Critiquing an artform (‘Failed’ part 2)

It’s all hot air, I’d just like to say that as a preface. The critiquing of art only has statistical relevance, as in the method used at www.rottentomatoes.com, and then only if the positive/negative is weighed properly. Which is why I don’t make top 10 lists, for example. It’s pretty pointless. My favorite top 10 anything will shift from day to day, and should be meaningless to just about anybody else.

I know what I like, and why I like it. Conversely, I know what I don’t like and why that is as well. For example, Sin City is not a good film no matter how many tickets it sold. There is no discernible theme. There is no apparent rhyme or reason for the use of color in the film (which is done in nouveau black and white for those who haven’t seen it. Can anybody explain the Ferengi in the final segments of the film? I just don’t get that bit at all) it is an excellent representation of a graphic novel who’s pictures move, but it is a very poor film. Are we clear? Good.

Having made that point clear, I’d like to respond to two points brought up here:
http://www.fireflyfans.net/showblog.asp?b=2857#8598

(non-SciFi fans will be forgiven if they run screaming…)

Gedeon wrote:
So are you saying Joss will lose his thunder like David Lynche did?

I’m still a browncoat, still love the characters, but they should stop whoring the story for new fans next time around. You know, not have Simon save River thus destroying what he did in the series. Not have Jayne take River for a nice Shuttle ride… It makes the story clearer, but you and I didn’t need it.

What I was saying is that Fire Walk with Me was a failure in every way that Serenity was not; and yet it was acclaimed as a great film. I’ve never cared, one way or the other, for David Lynch’s work. I consider his version of Dune to be one of the worst adaptations of a movie from a novel that I have ever seen. They didn’t get one thing right except casting and makeup for the Harkonens. I’ll have to beg off judgment on anything else he’s done, since I haven’t seen it.

I personally think that Joss took the wise course in attempting to create a film that would not alienate the new viewer by catering to the fans of the TV show. I’ve said this before and it bears repeating:

“I’m not in charge of making the movies; I daresay that (whoever you are reading this) you don’t make films either. Since they don’t pay me to make decisions about what I want to see in a film and, in fact, pay someone else to do it, I don’t expect people in positions of authority on any particular film will care much if I have a complaint about a particular scene.”

The scenes in question make sense from a plot standpoint (even if they don’t in series continuity) and so can be forgiven, at least in my opinion (I especially love the ‘beaning’ that Jayne gets. Nice pun Joss) they do not, in fact, conflict with established facts from the series.

So, no aspersions on Joss whatsoever, kudos to Joss for getting Serenity in the air at all.

Gedeon wrote:
To me, in years to come, we will consider Serenity like trekkies consider the first Star Trek movie. It’s the right characters, but the costumes were all wrong. The other six are much better.

The worst of the ST films was the last one. That they (Paramount) have apparently given Berman and Braga (the Nemesis of Trek) the reins of the next film as well pretty much spells the complete end of the franchise for me. If Berman is given control of this film, it will be the first Star Trek film that I won’t bother to see in theatres. Nemesis was so far removed from Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Trek that I just couldn’t sit through it more than once. That and the fact that they rehash the death of Spock with the death and re-birth of Data; they inexplicably find yet another ‘brother’ for Data, while traveling on a dune buggy, the only vehicle with wheels ever seen in Trek. Need I go on?

In contrast, the first film (despite it’s meandering pacing and far too simplistic plot) clearly has a lot of Gene in it. The machine trying to become human (a la Data from Next Generation) for example. The first Star Trek film is something I cherish. It got the ball rolling again.

If that is what Serenity ends up being (the film that gets the ball rolling again) then I will look back on it just as fondly.

Failed movies from failed series…?

Ever heard of a show called Firefly? I’m a fan. A hardcore fan. Ever heard of the movie Serenity? It’s a continuation of the characters and story line in Firefly. Again, I’m a hardcore fan. I just want to get the fact that I LOVE the show(s) in the record before we go where this post goes. Stay with me here.

Firefly was canceled due to the infinite wisdom of Fox television. All television executives are omniscient, just ask the guys at NBC who canceled Star Trek in the 60’s. They knew it was junk and was never going to make any money. Don’t let the fact that Paramount has milked millions out of the franchise (and founded the 5th broadcast network with not much more than Star Trek to carry it) since that point fool you, Star Trek needed canceling. In much the same way, the red-headed (browncoated) stepchild that was Firefly needed canceling, because Fox only agreed to let Joss Whedon do it so that they could keep him for another season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You don’t promote and fund a ‘gimme’ long term. And they didn’t. 13 episodes filmed. 10 episodes aired. No promotion to speak of. You’re outta here!

But Firefly wouldn’t die, I’m sure the old guard Star Trek fans out there understand why that is. Writing. Talking. Promoting. And lo and behold the show that needed canceling is resurrected as a feature length film. Some said “that doesn’t happen” (Trekkies know better, but we let them have their moment. Kids are so cute) and marveled at the feat. And, really it was a feat. An excellent film that preserved the atmosphere of the original show, and completed the main story arc left unfinished by Fox needing to cancel the show. It was on screens all too briefly, and passed onto disk (a copy of which is already in my library) within a few short months.

And then the rumblings started from naysayers, TV executive lakeys, and Hollywood insider wannabes concerning whether Serenity the movie was a success or failure, and whether or not this should “shut the fans up”.

Personally, I don’t feel like shutting up, and I don’t count the shows short time on screen as a failure. Why you say? Because in comparison it’s just not.

I’d like to point out a show (no, not Star Trek) that had a similar fate, not so long ago. A critically acclaimed series with a very short life was resurrected as a movie (that was also critically acclaimed) that went out of theaters nearly as fast. What was the show? Twin Peaks. The movie was Fire Walk With Me. My point is this, even with the media circus that surrounded the show and the subsequent movie, if you look at the numbers here or here, you will see that the show did not in fact do an impressive amount of business. A recoup of about half of the 10 million dollar budget spent on it. But the critics loved it…

In comparison, Serenity’s numbers are just rosy here and here. All told, Serenity has made back the money spent on it, and we aren’t even done with the video sales yet. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. And still, I hear the “What if’s” and the “If only’s”. What’s done is done. The movie came out when it did, competed with the films that were out then, and left the theaters when new films crowded into the fall schedule showed up to push it out. Gotta have all the good films out right before Oscar time. Don’t ask me why, it must be that same omniscience that the TV execs have.

So why should we wear long faces and walk silently? Because the film wasn’t as popular as Lord of the Rings? Didn’t make the kind of money Titanic did? The film didn’t have the history of Lord of the Rings to promote it to every adult in the world, or the potential 200+ million dollar hickey that motivated the blitzkrieg of media exposure which ensured Titanic‘s (undeserved, in my opinion) box office sales. Serenity was good enough on it’s own merits to pay back it’s investors, and good enough on it’s own merits to inspire loyal fans of the series. I say we crow to the moon and demand a second film! Who’s with me?