You can’t take the sky from me

I went to see Serenity the other day. Here’s a spoilerific review, in which I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but I will mention stuff which people who’d like to see it totally fresh probably don’t want to know. It’s cut for those on LJ, and there’s a bit of spoiler space for my literally 1’s of readers using RSS.

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I liked it. I liked Firefly, as I’ve mentioned before. In some ways I liked Firefly better than Buffy, as I somehow found it a more convincing world.

According to the couple of members of our party who hadn’t seen the series, Serenity does stand up well on its own, but I suspect a lot of the geekier viewers will be going because they’ve seen Firefly and want more. As a continuation of Firefly, it’s satisfying: we finally find out what exactly it is about River that makes the Alliance want her so badly (hint: it’s not that she’s made of chocolate), and the backstory of the Reavers is revealed as well.

The film is darker than most of the episodes (with the possible exception of the pilot, also entitled Serenity). Mal’s ruthless and more obviously damaged by the war. Major characters die without much warning. The villain is a total sociopath. Luckily, there is still the by-play between the characters which made the series funny, but it’s much more graveyard humour than it was before.

The special effects work well without being intrusive. Whedon finally gets his huge space battle, which is worth seeing on the big screen. Serenity (the ship) has lost some of her friendly lighting in favour of cooler blues, in keeping with a more high tech, less Old West feel to the film as a whole: you can see it in the costumes too.

My only complaint about the film is that it’s rushed (actually, that’s not my only complaint: the crew’s inability to get the Super Secret Info off the ship using a marvelous technology we call radio was slightly grating, but necessary for the plot, I suppose). We get what in TV land would be at least a season’s worth of exposition about River, and the resolution of the Alliance’s hunt for her, in a couple of hours. There’s not a lot of time for anything else. Characters other than Mal and River don’t see much development; and River herself magically transforms from Bipolar Girl into Buffy (that silhouetted shot with the axe, eh?) with barely a pause for breath.

That said, I write as someone who’d seen the original series. Totally satisfying the existing fans might have meant making an over-long film which would be of no interest to people who didn’t already care about these characters. I think Whedon’s done the best he could with the constraints that the evil Fox TV executives handed him, curse them.

In summary, it’s a good action adventure for people who’ve not seen the series, and it’s finally some more Firefly for people who have.

By the way, anyone who wants to be throughly spoiled might enjoy Serenity in 2000 Words or Less.

Doctoring the Hitchhiker’s Guide

It’s been a geeky evening, where I’ve watched both the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film, and the latest Doctor Who.

<lj-cut text=”HHGTG – contains spoilers”> I thought the film was entertaining, but I can see why some of the fans are annoyed. First, the bad things.

  • The language has been simplified, which spoils the rhythm of some of phrases and makes them less funny. For example, in the book, Paula Nancy Millstone Jenning’s poetry “perished with its creator in the destruction of the Earth”, whereas the film says it “was destroyed when the Earth was”. Ouch. Some of the extended sequences which play with language have been cut (Arthur’s rant ending with “Beware of the Leopard”, for example). The film is less erudite than previous incarnations of HHGTG.

  • I didn’t object to the Arthur/Trillian love interest in itself, since we’ve always known he fancied her. But it was overplayed in places, especially in Arthur’s speech about what the important questions were. The speech was American self-help babble, not the sort of thing a nervous Englishman would come out with. (Weren’t you glad when the mice interrupted him to continue their attempt to cut out his brain?)

  • I wonder what someone who had never seen any other members of the mighty HHGTG franchise would make of the film. There were several unexplained nods to the earlier works (such as the jewelled crabs on the planet Vogosphere). Not a bad thing if you’re a fan, though.

  • The sub-plot about Zaphod’s rival for the presidency was irrelevant and largely unfunny. They could have ditched that and had some of the actually good bits from earlier versions, and set up for the Point of View gun (which was funny) some other way.

  • Similarly, what was the vice-president actually for, other than to distract Zaphod from Trillian so that everyone (except Ford) gets the girl at the end?

There were good things.

  • The film made good use of visual gags which weren’t in the previous works but which fitted with the tone: how the dolphins left earth, for example, or the people in the pub lying down with paper bags over their heads just before the Earth was blown up, or the visual effect for the effect for the Improbability Drive jumps.

  • Stephen Fry is a good Book.

  • The factory floor scenes on Magrathea were really pretty.

  • Trillian was a cipher in the radio series, TV series and first book, a product of Adams’s self-confessed inability to write women. It was good to see more being made of the character in the film. Some people have complained that it wasn’t made clear in the film that Trillian is an astrophysicist, so she just looks like a thrill-seeker, but there are hints that she’s educated (dressing as Charles Darwin at a fancy dress party and carrying a beagle, muttering “so much for the laws of physics” as the Heart of Gold does an improbability jump).
  • The film is energetic and good natured and, silly speeches aside, very English.

Overall, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an enjoyable adaption. While I still liked the other incarnations more, and can think of ways it could have been better, it is certainly not deserving of the OMG! sacrilege! stuff which was coming from some of the fans. It’s worth seeing.

<lj-cut text=”Doctor Who – likewise contains spoilers”> So to Doctor Who. This week’s episode was the first one where I’ve felt that the programme was being made for grown-ups. The Doctor, who we now know is probably the last surviving Time Lord, encounters the last surviving Dalek. Both are refugees from a cataclysmic battle which destroyed their races. The story played with the the idea that we become like our enemies, with the Dalek starting to show compassion, and the Doctor determined to exterminate it.

There’s still room for some humour. Line of the show: “It’s downloaded the Internet. It knows everything.” Haw!

Further to my last posting, Penny Arcade has Serenity spoilers (or rather, not).

The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul

Watched 28 Days later with Lise on Saturday. Despite some irritating plot holes, it was worth seeing. One thing that always annoys me about horror films is how stupid the people in them are, on occasion. Attention, people in horror films:

Don’t go alone into dark places where nasties might be (one can be forgiven for this at the start of the film when one doesn’t know the nasties are around, but after that, it’s your own problem).

When you think you’ve won, you still need to pay attention to your surroundings rather than engaging in a tearful group hug (or, in the case of J. Lo in Enough, phoning a friend. Chicks, eh?). Inevitably, one of the nasties isn’t as dead as you’d like (a classic horror or drama staple, that one), or it has a friend around.

Right, glad that’s sorted out.

Also found that The Editing Room has now has a script for The Matrix Reloaded which skewers it mercilessly. At least Austin Powers had the right idea in calling the “M” character Basil Exposition.

Slept late on Sunday, went into town and bought a white shirt so as to appear more like Agent Smith for the Matrix themed bop that evening. Ran out of things to do and entered the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. (Aside: the phrase originates as a parody of St John of the Cross’s “Long Dark Night of the Soul”, an idea also taken up by Jung, who seems to crop up a lot in my LJ of late, thus proving the Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things).

The Matrix themed bop turned out not to be very Matrix themed. Suspect this was down to them telling other MCRs it was, and neglecting to tell the college’s own members. Music started badly, briefly got better and then dissolved into soft rock hell. Still, bopped a bit and enjoyed myself. And so to bed.

Matrix stuff

Spoilers for The Matrix Reloaded.

<lj-cut> So, who spotted the paraphrase from the Book of Daniel when the Nebuchadnezzar blew up? Morpheus’s line “I had a dream, and that dream has gone from me.” See, CICCU did me proud after all. Not sure whether that’s particularly significant to the plot, but it’s probably one of those hidden reference thingies (Nebuchadnezzar is one of the kings in Daniel).

The Drogon Arch-Wizards’ Idling Club discussed a page about that mysterious bit with the Architect, which goes some way to explaining what was going on, and argues reasonably convincingly that Zion is not in a second Matrix. That page links to a Salon.com article about it, which explains a few more things, mostly about how the machines seem to need human choice. Both of these pages are speculation, of course, but interesting speculation at that.

Someone also pointed out a short story by Neil Gaiman on the official Matrix site, which I rather liked.

Of course, no Matrix discussion would be complete without mentioning this.

It’s nearly midnight and I’ve not watched the next Alias tape yet. The lovely Syd will have to wait til the weekend now, by the looks of things. (If terriem is allowed to be gooey over French bloke, I can do the same over Sydney, I reckon. Turnabout is fair play, and all that).