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October 13 2005

(SPOILER) Mark Steyn snarks about Serenity. Not familiar with Firefly, much less a fan, Steyn's review of Serenity won't please fans of either the series or the movie.

Especially since he seems to think that making fun of the actors' names is a legitimate form of criticism. He does find a few back-handedly positive things to say, eventually.

I don't particularly think it was that bad of a review. Not great, but nothing awful was really said about it.
I didn't think it was bad either. He could have spelled Nathan's last name correctly, that would be nice.

I liked that he said it was like what Star Wars would be if George Lucas had less money and more to say.
I thought it was a rather positive review overall - sort of "in spite of everything that's wrong with it, it's actually pretty good".

Could have done without the poking fun at the actor's names, though...what the heck was that about?
So, are Firefly fans changing their name to Brown Shorts anytime soon?
It was definitely snarky, but it was still a warm review overall.

Geez... were lessons not learned from the incident with critic from San Francisco? He gave Serenity a glowing review and he was still bombarded by angry letters for not praising it enough.

Madness. MADNESS!
I wouldn't call it "warm," and I do think that poking fun at people's names (as opposed to characters' names) is just mean, not to mention pointless, but as they say in Hollywood, "No such thing as bad publicity."
"Serenity is also an excellent allegory for the next ten years of the European Union."

I'd be willing to consider reality shows and the standard media drivel as Pax but who exactly are the Reavers in this comparison ?
Yeah, I echo the points made by others...not a terrible review but while I know nothing of this person, certain comments seemed telling...making fun of actor's names, the psuedo-intellectualism which always translates into "I just have this gift of unlimited insight" which bores me. I'll give the review two stars out of a possible five, rather than wasting valuable net time, especially for the masses with dial-up, I suggest waiting for the printed version.
I just saw that episode of Jeeves and Wooster with Spode in it last night. Spooky. 8-|

It was a quite nice review I thought. And he only passed comment on the actors' names sounding more elaborate than the characters' names, it wasn't a slam against them. Which is true, their real names are more exotic.
That's exactly the kind of review I was thinking about when I warned people to stay away from reviews if they want to stay unspoiled. This guy ruined one of the biggest surprises in the movie in his last paragraph. I don't care for reviews that do that.
I don't like the style of the review. But I'm not a Steyn fan anyways. But for a review he does let loose with huge spoilers doesn't he?
Overall though it says some good things.
There was a less than glorious review in my student paper yesterday. It praised the movie some (3 main actors/characters) and he acknowledged Joss as a good writer and it showed, but then he said there was too much drama. And it got boring because it was about all these people. And that Wash's acting was so bad he was robotic at times, etc. (I think he misunderstood the deadpan.)

It's hard to see the positive in reviews sometimes when they say things like this. I responded with a polite email to point out several inaccuracies. I was nice and thanked him for the postive.
Snark doesn't always equal dislike. Take a look at Television Without Pity, for example. They made fun of every episode of the Whedonverse, and in the end gave all the viewers more enjoyment of the shows. I was braced for another article on the 'scariness' of Browncoats. But I found myself agreeing with him...I'da loved to see Star Wars with Summer, Jewel, and Morena. :D
Well, I wouldn't call this a bad review, per se. It has some observations which make sense, some things I don't agree with, sure, but we shouldn't forget that a review is an opinion.

The actor's names angle is okay, because it's actually true, up to a point. We have a Nathan, an Adam, a Ron, a Gina, a Sean and an Alan here, which are perfectly normal names, but Summer, Jewel, Morena and Chiwetel do catch the attention more, I'd say. I'd not have mentioned it, if I was writing the review, but I do get where he's coming from somewhat.

As for the rest, it's not entirely positive, but the overall feeling is still that this guy liked the movie. I'd say the review itself is good, since the points he makes are okay and are explained in the text for the most part, but not great. 3/5 stars.

(I like that we're reviewing reviews now ;-)).
Not such a bad review, really. He makes some points I disagree with, but then again...are you ever going to find someone that you are 100% in agreement with? Don't think so.

I actually thought the bit about the actors' names was pretty funny. It was far from an insult; just an observation that their real names sound more sci-fi than their characters'. I also loved the last line about the European Union...
Not too bad, kinda feel like Oz in "Earshot".. It's fair. That doesn't mean I agree with everything, but Serenity has definitely seen less favorable reviews.
When you're reduced to making fun of the actors' names, it means you don't have much to say.
I'm a huge Steyn fan, and this constitutes a very favorable review by his lights.

But I agree, don't be giving away huge premises of the film.

jpr, I think the Reavers would be the Aussies at the Hofbrauhaus Tent at the Oktoberfest!

Kidding!
"When you're reduced to making fun of the actors' names, it means you don't have much to say.
Ransom | October 13, 16:04 CET"

I'm failing to see how he was making fun of them. He was pointing out that their real names are more glamorous than he thought their character names were. He was not being cruel, he made a very accurate observation, in one line of a full page review.
I'd be willing to consider reality shows and the standard media drivel as Pax but who exactly are the Reavers in this comparison ?


I would guess that Steyn is comparing Reavers to the Islamist bombers of Madrid and London. Steyn is one of those people who thinks that Europe will be overwhelmed by radical Islam.

The "Pax" reference would be more complex; Steyn is very anti-multiculturalist, and also believes that Europe has drained its own economic vitality with its socialism and its declining birthrate.

Feel free to agree or disagree, but for Steyn, this is definitely a "warm" review. When he doesn't like something, he's not afraid to hold back, and his view of European politics (especially the EU) is quite negative.
When you're reduced to making fun of the actors' names, it means you don't have much to say.

I thought this review had quite a bit to say, most of it pretty insightful imo. For one thing, he caught the way Joss uses Kaylee's reaction as a stand-in for audience reaction -- something Joss has admitted doing but that no other reviewer, afaik, has picked up on. And it's hard to argue with his conclusion -- that "it’s what Star Wars might look like if George Lucas had less money and more to say."
I think the Reavers would be the Aussies at the Hofbrauhaus Tent at the Oktoberfest!

LOL It's a fair cop! :P
Well, as a lefty, I'm slightly relived to find at least one rightwinger who doesn't love, love, love (though he also clearly does't hate, hate, hate) "Serenity" and "Firefly."

His whole attitude does remind me of a more down to earth John Simon, who was never able to issue a straight-forward compliment without sounding like his face was about to break.

[ edited by bobster on 2005-10-13 21:25 ]
I would argue that Steyn sees Western Europe's failure to respond to the challenges of globalisation as the mirroring the apathy of Pax. This is epitomised by French workers who continue to strike in order to try to hold onto a way of life that will be undermined by the willingness of workers in India, China and Eastern Europe to work more hours for less money and a German electorate who was unwilling to give Angela Merkel the mandate she would have needed to make the wholesale changes that the German economy requires in order to be rejuvenated.

It is this apathy to the inevitable changes that globalisation creates, combined with an unwillingness to deal with the consequences of Islamic fundamentalism - to the extent that the murder of Theo Van Gogh was seen by many as the result of a lack of respect for Islam, rather than as a deeply un-Islamic act.

Thus the equivalent of the reavers would indeed be (as MissKittysMom suggested) Islamic fundamentalists, but specifically those who live within Western society and yet choose to attack it.


Although I tend to agree with much that Mark Steyn writes, I am not looking for a debate on these issues. I am also not suggesting that Serenity does work as an analogy for the EU. This is purely a suggested analysis of his intended meaning.
The "Pax" reference would be more complex; Steyn is very anti-multiculturalist, and also believes that Europe has drained its own economic vitality with its socialism and its declining birthrate.

Feel free to agree or disagree, but for Steyn, this is definitely a "warm" review. When he doesn't like something, he's not afraid to hold back, and his view of European politics (especially the EU) is quite negative.


Ah, heh, it seems like we wouldn't be much on the same page on politics then (being a European citizen ánd a member of the Dutch left-wing green party ;-)). But now I do get the weird EU mention at the bottom of the review, which didn't make much sense to me at first.

ETA:

Although I tend to agree with much that Mark Steyn writes, I am not looking for a debate on these issues. I am also not suggesting that Serenity does work as an analogy for the EU. This is purely a suggested analysis of his intended meaning.


Check. I'll not debate you then, otherwise I might have pointed out some things I disagree with already ;-).

I do want to mention that this analogy sounds mostly alien to my ears, and I don't quite see why someone would interpret the movie in this way. But I guess any interpretation is valid, if I agree with it or not :-).

[ edited by GVH on 2005-10-13 18:43 ]
I do want to mention that this analogy sounds mostly alien to my ears, and I don't quite see why someone would interpret the movie in this way. But I guess any interpretation is valid, if I agree with it or not :-).


We have a saying in the US: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, most jobs tend to look a lot like nails."

Steyn is a well-known and experienced political commentator. If he didn't see politics in everything, that would be the surprise.
GVH,

In that case, I interpret Serenity as being a pre-neoclassical commentary on the ramifications of a strong defense budget combined with an outbreak of paranoia (both healthy and unhealthy) in modern society, viewed through the proud and violent lens of a postmodern, postapocalyptic frontier intellect, yet tempered with the cool hegemonic attributes inherent in a computerized mindset, all while managing to include nearly seventeen thousand separate documented incidents of combustibles lighting up the screen--and, of course, the screen is nothing more than a combination of the effect of the story on the Jungian brain crossed with the effect of the self on the mind.

No, I have no idea what I said either.
MissKittysMom: "Steyn is a well-known and experienced political commentator. If he didn't see politics in everything, that would be the surprise."

First, Joss has said (in the Visual Companion) that Serenity is a very political film, so analyzing it from a political perspective is certainly fair game, and your notion about the Reavers (complemented by Jon's augmentation) makes pretty good sense, from a Steynian perspective.

Second, Steyn is much more than a political commentator. He wrote a very accomplished and interesting book about musical theater (Broadway Babies Say Goodnight) and dozens and dozens of cultural essays.

But the overriding thing is, there are several ways to read Serenity from a political perspective, all across the spectrum, as we've seen. I'd call that one of the hallmarks of a great work of art.
But the overriding thing is, there are several ways to read Serenity from a political perspective, all across the spectrum, as we've seen. I'd call that one of the hallmarks of a great work of art.

Indeed. Serenity, like much of Joss' other work, strikes at the core of things, without a 'bias of the details'. Which is why so many different people with different religious, social and political views can see their own view vindicated in it.

Some right wing reviewers saw the Alliance as communistic. Most more liberal writers see it as a reflection of the Bush Administration, etc. etc. This guy sees the EU, which is a new one to me, but to each his own.

I do feel his 'shorthand TV camera work' remarks are stretching it a bit though. A reaction shot of a character after another character speaks, is hardly a technique limited to TV. Every single movie I've ever seen has used it as well to some extent. It sounds to me that once again, a reviewer went into the movie looking for 'TV' aspects.

Also, the point it not that such a shot signals a history you don't know about and that the story 'expects' you to know, or that you need to know it to appreciate it, the point is that such a shot *informs* you of the relationships between characters. It is not a signal of a lack of information, it is information in itself. A look from one character to another can tell you he or she is in love with that person without needing dialogue. A well placed look from Zoe to Mal signals significance and whether or not she is happy with something, whether she is dissappointed or worried. And that tells you something about their relationship.

That is not 'TV mentality', it's simply the famous 'Show, don't tell' crede, which is usually supposed to be appreciated by reviewers. If Joss had done it all in exposition, they would complain about him not 'trusting the audience' and 'telling instead of showing'. etc. Sometimes you can't win.
Neo-cons and their media enablers like Steyn haven't been right about anything else...why stop now?

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