One of the reasons I went to a
preview was to see the movie before I inadvertantly got exposed to the big
detail that I knew was in there somewhere. I strongly, strongly,
strongly advise that, if you have not seen the movie, even if you
know a couple of the major plot-twists, don't read this - this is for
folks who have seen the movie, and spoils even down to the detail level.
Start right off with the major spoiler (so if you're here kind of
accidentally, and you don't want to know, stop reading and go
I should have seen it coming - it winds up being doubly predictable.
Wash in the movie has lost his unique position in the cast to a) Jayne and
b) nobody. His a) role is to be a voice of reason, a neutrally
broader perspective to comment on Mal's plans when they're presented to
the core group. Jayne, for as much as this is done at all, takes
that role here, which requires altering Jayne's role - although he still
is the amoral son-of-a-bitch, all of those reveals are done in throwaway
lines, mostly comical; we don't see a character we
shouldn't trust. He can speak up and not be dismissed as just being
concerned with saving his skin. Wash's b) role is to be Zoe's
husband, present a unique relationship within the crew; this solid,
audience-linking bond is hardly presented to anyone who comes in not
knowing them, especially prior to Wash's demise (and afterward, it doesn't
come out, really, from the movie-Zoe, the not-series Zoe). Wash is
left to be the Funny Guy right-hand-man-who's-not-indispensable, so who
better to die? What worries me, and I hope I'm absolutely wrong
about this, is the downplaying of this powerfully emotional and sexual
interracial relationship. It may have been a time thing, but I can't
escape the nagging feeling that it's a Studio Thing ("Sorry, Joss,
but that won't play well in (insert area of U.S. or international market
here). Hope not.
And, of course, as a Whedon script, one has to expect such a major
"twist," on a character with a strong emotional link to the
audience. In this case, it's just the tv audience, but still.
And the set-up, which is a lack of set-up, is Whedon schtick all the way.
I have some comments on how this was done as well. The set-up had
good features - killing off Book, which was well handled in perhaps the
best scenes for a particular character in the movie, but which will
probably misdirect the mildly-spoiled into thinking that they've seen the
Big Thing that everyone has alluded to. The bad feature is the
actual death itself. Structurally, it's a double-surprise moment,
and one drains the power from the other. I had a large part of my
consciousness going, "What just happened?" while another was
"Oh my God! Joss killed Wash! That bastard!" I
believe a flash-cut showing that the danger really hasn't passed - an
image through the port, an indication that Wash sees all is not well -
would have a "boo!" quality separate from the "oh no!"
quality of the outcome.
In other less big-time spoiler areas, it was satisfying that the movie
strengthened some of the series' weaknesses: it clarified what sort
of "world," in terms of scope, that we are dealing with (even
including a throwaway line that indicates that somehow the terraforming of
a moon includes giving it Earth-normal gravity); the technological
aspects of this system held together better; it downplayed the
straight-from-wardrobe-storage Western oddities without losing the
frontier flavor; it did a better job of showing a culture with all
sorts of Earth-culture influences blended together; it improved the
Mal-Inara relationship, removing Mal's mysogynist-disguised-
as-whore-hater aspects. They may still be there, of course.
The characters (and some comments on their potential if the 3-picture-deal
Mal - there was some anticipation on my part that, without
network input, Mal would be somehow grittier or darker, but he's very much
like the series guy. Nathan Fillion does a good job - a very good
job - carrying this movie. If it does well, he should reap much of
the benefits. Where Mal can go in a sequel is a little less clear.
River - as mentioned in my non-spoiler review, River feels like more
of a plot device than a character here. If you know her from the
series, I think that the movie will be more satisfying than if you
don't. And if you don't, you won't, as it seems that many of her
problems are "cured" by events of the movie. It's hard to
imagine where the plots will go from here - how does this not become Buffy
in Space and her quirky crew? One other comment - the
"young River" doesn't work, on a number of levels. Given
the nature of her flashbacks, the only reason to have another actress in
that part was for the reveal, but too much is lost by not having Summer
Glau injected into her own memories.
Simon - much as he is in the series, no more, no less, although the
character progresses a bit by the end.
Jayne - a bit softened from the series, as described above, but a
great part to play, something sure to open Adam Baldwin's options. A
character that a sequel could be built around.
Kaylee - forced into a peripheral role by the plot, but not completely
hidden. A continuation of the series character.
Zoe - warrior woman, for sure. Mal's confidant and advisor,
definitely. Wash's wife, barely. A soldier loses folks in a
war, but her reaction to the loss of her husband is much too
low-key. It's not that it's not believable, but it's somehow not
acceptable. Without Wash, it's hard to see what Zoe will be.
Tonto, continued? A new love interest (as long as it's not
Mal)? The next casualty?
Inara - also peripheral, although she gets a couple of good
scenes. Allows the gist of the Companion stuff to be introduced
without having to get into the tangent of details. Obviously a
potential source of future plot lines.
Shepherd Book - This is a character that really doesn't fit the ship's
crew in a movie, so even though there may have been movie-practicality
reasons for removing him, it makes sense. It's a shame we never got
to know ye, Preacher (but they give him a clever line implying we never
would), but he serves a critical emotional role in the film, and his death
has meaning. I also suspect that The Operative is supposed to be a
version of Book's backstory - the clues are everywhere.