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February 24 2006

Short negative review of Serenity on dvd from The Guardian. "It plays more like a Dark Angel episode in space with a few bits grafted on from The Matrix, Minority Report and Star Wars."

So many curses...so little time! All I can do is shake my head and wonder if this joker saw the same movie the rest of us did.
Not knocking the reviewer, but I have to completely disagree him/her. Not even sure how the comparison to The Matrix fits in there. To me, the Matrix was more or less simply a vehicle to showcase the effects (and it became more painfully obvious with each sequel). Serenity certainly wasn't about the effects, it was about the story. Can't explain the Dark Angel or Minority Report reference either. I just don't see those comparisons.

Star Wars...hhmm. I guess. I mean, I suppose it's comparable if you look at it as the little guy fighting the big guy, David and Goliath style.

Was Serenity the best damn movie I've ever seen? Probably not. But it was damn good just the same. Just my opinion here, but I really enjoyed the 'old serial' feel (adventure, comradarie, etc). It never made me think of the movies mentioned by that reviewer at all.

[ edited by Grace on 2006-02-24 21:53 ]
Well, it is obvious, not everyone will appreciate the movie(and tv series before it) as we do. Meh its a short review anyways. Have there been more psitive reviews coming from bigger name reviewers in the UK?

ETA: In terms of "other" movies, Star Wars is a big influence, joss said so himself. It has been said over and over that Mal would be a cousin or nephew or some relation to Star Wars. But obviously, this is not a Star Wars derivative, completely different story.

ETA 2: Just a note...this wouldnt be the first time some reviewer(or just someone) claims this movie is a ripoff or a mishmash of other movies. I have seen of comparisions to cowboy beebop, or 5th element, or other things.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-02-24 21:56 ]
comparing "serenity" to "dark angel"? the mind boggles. and honestly, i seriously doubt he would find summer glau "frail-looking" if she were spin-kicking him in the face, but i suppose that's just a fantasy. (i'm sorry, am i overreacting?)
Dark-fucking-Angel? Her name wasn't even Angel! God!
With the overwhelmingly positive (i.e. highly accurate) critical response to Serenity, you had to figure a couple bad apples would roll out of the review bunch. The cheaply derisive and dashed-off nature of this blurb tells the reader that he either didn't pay much attention while watching the film, isn't much of a 'genre' fan, or got sick of all his friends and neighbors telling him how badass the movie is and got reactionary when he put pen to paper. No big--everyone my wife and I introduce to this little slice of cinematic heaven has gone bonkers over it, kind of like 90% of the critics out there.
Hmmm. Part of me, maybe the masochistic part, would like more of an explanation on his thoughts because I really don't get a lot of them. The other part of me does not want the aggravation.
Serenity was a good film but it wasn't to everyone's taste, no film ever is!


The first time I saw it was with a friend who didn't get it to such an extent that we ended up leaving the screening. I went back later and saw it with another friend and we both enjoyed it.

But yes I can understand both positive and negative viewpoints and really can't see any cause for concern about the odd negative in a sea of praise .

After all some people didn't get BTVS or AtS


Tastes and opinions vary.

No big
I'm not really that worried. Serenity has gathered a fair amount of positive press and good feedback from most people who've seen it, but it figures that some people simply won't like it. It certainly wasn't the worst review I've read, and three out of five stars wasn't bad.

I do fail to get some of the comparisons though. Dark Angel? The Matrix? Maybe on a very superficial, basic level, but not in any other way. I do think The Matrix was an iconic film with a great concept and mind blowing special effects, but I don't really see much in common with Serenity. From the (thankfully limited) amount I have seen of Dark Angel is that the main character is a genetically modified assassin or something, which is a tenuous parallel with River but that's where the similarities end.

Star Wars I can definitely understand, because it is such a recognisable film that was influenced and has influenced many films since, but I feel that the Star Wars world is definitely much more simplified and a little too black and white compared to the much more realistic and morally ambiguous world of Serenity.
Actually, Razor, now that you talked about Dark Angel, I enjoyed that show somewhat, there are common elements. There is the dystopian future, but in Dark Angel its on earth, and closer to the present compared to Serenity. And as you pointed out, the plotline of a genetic modified girl(compared to an enhanced genius/psychic). Both trained with deadly abilities. One is crazy the other is not. In Dark Angel, alot of the heros are "flawed", not just in terms of abilities, but personality wise too.

Thing is, not to say Sci Fi is derivative and boring, but there are alot of key elements that are used throughout the genre. A dystopian future is one, where the gov't has too much power at the expense of the people. And there are heros/heroines who try to fight that power, whether they volunteered initially or not. There is also the notion of people interfering with the natural order, resulting in disastrous consequences, like River/Reavers, or in the case of Dark Angel, the "mutants", cant remember the exact term, but those familiar with the series will know what I mean.

Anyways as debw said "No big".

[ edited by kurya on 2006-02-24 22:50 ]
This gentleman has his you know what up his you know what.
His opinions are certainly valid, though it's not very good criticism. I guess that's probably due to the confined length of the review, but more would certainly be appreciated.
Oh, dear, reviewer clearly didn't grasp the story at all. It's a morality tale of a very old and very new sort. To simply say that it's a sci-fi pastiche is lazy criticism, I think.
Yes, I mean I posted this because I thinks its good to have some perspective now and then. No one is going to love every film. I've just finished dashing off my own largely negative review of 'Capote' for my own blog. I think the problem here is he's trying to fulfill the adage that 'brevity is the soul of wit' rather than offering much balance.
For anyone interested, there's an even shorter review at FHM, but they did give it four stars.
I thought it was a honest review. Short and to the point. I disagree with what he says but then it would be terribly boring if everyone agreed with each other all the time.
I agree with Simon as well. The reviewer said that Serenity has cheesy dialogue, and I can easily see how someone would think that, even though I wholeheartedly disagree.
To me, the Matrix was more or less simply a vehicle to showcase the effects


Well, then, maybe you should consider Joss' opinion about The Matrix, Grace, and then give it a second chance.
After watching the two Matrix sequels, I don't anyone think anyone should give it a second chance. They should have stopped after the first one.
"Well, then, maybe you should consider Joss' opinion about The Matrix, Grace, and then give it a second chance."

@Simon, LOL...looked up while I was posting the following and saw your comment!

I'm not saying I didn't like The Matrix. I just think all those nifty effects tended to overshadow everything else. Although, I still can't say I'm a fan of the sequels (same goes for the SW prequels). I completely agree, they should have stopped with one. In both The Matrix and the SW prequels, I think the effects hurt the movies instead of helping them.

I wanted to thank everyone who was able to come up with some similarities to Dark Angel, SW and the Matrix because I just wasn't seeing any. Anybody got any for Minority Report?

[ edited by Grace on 2006-02-25 00:39 ]
Minority Report also involved someone helping a woman escape from a test laboratory?
I betya that's it!

Looks like the reviewer was short on space, but a little explanation of why those movies were mentioned would have made more sense.
Well, 'Minority Report' is also about freedom of choice tho' in that case the 'enemy' is actually determinism. I think 'Serenity' makes the assumption that free will exists and asks 'how do we allow people to exercise it ?'. MR asks the more fundamental question 'Does free will exist at all ?'

Plus, they both have people in them. And explosions.
At the time, the special effects in The Matrix were - like - incredible. Nobody had really seen bullet time used like that. Now everybody does it. Also, it's a sci-fi action film with mixed genres, idealogies.. and freakin' kung fu. And let's not mention when you get to the real world - my brain was splattered on the wall.

That said, I think the sequels deserve not to be seen. Or at least be seen whilst drunk. They are overly long, far too much special effects and the script is just dire (in my opinion).

The Matrix is still one of my favourite films. Dark Angel? It's from James Cameron, man.
Well, then, maybe you should consider Joss' opinion about The Matrix, Grace, and then give it a second chance.

Wait... we can't have different opinions from Joss?? For the record, I agree with Grace on this one, especially when it comes to the sequels, which I found tedious to the extreme. Even the first one, though, I thought was mostly neat for the groundbreaking special-effects, but I wasn't nearly as taken with its pseudo-philosophy as its creators seemed to be. And I agree - any time the effects become the reason to see a movie, it's in trouble, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm also having a hard time seeing the Minority Report connection. Caroline's explanation makes sense, and I guess it did involve fiddling around with people's brains and having a pretty ominous, supposedly-good, ruling entity. Still, i think it's a stretch. I don't see much of a Matrix connection either. But I can certainly see how not everyone would appreciate the movie as much as I did.....
I can't say I was incredibly impressed with The Matrix's FX. Bullet time was nice, but it wasn't that much of a leap from something I saw in friggin' Wing Commander. It also wasn't helped by Trinity's "How did you do that? You moved like they do," when Neo didn't even move.

Joss can love The Matrix all he wants -- I just think it's an above-average sci-fi flick with one good sequel (Reloaded) and one bad sequel (Revolutions).

[ edited by The Dark Shape on 2006-02-25 01:01 ]
The thing that gets me is that these two lines are together:

it's just another sci-fi action movie with a cheesy script, variable acting and only the odd touch of class. This is surprising, as it is from Joss Whedon, creator/writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

...which implies the reviewer has liked Joss's previous work. IMO Serenity is vintage Joss.

As for the Matrix, the original is a sci-fi classic that deserves to live on forever, whereas the sequels give the human race reason enough to invent an actual Matrix just so we don't have to see them ever again.
Don't agree with the reviewer either (and being a Guardian reader I can say I disagree with him - and all their other film reviewers for that matter - on a regular basis), but it's not like he hated it. Three stars means he thought it was ok.

His point seems to boil down to "but it's sci-fi". Pointing out bits that remind you of other movies in the genre is worthless. It's like disliking a western because it's got shoot-outs like Rio Bravo and a good guy like High Noon. All genre movies resemble other movies within that genre, that's kind of the point.

It's the differences that matter, and those are what make Serenity unlike any other movie ever made, sci-fi or otherwise. Playing around with genre is what Joss is all about.
It's the differences that matter, and those are what make Serenity unlike any other movie ever made, sci-fi or otherwise.


Is this really true?

There have been many great films and great filmmakers down the years. I must admit, I'm not convinced I could count 'Serenity' amongst the truly classic films of all-time and I would be hard-pressed to give a reason why it is "unlike any other movie ever made".

This is probably not the best forum to choose to say this, but I have to be honest and admit I found the film slightly disappointing. I watched it a couple times, mainly because I didn't trust my reaction to it the first time around. It's got nothing to do with not getting it. It's a perfectly fine film, but I just didn't feel engaged by it.

I'm waiting for the DVD to be released so I can try again. Maybe I'll grow to love it in time but for some reason I've never quite managed to get on the bus with the whole 'Firefly' thing. There is much to admire but I've not yet been able to make any real emotional connection to it.
Joss Whedon likes The Matrix, Dude Where's My Car and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. So I'm happy to consider that I just don't agree with his taste in movies. As long as he never *makes* a film like those three, I'm good.
I'm not convinced I could count 'Serenity' amongst the truly classic films of all-time


It's a very good debut film but it's not an all time classic. There are weaknesses in it, primarily caused by the budget. It does sometimes look a bit cheap and I can see where reviewers come from when they say it feels like a television episode. However, I am convinced it is Joss' best work to date and I can't wait to see his subsequent movies.
Dark Angel?!!!?
Joss likes Dude, Where's My Car? Odd. The Matrix was terrific, though the sequels sucked. The 40 Year Old Virgin was the best comedy of last year.
I'd count Serenity my favorite movie, but that's because of my strong emotional connection with its production and its characters. It may be biased and it may be unfair, but that's honestly how much the film means to me.
The guy doesn't like Serenity. Fine, I have absolutely no problem with that. But to make it sound like only Firefly fans liked the movie, and that his negative opinion is somehow in the majority, that is just total self-absorbed butt-ignorant BS.

Wait... we can't have different opinions from Joss?? For the record, I agree with Grace on this one, especially when it comes to the sequels, which I found tedious to the extreme. Even the first one, though, I thought was mostly neat for the groundbreaking special-effects, but I wasn't nearly as taken with its pseudo-philosophy as its creators seemed to be. And I agree - any time the effects become the reason to see a movie, it's in trouble, as far as I'm concerned.


Of course we are free to have different opinions!

If you re-read it, my message was not "you must have the same opinion as Joss".

My message was: in this link, Joss precisely said that the matrix was not only about SFX... and since we all know that he knows this kind of stuff (the 'not only about SFX' was exactly one of the key points of Serenity) and that his opinions are not enterily stupid, maybe people who consider that The Matrix is only about SFX should at least give it another chance; not necessarily love it after, but just try to have another view on it.

Hey! We complained about all the people that considered Serenity as "only a Sci fi flick with (bad) SFX", whereas there is much more than that in it; thus, it seemed fair, to me, to defend another movie on the same criteria.
Just to redress the balance, The Guardian Guide's review is much better ...

"Even if you approach this as a newcomer, you get a witty, tightly scripted, fast-paced sci-fi epic that outclasses most of last year's dismal blockbusters."
Bizarrely today's Guardian has a really positive review in it's "Guide" section. Right hand, would you like to meet left hand?
The Guardian and The Guardian weekend edition/ guide have different editors and use different freelance reviewers . The paper doesn't have a party line on anything and it's very common to read wildly differing reviews of the same film or play.
Regarding The Matrix, I felt the first was really amazing on several levels. The whole concept and story was really fresh and intriguing. The cinematopgraphy and direction was visually astounding. The actors were all pretty good. The fight scenes and special effects were revolutionary. All in all, you got a beautiful looking, interesting film that was very easy to connect emotionally with.

I knoq an awful lot of people were unhappy with the sequels, and I didn't feel they matched the quality of the first film but they weren't without merit. Certainly the amazing special effects and cinematography continued to advance, if not quite as far as the original did. However the cold, supercool, knowing performances in the first film became very stale because there just wasn't any progression or anything new. Ooh, all the characters are still really tough, cool and don't say very much unless they have to, impressive. Not so much when every character in all three films seems to share most of these qualities.

The general story was okay, however the actual scripts were terrible, filled with rambling, pretentious speeches about philosophy that make very little sense. Crucially, the sequels also lacked any sense of self-aware irony. The kind that Joss' work is completely filled with, which provides so much humour and prevents it from becoming too boring or cold. But they are still fairly entertaining popcorn movies based on the action scenes.

And regarding the second Guardian review which feelinglistless posted, one thing that always interests me is how every reviewer seems to comment on one particular performance or character, but that praise has been given to almost every single one of our Big Damn Heroes. Nathan often gets mentioned for being such a strong lead character, and Summer for also being the focus of much of the story and for being such a newcomer.

But I have also read one reviewer who singled out the relationship between Wash and Zoe that was "beautifully natural and understated", or another who commented that Jewel's performance was luminous. This review mentions Adam as one of the best characters. I've also heard others comment on the touching relationship between Simon and River.

I think the fact that so many people, whether they liked the movie or not, can appreciate at least one of the actor's performances is a credit to the cast. Unfortunately Ron and Morena have such limited screen time that they havne't received as much attention as the other BDHs, but I hope that Morena particularly gets a chance to show off her acting ability as Inara in the future.
First time I watched Serenity, at the only screening in Singapore, I asked five friends along and honestly (all right, naively) expected all of them to go bonkers over it. Here are the results of the post-movie survey:

1. "Woah, it's good!"
2. "Ooh, the Captain's dreamy!"
3. "So, what happened in Firefly?"
4. "Dark Angel!!!"
5. "It's terrible."

My response? Bring on the DVD! Anyway, didn't get the Dark Angel bit at all (and now I have, thanks to this thread) and Response No. 5 hurt like hell, but I've since treated it as a lesson in maturity -- one cannot compel others to share one's toe-twiddling obsessions.

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