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Posted by Richard on September 28, 2005

Tonight, I saw Serenity. No spoilers, no long plot summary, just my strongest possible recommendation: Go see this film. Don’t wait for the DVD. Don’t skip it because you’re not into sci-fi or special effects.

If you’re into engaging, quirky, human characters, go see this film. If you’re into clever, funny, intelligent dialog, go see this film. If you’re into heroism and nobility from the unlikeliest cast of characters, go see this film. If you’re into an intense, action-packed, visually stunning experience, go see this film. If you’re into a powerful libertarian message, go see this film.

If you’re already a Joss Whedon fan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly), I’m sure you don’t need convincing. If you’re not, Serenity will make you one. This film combines a powerful plot, great humor, lots of action and special effects, and a tremendous humanity in a way that should make George Lucas feel ashamed of his recent work.

The film is definitely a continuation of the Firefly series, and it wraps up various plot elements and explains certain mysteries — why the Alliance is after the strange girl, River Tam, and where the savage Reavers came from — in stunning fashion. But you don’t have to have seen the series. The film begins with some "back story" and contextual information that brings "newbies" into the story while keeping Firefly fans interested.

The chief advantage we fans have is that we’re immediately glad to be back in the presence of these very special characters that we already know and love. If they’re new to you, though, they’ll grow on you very quickly.

I went with a friend who doesn’t much care for sci-fi or "action and special effects" films, and she loved it. The audience consisted of a handful of bloggers, some Browncoats (hard-core Firefly fans), and a bunch of people who got passes from somewhere — a radio station, maybe — who knows. Reaction during the film was great. There must have been at least fifty times that everyone laughed. And several other times when you could hear a pin — or a tear — drop. At the end, almost everyone applauded and probably half stayed through the credits. People were still sitting and standing around talking about the film after the screen went dark and the lights came on.

I have only one criticism, and that’s of the way the invited bloggers were handled. Obviously, someone at Universal gets the "new media" and the idea of viral marketing, or we bloggers wouldn’t have been invited to the screening. But they implemented it rather stupidly.

First, they sent us this dumb email "confirming" our invitation, but warning that a confirmation didn’t guarantee we’d get in. Huh? So what does confirmed mean? The confirmation also pushed too hard for a quid pro quo — a blog post that included their synopsis and a link to the movie site. I had no problem with that (I’d already plugged the film earlier without prodding), but I know some bloggers didn’t like the hamhandedness.

Second, they didn’t handle things well at the theater. We were instructed to arrive at least 45 minutes before the show and present our confirmations to the Universal Studios representative. I was the first blogger there. The theater staff said the Universal rep wasn’t there yet, but that she’d just tell us to get in the long line "over there." I refused, insisting that we were told to not get in the line with the people holding passes.

After a bit of a standoff, they relented and set up a second line for us bloggers. The Universal rep finally showed up very close to showtime, and she even had a list of people approved for press credentials — that was us! Yay! So we all got in just fine and got good seats. But if someone (me, in this case) hadn’t challenged the theater staff, we’d have been at the end of the long line and not at all happy.

So, Universal Studios — it’s cool that you’re doing all this alternative marketing, but don’t jerk bloggers around. Good thing for you that it turned out all right. And that you have such a great movie.

UPDATE: Stephen Green, who drove from Colorado Springs to Denver to attend the same screening, agrees with my assessment and makes an apt comparison:

I haven’t seen a character-driven action picture this much fun since the last Indiana Jones movie, or maybe since the first Die Hard.

And over at ResurrectionSong, zombyboy (who was also at the Denver screening) was likewise impressed:

The script is smart and funny and quick-witted, the characters are sharply drawn, and it manages a few emotional tugs along the way (tugs that will be enhanced for fans of the show). From the very beginning, there are surprises and the action moves with impressive intensity. This movie is, almost literally, one that will have the crowd sitting on the edge of the seat, eyes wide, and wondering what’s going to happen next. This is good stuff.

I’m telling you — virtually everyone who sees this thing is an enthusiastic fan. Buy your tickets already!

UPDATE 2: Welcome, Instapundit readers! While you’re here, check out some of my other posts on the left (Firefly, Serenity, and Liberty probably jumped out at you, but take a look at The law west of Canal Street or "Purity" vs. principles or…). I’m glad to see that Glenn liked the film and that this morning, he ordered  the Firefly DVD set. You’ll love it, Glenn!

UPDATE 3: I saw it a second time Friday PM. My thoughts on that got a bit long to just dump here, so I’m putting them in a new post.

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6 Responses to “Serenity”

  1. Anonymous said

    In Sacramento, the person at the door looked up, noted the piece of paper in my hand, and said “Blogger? The Universal rep is right inside the door.” That rep took my name immediately and led me into the theater, so I think it’s a matter of individual training.

    My review’s considerably vague, but I might do better later after I’ve gotten some sleep. Gah. Can’t do that before tomorrow.

  2. Jan from Denver said

    No alliens, all humans and I like that in a science fiction story. One of my favorite lines: “River Tam is a little moody sometimes”.

  3. Jeff Garzik said

    Really looking forward to seeing Serenity, though I offer the opinion that Firefly works better in TV format.

  4. jk said

    I was at the Denver screening as well and, yes, that was tough. But I loved the movie!

  5. Anonymous said

    Oh man i am so happy that it didn’t let you down. It comes out here in the UK very soon, and we are very anxious to go and see it.

  6. Hal Crawford said

    The Atlanta preview was fairly well run, but the invitation hinted that we had to get there early and hope the Universal Gods will think I’m a reputable-enough blogger to be allowed in.

    Arriving there, we had no trouble showing our letter to the ticket taker, who pointed out a line for us. As it turned out there were no more than 30 other ‘bloggers’ in line. There was never a threat of not getting in. I do question if they were all bloggers because about half of them apparently knew each other well and probably came from local colleges, but they were clearly fans of the film. (I noticed that SOMEONE in the parking lot had a license plate of ‘GIR’ – if you know what that means you’re a true sci-fi/animation fan!)

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