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December 28 2005

Eye Weekly DVD review of Serenity. Another good review. Warning - yet more Lucas bashing.

Anyone with a functioning set of synapses knows that Joss Whedon's Serenity is a leaner, meaner and more emotionally involving space opera than George Lucas' wheezy Revenge of the Sith.

it's also better than any of the Star Wars movies. Period.


Well perhaps better than the last three Star Wars films. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's better than 'A New Hope' or 'The Empire Strikes Back'.
I agree with Simom. Serenity is by far better than the recent Star Wars prequels in terms of story, script, and character development but doesn't quite surpass A New Hope or Empire. Serenity is arguably as good as those two movies but not quite better IMHO.
Sorry for the typo Simon but I couldn't find how to edit my post in the 'How to' Tips. I am new to the board.
Wow... "better than any of the Star Wars movies"?! Man, I love me my Serenity...but Star Wars and Empire are good movies. Still, I'd say Star Wars has that classic space opera feel while Serenity's more of space spaghetti western-ish film. Naturally, tho, given the choice, I'll watch Serenity again before any of the SW films!
I don't know, I was very into R. of the Sith. It had great dark undertones. but Joss is supposedly a big star wars fan so he would get a good chuckle outta that! :)
Well, taking Joss's comments into consideration, Serenity could not have been written without the inspiration of the first Star Wars films. That doesn't mean Serenity couldn't have surpassed them in quality (I agree with Simon on this point that it didn't), but I think it points to the cultural impact those films made at the time they were first released. Serenity clearly did not have that kind of impact. And "leaner" may not have been much of an advantage in this case. We've all watched Joss grow over the years, and I can only imagine what Serenity could have been with a little more money (and advertising)and a little more directorial experience under Joss's belt. How many more superlatives could we have piled onto the movie then?

[ edited by palehorse on 2005-12-28 18:09 ]
I find that my memory of the greatness of the first Star Wars movies (which I watched often in the '70s and '80s) is best left unchallenged by re-watching as an adult. I LIKE considering them classics. The Star Wars films were ground-breaking in many ways back then but are actually pretty tough to watch nowadays for more than sentimental reasons.

On the plus side, Hamill, Ford, Fisher, et al. look like they had a lot of fun in their roles (an element completely missing from the recent Lucas trilogy). The prequel trilogy dialogue was horrible but so was the dialogue in the originals (Guiness HATED the Star Wars scripts); the only difference is the delivery. I guess where I'm going with this is: the original Star Wars films are classics for their time, but NOT all-time classics. Time is punishing these films. Why do you think Lucas keeps updating them? The true classics (Matrix, Dark City, Serenity and others) are being made by people who grew up watching the original trilogy... THAT is the legacy of Star Wars/Lucas.

So... With my adult rational mind, I tend to agree that Serenity is better than any of the Star Wars films. The nine year old version of me LOVED Star Wars, though, which tends to leave a monumental impression.

[PS: Time is also punishing the Burton Batman films, btw. They move SO SLOWLY. When I watch them now I feel like someone slipped me a mickey. Is this Batman or Dracula?]
I actually didn't like "A New Hope." I thought it was too simple, the acting was generally bad, and the only good thing about it was Harrison Ford. You could watch it while half brain-dead and still "get it." It was a light show for future videogame addicts.

"Serenity" had an intelligent, intriguing story, with some great performances, sharp humor and emotional resonance. The light show was minimal (thank Joss) and an organic part of the story.
Not only better than any of the SW's movies, easily better. Never have understood why people wax so poetic about even the early Lucas space “cartoons” – that’s how I see them anyway, just barely above Saturday morning kid’s stuff.
I never got into Star Wars movies much, even though I saw the first one in '77 with my Dad at a drive-in theater. To my shame I admit liking the cute Ewoks (eek), and the "Luke, I am your father" bit was definitely dark and cringe-worthy, but Lucas' space epic didn't touch me in the same way it touched others.

For me, Serenity connects and goes deeper - and hits me on several levels...maybe it's because I feel more of a kinship with the characters from Serenity than I do with those in Star Wars. Lucas has done great works and I know without him we wouldn't have Serenity, but I never cried at a Star Wars film and Star Wars never made me hurt for days...(okay, weeks).

For me, Lucas is the frosting, but Whedon takes the cake. (You may commence groaning now):D
Because, MalContent, they weren't cartoons. This was the first time anyone had seen anything like it. We were amazed. No rockets on a string for this movie...it looked real.

By today's standards, those early three are cartoony and cheesy. But those of us who "wax so poetic" about them aren't holding them to today's standards. We're remembering how awestruck we were back then. I was just a girl of 16, andI'll never shake or forget that incredible feeling. I'd never want to.
And Empire Strikes Back has the greatest adlibbed romantic dialogue ever.

Leia: "I love you."
Han: "I know."

Classic stuff.

And did that inspire Joss to write a certain scene in 'Chosen'?

Buffy: "I love you."
Spike: "No, you don't. But thanks for saying it."

I'd like to think so.
I'm a reviewer, and I did pretty much the same thing. Why? Two reasons.

First, the first STAR WARS film was my first time at the movies. (Well, the first time that counted. I saw Disney's ALICE when I was seven, and it gave me enough nightmares to stay away from big dark theaters for half a dozen years. I still shudder when I think of it, various decades later.) The original STAR WARS trilogy was on my mind a lot when it came out. Needless to say, I yearned to relive the experience and love the second trilogy just as much -- unfortunately, that was impossible. So, yeah, I've been disappointed by George Lucas lately.

Second, and much more important (even more so here in Germany, where few people have heard of FIREFLY and its history), I needed a really catchy angle to get people's attention. Comparing Mal and his ship with Han Solo and the Falcon, and then proceeding to say that this was a close relative of STAR WARS, but one with more brains _and_ soul, was the easiest way to describe the wonderful phenomenon that is SERENITY on a very limited word count.

Besides, George Lucas got all the cash. I'm sure he can live with a spot of bashing.
I was 20 when I first saw "A New Hope." It had been in the theatres for a while, and it took me a long time to find the time to see it (I worked at a very intensive job at the time). I had heard all the hoopla and praise for the movie, and was expecting something great.

When I finally saw it, I was disappointed. Yes, the visuals and special effects were awesome for the time, but I was hoping for something as sophisticated as Star Trek ( which was sophisticated for its time). I found I had to be very patient watching the movie, not because it was slow, but because it was dull. The characters were two-dimensional (and sometimes one-dimensional). The story was so basic, it was flat. I couldn't care for any of the characters (except maybe Han Solo, and even that was stretching it). I left feeling that the movie was more hype than anything - and this was back in 1977. I wasn't impressed.

I did get a little more into it with "The Empire Strikes Back," and "Return of the Jedi," but that was after I had lowered my expectations quite a bit.

I gave a copy of "Serenity" to a Firefly virgin this week. He loved it and said it was better than Star Wars (all 6 of them).
Meanwhile, film critic for The Detroit News puts Serenity as number 10 on his list of top 10 films of 2005: "In 200 years, writer-director Joss Whedon will be known as this era's Shakespeare. Well, maybe. All I know is I've seen this sci-fi Western seven times since it came out in September. Smart, fast and funny with surprising depth, this movie's a firecracker that just keeps popping."
Willowy, I am really glad you have fond Star Wars memories, but I have to say I wasn’t even using “today’s standards” for my “cartoon” opinion (and of course, opinion is all it is). From where I sit, science fiction has never really been about special effects. I read boatloads of it as a kid and teenager, and as a movie, I wasn’t even that impressed with things like 2001, when even everybody else seemed to be. I saw Star Wars when I was 18, and the “wow” of the visuals lasted about a minute, and then I remember being really under whelmed by the rest of it. The story and how its told is the thing, and for me, nothing about SW's ever came close to anything but cliché ridden pabulum - but I will be the first to admit that just about everything Lucas has ever done leaves me cold, so its not like I am unbiased :-)

[ edited by MalContent on 2005-12-28 19:30 ]
As was said, the original Star Wars has to be looked at in the context of its time, just like the original Star Trek. So much of the original Star Wars has become the norm that shows and movies work from that we tend to forget that it was very original at the time. It was the first to both make overwhelmingly impressive spaceships and have a humorous and fun presentation. SF movies did not have quality until 2001 ASO and they did not have quality and humor until Star Wars. So much that I remember being blown away by when I first saw it in the movie theaters has become old hat, but Star Wars still needs to be given its due for it.

That said, Serenity is certainly a better movie than the prequels. It is so different from the originals that that is a harder call. My feeling is that it is a better movie, but it is not the ground-breaking movie the original one was.

...And I must admit I have never understood why everyone likes The Empire Strikes Back so much. I felt so cheated that it ended in a cliff-hanger for which I had to wait a couple years to see the resolution. Maybe I just can't get past that. Course it doesn't help that I never really bought all the family relationships as being in Lucas's mind from the beginning. ;-)
I see where you're coming from MalContent, I get what you are saying. The thing is, I did like the story. It was obviously the classic 'hero's quest', but it was also zip-zap-zoom! Just great fun.

Lucas hasn't ever been lauded for his dialogue, but really, who cares about that in the SW 'verse? Don't we all know what we're getting into by now? And the fact that these movies continue to impress legions of little boys every year (little girls, too, but not as many), is a pretty good indicator of the child-like writing.

Still, I don't care. Not looking for depth in that 'verse. I've got Joss for that.
I agree with Haven. Serenity, in my opinion, easily eclipses the Star Wars prequels and is at least on even footing as the Original Trilogy, but I think I need more time to decide whether Serenity is better. I think it's difficult to compare the Star Wars OT with Serenity because they are very different in many ways and Serenity is much more adult, in my opinion.

I definitely think if you are looking for a more mature, profound, beautiful, frightening, emotional, character driven film then Serenity wins. But you can't just dismiss the OT, because it just broke so much new ground. All of the characters, although not completely original or three dimensional by now, feel like part of history and are beloved by many, and the special effects and action are still up there with the best offered by today's films. The Star Wars world is much more accessible to children and much more unusual and less realistic than the universe that Serenity offers.

In the end, a tie, I think, but there are very distinct differences between the films, and I think Serenity was an amazing piece of work which I will treasure along with the Star Wars OT.
Not to get all Joseph Campbell-y about it (because that's a type of analysis that, frankly, I have little admiration for), but the plot of the original Star Wars movies seems trite or timeless (depending on your point of view) because it is brilliant re-imagining (or sad re-hash) of some pretty basic mythic narratives.

In that way, actually, it's a lot like Serenity which, at least without the interesting backstory supplied by the Firefly, is also a retread of some fairly basic narratives (quite a few of which also appeared in Star Wars: the evil empire, the rogue character (either a space-pirate or a space-cowboy), etc.).

I DO think that Serenity has better dialogue and characters (and special effects, though that's obviously an unfair comparison), but I also think it's pretty clear that Star Wars was definitely the more groundbreaking movie. As a couple of people pointed out, Serenity would never have existed without Star Wars.
I think the first two Star Wars films have, and I apologize in advance for the phrase, a purity of spirit that is increasingly rare in movies.

Like Willowy and others, I was just blown away, ripped to shreds, by the theatrical presentation. Definitely because of the spaceships, lasers, and light-sabers, but also because the story was so beautifully simple and resonant. The dialogue is poor, but that's never mattered to me, and there are still many many great moments ("These aren't the droids you're looking for," "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?," much of the interaction between Han and Leia).

Truth is, while the films do look a little creaky now, I find them as powerful as ever. newcj, I loved the cliff-hanger ending. And I love Empire for being a shade darker, for the ever-changing and stunning backgrounds (Hoth to space to the Dagobah system to Lando's cloud city), and for Yoda's unparalled first appearance.

I think Serenity was a terrific movie, and "better" in many of the ways folks have pointed out above, but I just can't rank it with the first two (or Episodes Four and Five as I suppose I have to call them) SW flicks. It didn't have that world-changing effect on me.
Joss Whedon didn't take anything from the Star Wars films. He just ripped pretty much the whole Idea of Serenity from the anime Outlaw Star. Maybe this Whedon guy is not so great
Boyo, your first ever post skates perilously close to blatant incitement. This is a board for Joss Whedon fans - respectful discussion, even criticism, is fine, so long as it's thoughtful and supported by some semblance of fact. If you want to make a point about JW being influenced by the anime you mention, by all means make it, but please don't throw in thoughtless phrases like "Maybe this Whedon guy is not so great." That'll just get you banned pronto.
Joss will be the first person to tell you what his influences are (and they are many). He's an honest and regular guy that way. I've read TONS of interviews with Whedon... never heard him mention Outlaw Star.
SoddingNancyTribe said:

I think Serenity was a terrific movie, and "better" in many of the ways folks have pointed out above, but I just can't rank it with the first two (or Episodes Four and Five as I suppose I have to call them) SW flicks. It didn't have that world-changing effect on me.


I was thinking the same thing, until I realized something: It was FIREFLY that had the world-changing effect on me, and SERENITY is just an extension of that show.

I've reviewed movies for about fifteen years now, and I did it seriously and exclusively for a lot of that time. Now, no matter how much you love the movies, if you see at least one, often two or even three of them every week day, and you _have_ to see every piece of cr@p that gets released ... you can't help getting jaded after a while, and impatient with films that waste your time, not to mention really, really picky and discerning.

Then along came FIREFLY (which I discovered on DVD a few weeks after it was released), and it wasn't even on the big screen, and yet it ... gave me back my belief in and my awe of flickershow storytelling.

True, it doesn't have the overall impact that the first STAR WARS film had. But its impact on me was massive. Taking into account that I'm no longer thirteen and that I've seen a lot of movies since then, I'm tempted to say it's stronger.
Boyo- Having seen Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop in their entirety, I would have to disagree. Please watch the deliberately inflammatory comments. I don't imagine that you created an account here just to see how fast you could get banned, but I've been wrong before.

ETA -- posted this mid call at work. By the time that I hit post, SNT had already handled it with his customary style.
The only way I can agree with the reviewer about Serenity being better than ALL the Star Wars Movies is if we only consider the Star Wars Movies on DVD and not the original screenings or original VHS Tapes.

The Special Edition was and is (in my opinion of course) Garbage created to cash in on people's fond remembrances of younger days. It pains me to say that I wasted money on the DVD set of the original Star Wars thinking I was getting what I remembered from my youth only to find that the movies were changed, and those changes cheapened the memory.

Now having said that and having looked over others comments I can indeed see some of what the reviewer is talking about. If you look at it from the stand point of Story Telling, Special effects and even the science behind the story then Serenity goes beyond what Star Wars was and is. Taking each point one at a time:

Story telling, Star Wars set out to be the Modern Mythology with heroes and villains defined good and evil and very little room for shades of grey. You knew that the rebellion was there because the Empire was evil. In Serenity you have the shades of grey the bad guy in the story is directed by his idealism and his belief that he is helping society as a whole, he is not some tyrant bent only on destruction. The good guys in Serenity are also more Grey than Black or White, they steal to live, are dirty and get beat down soundly on some occasions. The ability to have these shades of grey make it in my opinion a better story, more real if you would.

Special effects, Lucas was a MASTER of special effects, he did several things that no one thought possible from hiding the strings on his models in the close up shots to the first real multi ship space battles. There is no doubt there, however what was done FX wise in Serenity was also incredible, what pushes it over the top for me is that the filming crew of Serenity were able to produce a feeling of future and space travel without relying on puppets, people in alien outfits or CG characters… The subtle beauty of that may have escaped some people.

The Science of Serenity… One thing that always bothered me about Star Wars was the sounds of the Lasers in space. Call me nutty but nothing makes sound in space… In Serenity you never hear engine noise or anything else when they are “in the black”, some might point at the final battle with the Feds and Reavers, however I would counter that the battle took place inside the upper atmosphere of the planet. There are other sites I have seen that talk about the planets and such for the Serenity universe and the fact that the travel within the universe is more advanced than what we have today but is nothing like the Light speed/hyper space that was in Star Wars.

Both Star Wars and Serenity are good Movies, and if you only compare the Special, Lucky, Magic, Definitive, “Jabba was always a slug like creature commentary” version of Star Wars to Serenity and Firefly then Joss wins… However like others Empire was my favorite SW film and the ORIGINAL is still better than Serenity… Just my Opinion… Oh one last thing, Thanks for allowing me to join.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2005-12-28 21:31 ]
Welcome aboard Madcap23, edited to remove your sig, but some good points. Anyone who thinks the alliance was an 'evil empire' should probably rewatch Serenity while anyone who realizes there is more grey should rewatch it as a reward :) While its hard for me to compare them, I would have to give Serenity the edge.

Having said that, the original trilogy will always hold a special place for me as I watched them very young and thought them magical at the time (nitpicks with Jedi aside, even as a kid -- "Jar Jar Binks makes the Ewoks look like f*cking SHAFT!" - can't resist the Spaced ref). Don't think they stand up to reassessment viewing as an adult...

Lucas can claim all he wants that he knew all of his arc in advance and he can tack on as much Joseph Campbell 'power of myth' jawing as he wants, but I don't buy it and I'm tired of him tinkering with it after the fact to try and get us to buy into it. I'm also tired of him tinkering with it to do things like Greedo shooting first, which DESTROYS Han Solo's character integrity and arc.
Madcap23 wrote:


Story telling, Star Wars set out to be the Modern Mythology with heroes and villains defined good and evil and very little room for shades of grey. You knew that the rebellion was there because the Empire was evil. In Serenity you have the shades of grey the bad guy in the story is directed by his idealism and his belief that he is helping society as a whole, he is not some tyrant bent only on destruction. The good guys in Serenity are also more Grey than Black or White, they steal to live, are dirty and get beat down soundly on some occasions. The ability to have these shades of grey make it in my opinion a better story, more real if you would.


An interesting observation ... I wonder if STAR WARS really set out to be Modern Mythology, or if that happened by accident. It is my impression that it set out to be a demonstration of cool and daring special effects (just like the second trilogy), telling a simple fairy tale in space -- and that something magical (not as in Willow and Tara making roses float, but as in Lucas hitting one of those unpredictable public nerves) happened when it was created.

SERENITY, as you say, is far more real; it gives us heroes we can relate to -- it's not a fairy tale at all. Which is why I think that one can compare the two universes, but not to a point where one can say that one is better than the other.

Fascinating conversation.
That is a great point bschnell. I used the term Modern Mythology because of an exhibit that I remember hitting malls and Children's Museums several years ago. Something like "Star Wars: the Modern Mythology" it had several props and other facts about the Movie.

Really I believe your analogy of a fairy tale in space is much closer to the truth about Star Wars.
Whoa...came to this thread in about the 17th inning...but:

As was said, the original Star Wars has to be looked at in the context of its time, just like the original Star Trek.

Have to disagree, unless we're talking about fond and sentimental recollections, rather than subjective analysis of art.

Which I believe Serenity to be. Art. A gorgeous, gripping, stunning, funny, horrifying retelling of one of the oldest stories known to mankind, i.e., what happens when men try to be God?

The Star Wars stuff is okay (but not at all my cup of tea), I guess, but it doesn't (obviously, in my opinion), have any of the philosophical sophistication, the dramatic rise and fall and rise of action, the complicated aspects of relationships and friendships, the nuanced understanding of human foibles and our ability to rise above them (except, as someone mentioned, in a cartoonish fashion--I think Alec Guiness would have loved playing Book, by the way, and as written by Joss) that Serenity has in droves.
I think its far better becasue of one factor, no aliens. Most Scifi films rely on aliens as a crutch. No plot, lets just stick an alien in there and be done with it. No Laser guns, No Aliens, Joss boldly (in terms of science fiction) relies on Dialouge and Storytelling to provide entertainment. If Star Wars had no lightsabers, it would take a huge hit in popularity, because there is no substance behind it. I know i'll take some bashing from the Lucas fans for that, but i am just trying to be honest. And its just my little opinion.
Let's see if I get this quoting thing right this time (completely new here myself, and mighty awed).

Madcap23 wrote:

I used the term Modern Mythology because of an exhibit that I remember hitting malls and Children's Museums several years ago. Something like "Star Wars: the Modern Mythology" ...


Oh, there's no doubt that STAR WARS is Modern Mythology now. And I know that, for instance, Tolkien did indeed set out to create such a critter when he wrote LOTR. It's just that with Lucas, I'm not so sure. I think that he set out to do impressive things with his toy box, and the myth happened by ... accident? A stroke of luck/genius? Something like that. Of course _afterwards_ he said that he always had the whole mythology in his head, and that he knew what he was doing. But the original, first STAR WARS movie is so different from all the others (it is very simple and it has enough closure to stand alone completely) that I can't believe that.
George Lucas said that he refered to Joseph Campbell's books in his Star Wars movies. The books are about myths and religions through the ages, how different generations ask the Big Questions in their own ways but he also noticed how similiar the questions and approaches to answers were. Archtypes, i think was the word JC used, how lots of cultures seem to admire similiar things in their big damn heros (sorry for butchering JC's thesis here). Lucas singled out the book "Hero with A Thousand Faces" as key to his work. Anyways my point is I think Lucas was very conscious of "myth" making.

GL and JC became friends after the first movie, and supposedly Campbell consulted on later ones informally.
Chris inVirginia wrote:

The Star Wars stuff is okay (but not at all my cup of tea), I guess, but it doesn't (obviously, in my opinion), have any of the philosophical sophistication, the dramatic rise and fall and rise of action, the complicated aspects of relationships and friendships, the nuanced understanding of human foibles and our ability to rise above them ... that Serenity has in droves.


True. And yet I think SERENITY wouldn't be possible without, or at least owes a lot to STAR WARS. It rises _way_ above it in complexity, but some tongue-in-cheek (and maybe even the odd bit of real, sentimental) reverence can't be denied.
bschnell, I have it on pretty good authority that George Lucas did indeed have the mythology in his head. I can't say that he knew all the plot points in all six movies, but he had the outline of the mythos right from the beginning. I believe this is backed up in various books written about Lucas, such as Skywalking, and in the special edition DVD set background feature.

And, much as I dislike the last three installments, I think "[Lucas] set out to do impressive things with his toy box" is a little harsh. He was more interested in ideas than in special effects at that time, IMO. Now certainly he became completely obsessed with the effects, but remember that the movie started in his head and on paper as words and pictures. He didn't have a toy box initially; he created it to serve the ideas he had.
Although I agree with you in spirit Pongluver there is one thing that I needed to correct. Serenity the movie had lasers in it. The Feds ships all had lasers and other projectiles. Also from the episode of Firefly called “Trash” you have the Lassiter “The forerunner of all modern laser technology”.

I had this discussion with my wife about the ships of the Firefly universe, what I observed is that only Official ships (Police and Military) seem to be fully armed. Ships like Serenity and other smuggling vehicles are unarmed.

Looking at it from a realistic stand point, if you were conducting less than legal activities (smuggling) would you drive a tank or a car? It seems logical to me that a person in Mal’s shoes would shy away from ships with weapons on them, simply because it would give the feds one less reason to hassle him.
It seems to me that there's no question that Star Wars is a re-making of mythological themes/ideas/stories/etc. Frankly, and I may be alone in this, that doesn't impress me very much. Anyone, and I mean, ANYONE can write a mythological hero story. Ten year old kids can write them. And that is because those stories are totally ingrained in our culture. We learn them from a young age (as fairy tales, as others have mentioned) and we see them everywhere. It's how we think. (This is, of course, also their power and continuing appeal.)

Now, I wouldn't say that Serenity, or Firefly, or the Buffyverse stories don't re-tell those stories. Of course they do. How could they not? What's intriguing and continually interesting to me about them is how they trope on the standard myths, re-writing them and twisting them to their own (or Joss's own) ends. Mal is, obviously, a hero but not a "good guy," just as Angel (and Spike) are heroes but not "good guys," and Buffy is a teenage girl in a horror story, but not a victim. It's those twists, that make you re-think the stories that we all know, that I admire personally.
bschnell: SERENITY wouldn't be possible without, or at least owes a lot to STAR WARS.

Agreed. And Romeo and Juliet wouldn't have been possible without some mindnumbingly forgettable Italian forebears. Not equating the Star Wars stuff to that, but there's no doubt that Shakespeare drew upon some pretty dire crap, and saw some great possiblities.

Again, not calling SW crap, just that it never, ever did anything for me.

But I have, on this board, occasionally likened Joss to a contemporary Shakespeare. And I'm quite serious about that.
SoddingNancyTribe said:

... he [Lucas] had the outline of the mythos right from the beginning. I believe this is backed up in various books written about Lucas, such as Skywalking, and in the special edition DVD set background feature.


Easy to say, in hindsight. Now, if there's an interview published before the opening of the very first STAR WARS film confirming that, I'll believe it. I've only ever heard Lucas talk about it after the fact. And the structure of the first movie is different from the others. There were no pretensions of greatness in it; it just ... happened to be great, in its own simple way. And it was a stand-alone film that didn't need any sequels. Not that I mind the first two sequels, they definitely had their moments ...

And, much as I dislike the last three installments, I think "[Lucas] set out to do impressive things with his toy box" is a little harsh. He was more interested in ideas than in special effects at that time, IMO.


Hey, my disappointment in the later three episodes was more than a little harsh, so I'm entitled to some harshness of my own (can one *grin* here?). Besides, I'm sure I mentioned things like genius and magic somewhere in that context, too.
I didn't take the toy box comment as being so harsh as others did apparently :) It seemed to me to refer to the figures on the stage of his story rather than a dig at the special effects driven-ness of the later films. As ever, I may be completely off base and bschnell will, I am sure, clarify as appropriate. I *grin* or :) here all the time and though I'm sure Caroline is hexing me for it in secret, I seem to get away with my occasional bouts of emoticon mania ;P
Easy to say, in hindsight. Now, if there's an interview published before the opening of the very first STAR WARS film confirming that, I'll believe it


Well, there's this interview with Gary Kurtz:

Because George originally wrote a lot of different – well, you've probably read some of the different versions of the screenplay. The story shifted back and forth a great deal. But in some original notes that were actually before the treatment, before the first screenplay, there was a lot more material – a lot more convoluted story structure and stuff about the long history. In the end, we opted to pick what we thought was a good, rousing adventure story out of the middle of all this material



The interview wasn't conducted before the movie opened, certainly, but if you know anything about the relationship between George Lucas and Gary Kurtz (or if you know Gary Kurtz), you'll appreciate that Kurtz isn't one to make stuff up to support GL's version of events. If GK says it's so, I'm inclined to believe him.

I think the difference in structure can be attributed to the uncertainty - or even plain doubt - about whether there'd be a sequel - and therefore A New Hope had to be self-contained in a way the following movies didn't.
I think the difference in structure can be attributed to the uncertainty - or even plain doubt - about whether there'd be a sequel - and therefore A New Hope had to be self-contained in a way the following movies didn't.


Hmm... a vast vision of universe and story dying to be told... picking out the parts to make a rousing adventure movie in case no sequels were possible...

Where have I heard this before?
Zeitgeist wrote:

>>I didn't take the toy box comment as being so harsh as others did apparently :) It seemed to me to refer to the figures on the stage of his story rather than a dig at the special effects driven-ness of the later films.<<

(Is this way of quoting okay, too? I don't speak HTML, and unless there's a shortcut, cutting and pasting the necessary commands is a tad time-consuming. Or maybe I'm just overlooking something?)

Oh, if you want to see me being harsh, read my review of EPISODE III. Oh, wait -- it's in German, so I get away for now (or do I?). Anyway, honestly, I _was_ referring to the effects, which were awesome for the time, but they were also ... nicely in sync with the rest of the thing, the straightforward story and the, well, memorable characters. I really like to think of this as George Lucas at play. After that first film, not so much.
bschnell wrote ... And yet I think SERENITY wouldn't be possible without, or at least owes a lot to STAR WARS. It rises _way_ above it in complexity, but some tongue-in-cheek (and maybe even the odd bit of real, sentimental) reverence can't be denied.


Joss fans know (courtesy of the man himself) how much he owes Lucas' vision. I'm thinking what Chris was getting at was that for all Lucas' strengths as a yarn-spinner his weakness on creating characters, and the dialogue that springs from that, is equally undeniable. Lucas doesn't understand people in the same way he understands story structure and cinematic spectacle.

Joss has the full armoury. His prowess in creating a universe may not match Lucas' but that's more a comment on Lucas' originally outstanding imagination in that field. Joss' 'Verse is still easily rich enough to stand alone as an impressive visionary creation beyond almost any other SciFi or fantasy TV or film (although probably not books). Add to that his spellbinding gift for character and his storytelling nous and you begin to understand how lucky we are that he has had, and hopefully will continue to have, the opportunities to express himself.

What Joss does not have (yet) is the recognition that allowed Lucas the resources to flesh out his vision so fully. Like others have said many times, imagine what Joss could have done (and hopefully will one day do) with the same resources our A-list directors have.

On another note, and as an aside, Zeitgiest mentioned Cowboy Bebop. I don't know if Joss had seen it or not but CB's recurring joke of extremely capable outsiders pulling jobs which somehow continually go wrong so that the protagonists are always just scraping by was the second reference (after Han Solo of course) that popped into my head when I discovered Firefly. I know Bebop probably didn't invent the idea either but I love the idea of characters who own spaceships but can't afford to eat sometimes. It's one of the key aspects of both Firefly and Bebop.
SoddingNancyTribe wrote:

>>I think the difference in structure can be attributed to the uncertainty - or even plain doubt - about whether there'd be a sequel - and therefore A New Hope had to be self-contained in a way the following movies didn't.<<

I think we almost agree here -- only it could just as well be attributed to the fact that at first, no sequel was planned. I don't doubt that there was more to the STAR WARS universe from the beginning (thanks for the Kurtz quote) and that they had to pick the screenplay out from lots and lots of story. That's what storytellers do -- some of them fill out psych tests for their characters just so they know them inward and out, without ever using any of that information onscreen (or on the page). But contrary to all his claims, I could just as well believe that Lucas tasted blood _after_ his little film became this overnight success and decided to dig out his notes and tell more of the story. It wouldn't make me enjoy the (first) films any less.
Hey, bschnell, after that robust exchange of views, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, I think we can do more than "almost" agree. Let's split the difference, and drink to our newfound agreement - your shout. :)

ETA: Blimey, just noticed that we've added 673 new members this time around. Thought it was feeling a little livelier in here. Welcome all - but please don't all post at once, you'll give us conniptions . . .:)
Bucho wrote:

>>What Joss does not have (yet) is the recognition that allowed Lucas the resources to flesh out his vision so fully. Like others have said many times, imagine what Joss could have done (and hopefully will one day do) with the same resources our A-list directors have.<<

Amen to that -- with one exception: I truly hope that Joss Whedon will keep presenting us new faces like he has done in the past years -- not only the entire FIREFLY cast, but also talent like James Marsters or Amy Acker or ... you name them. Discoveries, all, just like the stories they appear in. Not that I mind looking at Brad Pitt occasionally, but I don't need to see him steering SERENITY ...
SoddingNancyTribe -- okay, Talisker for me, and yes, enjoyable it was. Slainte.

(And yeah, I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I randomly checked the membership thingie at Christmas -- AND IT LET ME IN. Yay me. Yay the folks who run this interesting place. Just ... yay.)
This conversation seems to be really going somewhere, I just wanted to submit a post. I was not around when the original star wars movies came in theatres(I was born in 1980). So I didn't see them on the big screen only on the little screen, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the original trilogy. The talking of the force, the jedi warrior, the light sabers, the emperor, good vs evil, all of those things just captured my imagination. I loved it and still do. It is not as sophisticated as Serenity, thats for sure, but it does not mean I appreciate the original Trilogy any less. (I refuse to even acknowledge the abominations called prequels)

For me the Star Wars films will always rank high on my list, and I do not want to compare the two. I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for the original Star Wars. Yes the effects were amazing, but for me the simple story still pleases me even today. It was nicely done, and the mythos was well played out in the trilogy.

The way Luke goes through the various stages of the hero archtype greatly interests me. He starts out realizing his true potential, he desires to rush his training, finds out the truth of his father, he has to face his father and risk going to the dark side. It is cliched, and it has been done before Im sure, but the trilogy still resonates with me, and nothing can change that. And am I the only one who loves the Ewoks? And not just as a kid, even now! So anyway, just wanted to say I love Star Wars, effects story and all, and I refuse to decide if Serenity is better or not.
It had been awhile since we had seen a good version of the hero myth. Lucas took it, and gave it lasers and Alec Guiness. How could we not love it? At that time and place it was new and exciting.
Now Harry Potter is doing the same thing in books (and movies)and again people are discovering the power of that myth.
But when you revisit it, it can seem trite because the myth itself is old and mostly holds its power (IMHO) when it is new to us, or presented in a new fashion.
I'm not sure that Joss is tapping into any myths. So he must pull us in by the power of his characters and his writing. Which he does handily.
Glad I posted this article - interesting discussion while I was away from the keyboard.

I also remember being blown away by episodes 4 and 5, less so by 6. Watched 1 with gritted teeth, left the room after 10 minutes of 2, haven't seen 3. I'm afraid I can't help but see the films as long, elaborate ads for product.

I am a huge fan of literate SF - and I have had to defend my "taste" more than once. Those whose only exposure to the genre is SW can get a bit eye-ball-rolly about my one true love.

Edited to fix my convoluted grammar

[ edited by redfern on 2005-12-29 00:57 ]
redfern wrote:

>>I'm afraid I can't help but see the films as long, elaborate ads for product.<<

Here I was, trying to avoid further harshness (or accusations of same) and you just ... blithely say what I wrote in my review. ILM is no longer without competition, and after one year without something new from New Zealand, the screens this Christmas are completely dominated by an outfit named WETA. So, yup, EPISODE III felt a _lot_like an overblown "we can do lava, too" ad, with a stunning "but can you do space battles?" teaser thrown in for good measure.

Thanks indeed for starting this thread.
Great, lively discussion here- welcome aboard, new faces :) Just want to add that Firefly/Serenity's 'verse can and perhaps will support some books. I know of at least two written on spec.
bschnell - Interesting - where is the line between a polite, personal opinion and a rabid, hostile attack? Don't worry, the moderators will let us know if we are out of bounds. One of the reasons I love this site is that civilized behaviour is a must. Way to go guys/gals!

ETA
SoddingNancyTribe -- okay, Talisker for me

Yummy, count me in! My second favorite tipple after Laphroig

[ edited by redfern on 2005-12-29 03:00 ]
Lioness comes close to nailing it, for me: I'm not sure that Joss is tapping into any myths. So he must pull us in by the power of his characters and his writing. Which he does handily.

I'd only add that it is indeed a myth that Joss is tapping into, but not the hero myth...its' a theme as old as mankind itself, told an retold again and again...as I've said other times before, what I perceive to be the overriding theme of Serenity, the ancient myth of man playing God (the sin of pride, as the Operative notes) a story that is more compelling to me than that of the hero.

And he retells it in a fresh, invigorating, engaging, and utterly enthralling way.
The closest classical myths Joss may be writing from are those of the Ronin. Mal and Zoe fit particularly easily into the mould of warriors who have been cast aside by their clan (betrayed by the Independents' commanders?) to find themselves as nomadic mercenaries. Many ancient stories from the far east revolve around small bands of wandering misfit fighters.

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