Just sat down and watched Serenity on DVD. First time since seeing it in the theater. I think it might justbe the best Sci-Fi movie of the past ten years. Just like the Firefly was the best Sci-Fi TV Show in years, the movie manages to really move leaps and bounds beyond it's contemporaries. It's just an exemplary piece of fiction, based wholly in the realm of characterization, which, frankly, we haven't seen since the original Star Wars. Prior to this, there was The Matrix. The first one. The good one. But, you compare the two, and you see that The Matrix is a movie about ideas. Big ideas. The characters are merely paper dolls the Wachowski's move into position to execute on those ideas. And they do it brilliantly.
Serenity does that too. It's about big ideas. Courage, heroism, love, freedom. But, it's not about the concepts as abstracts. It's not about destiny, and every step of the way you feel the peril these characters are in. You really don't know who's going to make it, and you actually give a fuck because of it.
Joss Whedon shops at my comic shop. Or, at least he did. I haven't seen him in a while. The shop is populated by luminaries. I manage to see Bruce Timm hanging out there just about every week, as well as a slew of other big name comic pros, animation guys, and film and tv writers and directors. (Apparently, the entire writing staff of Alias comes in together every Wednesday, for example.) And I generally greet, talk to, wave, or nod to all of them. But not Joss. I'm outright terrified of him. The work he's done, specifically as a genre creator initimidates the fuck out of me. He is the real deal. This guy pulled himself up and redefined television. Really. Think about how many shows with such in depth continuing stories there were Pre-Buffy. Think about how many shows there were that so effectively hit such a wide demographic, yet never felt targeted or market researched to death. St. Elsewhere. Homicide. Hill Street Blues. Twin Peaks. That's really about it. Even the stuff David E. Kelly was doing back then lacked the true feeling of continuity (and not in the fanboy "Please see episode 2x04 for more information" kind of way.)
Joss turned 'genre' into a successful model. I truly believe that his work paved the way for the renaisaance of Superhero movies, action movies, and animation. (I mean, c'mon, he did work on Toy Story that gave it it's wittiest banter.)
What's saddest about watching Serenity now is knowing that this is probably the last we'll see of the characters. When I saw it in the theater, there was a palatable feeling of hope... that this was the time when something good would win out over something safe and mediocre. But, now, we know that Star Wars Episode III: Ruining a Generation's Childhood would go on to be one of the biggest hits of the year, and Serenity wouldn't even make back it's budget.
But, Joss came out of it a film director and screenwriter. He's got his horror movie in the pike, and then Wonder Woman. Which means finally there might be an even bigger audience for a man who might just be the most talented son of a bitch in Hollywood.
Can't Stop the Signal.