn't be a barrier.
Favorite reviews thus far...

Ken Tucker's over the top rave from New York Magazine.

Stephanie Zacharek's beautiful piece in Salon which is a near perfect reflection of my feelings toward the film

David Edelstein's conversion review from Slate.

Plus, the Joss-should-stick-to-TV article from Slate.

[ edited by Unitas on 2005-09-30 22:19 ]
Love the title of Edelstein's piece.
I can't wait to see the film tonight! Its a relief that most of the reviews are positive - I just hope a whole bunch of non-fans take the reviews to heart and go see this movie!!!
About.com review ((Mild spoilers that aren't really spoilers if you've watched the trailers closely.))

Today's subscriber eMail from the site was entitled: "About Today: Movie Guide - Serenity, A History of Violence". Click thru reveals review by Rebecca Murray and a pop-up with bunches of other links to Serenity goodies, including photos, cast interviews, etc.

Murray grades Serenity a "B" and while calling it a "weird mix of genres" she says:
“Serenity” is a wild, white-knuckle roller coaster ride set in the future where the heroes are deeply conflicted, people do whatever they have to – even if it’s illegal - just to survive, and if you want to cuss at someone, you do it in a foreign language so there’s no need to cover the ears of small children.

I am so excited about seeing this movien in only 5 hours, leaving in an hour and a half to go get my family out of town to see it.

These reviews have been terrific, most of them are positive, and evne the negative ones haven't bothered me that much.

NM on the fan trailer, found it under fandom.

[ edited by rabid on 2005-09-30 21:33 ]
It is now 83% fresh at RottenTomatoes.com... with 66/80 Fresh.
My hometown paper had a positive review of "Serenity" this weekend, much to my surprise.

The last line? "I never saw "Firefly." But after watching "Serenity," I wish I had."

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