Star Wars Meets Crouching Tiger and Everybody Gets Happy

Wednesday, September 28, 2005
When was the last time you sat in the dark amongst a crowd of complete strangers in the middle of a big city and when they turned the lights on everybody was happy? Legally?

It wasn't a rave, or even a rock concert.

It was the advance screening for the new movie Serenity, based on the aborted television series Firefly. In a new twist on marketing they invited bloggers, and your humble correspondent acceded to their importunate demands. Someone on Slashdot had mentioned en passant that Firefly was the best science fiction on television today, and so I poked around and was able to catch a few episodes here and there. Firefly was different. I like different. I like Firefly. Lexx was different. I like Lexx. But Lexx is different in a weird, twisted, life-is-all-screwed-up-and-hardly-worth-living kind of way that seems to be the inexorable if regrettable result of a German-Canadian confederation. No, Firefly is different in a life-affirming way. Kind of a Science Fiction-Western combo kind of way. Ok, it wasn't to everybody's taste. It got cancelled.

The movie suppressed the Western part. Must have been focus group testing. But it's still the same appealing folks in the same rust bucket spaceship.

There's something about Serenity. Like Mary, it's hard to put your finger on. Yes, it has really truly great special effects like the newest Star Wars thingy; yes, it keeps you riveted to your seat like the latest Batman vehicle; yes, it can do the de rigeur Hong Kong Cinema kung-fu dance like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the rest, but! It transcends all that. At least a little. Partly because it's funny. Funny all the way through. Funny at the height of dramatic tension. Partly because it's human, full of humanity. People die--yep, even good people--people make mistakes, things are dirty, you don't find out all the secrets.

No, it's not Ikiru or Lawrence of Arabia. Just a nice action flick with something about it. I liked it.

Here's the thing. When the lights came on, everybody in the theater started chatting with everybody else. The whole theater erupted like it was a high school reunion and only the good people had shown up, none of the nasty or snotty ones, just your friends, and you remember everybody. It was weird, really weird. Two high school girls in front of me turned around and started chatting with me and my marine buddy like we were their best girlfriends since third grade. And I'm a guy with a kid in high school. And one in college. The local radio movie critic behind me confessed out of the blue that he hates Science Fiction movies because they never have black people in them. And I felt like he was my long lost buddy from third grade. Yeah, he's a great big black guy. He liked Serenity. (Yeah, it has black people in it. Not that you notice. Oh, and did I mention that in the future everybody curses in Chinese?) On the way out a woman in her fifties started chatting up my buddy and me on all the reasons why she loves Serenity. No, she wasn't one of those crazies. She conversed for eight blocks in the middle of downtown Denver at 10 PM with two perfectly strange males while we strolled back to our cars. It seemed normal and reasonable, and it seemed like she was my long lost pal from third grade. Somehow, the movie induced everybody to let their hair down, to relax a little, to see some good in the people around them. Weird. Really weird.


CarolynJ said...

Wonderful review. I especially love the story about what happened after the movie. That doesn't happen often, and to my recollection never when the movie is science fiction.