A Jar Full of Fireflies

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The kids at Catallarchy have a huge collection of posts about Serenity and Firefly up, including episode-by-episode analyses—handy if you want to catch up on the series before seeing the film, but don't want to sit through the DVDs first. My review of Serenity is here.

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  1. No mention of the fact that the studio has put the first nine minutes of the movie online?

  2. televisionwithoutpity.com still has Firefly recaps buried away in their archives (on the pulldown menu, go to More Shows.) TWOP likes the snark, but the recaps are very detailed, though the recappers can sometimes develop an inside jargon for a show that baffles outsiders (Firefly’s not bad – the one phrase to note is “hoyay”, which translates as “homosexuality, yay!”… because, let’s be honest – there’s a whole lot of unconsummated man-loving on the Serenity.)

  3. Just saw the movie yesterday…one hell of a flick. Best sci fi I’ve seen on the big screen in years. I’m sorry to see that it’s crashing at the box office.

  4. Sadly the film has slipped from second to ninth place over the weekend. Unless it cleans up in the foreign markets, we won’t get our sequel.

    How did this happen? Is it bad marketing from Universal? Is Serenity a causalty of this year’s box office slump? (BTW, rumors have it that Serenity will hit the DVD shevles by X-Mas.) Are people just tired of sci-fi in general, or is the average American movie-goer just an idiot who wouldn’t know a quality movie if one bit them in the nethers?

  5. “Best sci fi I’ve seen on the big screen in years.”

    Exactly my thoughts. I think it’s bombing because the trailer made it look like an MTV version of a space-western. It’s far more interesting than that.

    I don’t remember the last movie I just enjoyed as a story as much as Serenity.

  6. Yeah, it’s only made $17 million so far, but remember it only cost $40 mil to make. On top of which, there’s DVD revenues, which are a pretty big part of studio income streams these days. Given that Serenity was greenlighted in large part on the basis of the unprecedented sales of the Firefly box set, I expect the studios are hoping to reap a good deal of their profits on that end.

  7. It’s tanking because it’s geeky. It looks like a bad Star Wars TV show knock-off. The script is funny, but in a dorky, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Monty Python kind of way. The acting is pretty campy.

    I enjoy it as much as the next geek, but I certainly wouldn’t expect “normal” people to like or understand it.

    To think that something like this would do well mainstream is proof that you spend too much time playing Dungeons and Dragons online, and that you need to see what “real people” are like. You *will* have to go outside to see normal people.

  8. ****spoiler alert*********

    So, why is the Alliance afraid of 30,000 Reavers? And assuming that their death rate is 10% a year (pretty low considering their sloppy ship maintenance, deaths in raids, and infected self-inflicted wounds), there would be less than 10,000 of them left after 12 years.

    Even if they could support offspring, the oldest would only be 11 years old now, after all, and not much use for fighting.

  9. “The script is funny, but in a dorky, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Monty Python kind of way. The acting is pretty campy.”

    I don’t know about that. I hate Star Trek and Dr. Who. This was just much more interesting than any Star Trek I’ve seen, and I’d never seen nor even had any recollection that Firefly was a TV show.

    Maybe this is failing because it’s not dorky enough to appeal to the Star Trek crowd, and only dorks ever see any science fiction movie.

  10. Offhand, I’d say it’s a combination of a small ad campaign (compared to the pushes for Flightplan, Corpse Bride, and the rest of the “blockbuster” ones, Serenity had a small ad push) with the smaller market for sci-fi plus the general public view of “But I didn’t watch it when it was on TV”….

    Given that combination, I’d say it’s doing pretty well. I expect DVD sales will be good (and probably prompt a spike in the series DVD sales as well).

    Looking on the “bright side” a 51% drop off for the second weekend is actually good for a Sci-Fi flick. 🙂

  11. I think Serenity will do well in the DVD market. That’s where the show did well, it just needs word of mouth. Part of the problem is that it’s a relative unknown outside of the Firefly fanbase.

    I think the franchise will do well, even if the movie doesn’t directly make a lot in the box office. I bought the Firefly DVDs so my fiancee and I could watch the whole series before we saw the movie. I think there are probably other people doing that.

  12. I don’t know about that. I hate Star Trek and Dr. Who. This was just much more interesting than any Star Trek I’ve seen…

    Sci-fi fandom is rather balkenized sub-culture. “Star Wars” fans hate “Star Trek” fans. “Star Trek” fans hate “Babylon 5” fans. “Babylon 5” fans hate… what TNT did to “Crusade” and that “Legend Of The Rangers” abomination that SciFi Channel put out.

    BTW, Frank, you’re entitled for your opinion no matter how wrong you are. 😉

  13. “…with the smaller market for sci-fi plus the general public view of “But I didn’t watch it when it was on TV”….”

    But I don’t remember any of the ads mentioning “Firefly” at all. In fact, most of the non-sci-fi fans who saw it whom I spoke with never even heard of the TV-series until AFTER they saw the movie.

  14. Given that combination, I’d say it’s doing pretty well. I expect DVD sales will be good (and probably prompt a spike in the series DVD sales as well).

    If the merchants are smart, and if Universal and Fox allow it, they’d bundle the movie and TV series together at a dicounted price.

  15. To me the ads make it look like some sci-fi channel B-movie. Or like a TV show stretched to two hours. Who would pay $9 for what looks like a Xena episode?

    That’s why I haven’t seen it. Even if I read good things about it, I’m not likely to bother putting in the effort to sway whoever was going with me and wants to see something else.

  16. “Sci-fi fandom is rather balkenized sub-culture.”

    But those people make up a very small percentage of people willing to go to a Star Trek movie, say. My point is that Frank’s idea about “real people” not going to a good, or even mediocre sci-fi movie is probably wrong. Lot’s of sci-fi movies make orders of magnitude more money than would be the case if just the superfans went to see them.

    I’m not trying to say I’m not a dork, but I’m not the kind that goes in for any of the cult shows, this movie was much better than all of them.

  17. JDM-There’s a difference between “accesable” sci-fi, like the original Star Wars movies or “War of the Worlds,” and “specialized” sci-fi; stuff like Star Trek or Babylon 5, which require the viewer to invest a level of work to enjoy the programming which most people aren’t willing to put in. I suspect that Firefly’s meager showing is due at least in part to people who hear the members of the second group raving about the series and assume that it’ll require specialized knowledge to enjoy the movie.

    Plus there’s the fact that the advertising isn’t all that compelling to any specific group of people. Whom do they want to see this movie? Why haven’t they targeted those people? And, most importantly, why didn’t this come out before Labor Day, when all the students who are now too bsy with school to see it would have had nothing better to do? If this movie fails to be successful, which is looking more and more likely, it’ll be the result of a million little mistakes in marketing the movie rather than any huge blunder that anyone can point to.

  18. Who would pay $9 for what looks like a Xena episode?

    Would you pay $3 to rent it?

  19. Shem,

    I guess I’m just saying that after seeing it, it is less like specialized sci-fi than I thought it would be.

    “If this movie fails to be successful, which is looking more and more likely, it’ll be the result of a million little mistakes.”

    No disagreement there. I was using the trailer as an example of the poor marketing, not trying to say it’s the one big cause. I don’t think that the marketing made it look like specialized sci-fi, though. Just that it seemed to be trying to make it look like Bruckenheimer in space, rather than what it is.

  20. While we’re on the topic of special effects: Am I the only who has noticed that the people who complain that big name genre films (e.g. Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, etc.) have “too many” special effects are usually the first ones to complain that a movie has “lame” SFX?

    Make up your minds.

  21. I was actually agreeing with you on the trailer. The million little mistakes point was supposed to be seperate, but I forgot to make a new paragraph.

    I think a lot of the problem is that they depended too much on word-of-mouth for something that wasn’t immediately compelling. This was the sort of movie that the population needed to be introduced to, otherwise they’d just give it a pass. If they were really interested in making it a hit, it should have spent the last two months on all the entertainment shows, with more trailers foucsed on prime-time television. Marketing to people who will see your movie already, or people who will be convinced to see it by the former, is just stupid.

  22. Crimethink – because those 30,000 Reavers protected the dead planet.

  23. Julian,

    I have yet to read your review thanks to the considerate spoiler alert that you included in the first thread that it appeared. I’m gonna see the flick in the next couple days, then I’ll be able to read all this stuff. But thanks for turning me on to Catallarchy! It looks like an interesting Austrian school and libertarian leaning site.

  24. I’ve loaned my disc set to many people – only one didn’t like it, and he didn’t like it because the “acting was just…awful.”

    I hear from others that the movie was camp.

    I have a pretty broad base of appreciation. I enjoyed movies where the acting was written up as “fabulous” – and I often saw why they said so. I thought The Big Kahuna was a testament to acting ability, and I know the difference between an “easy part” and a “difficult part.”

    But I just don’t see the acting as bad in these shows. Is it a blind spot? Maybe it’s because I grew up on Star Trek and other such things….

  25. Julian –

    Fantastic essay. Reason should do more of this highbrow stuff.

    Jeff

  26. I agree. The marketing push was underwhelming.

  27. Akira says, “‘Star Trek’ fans hate ‘Babylon 5’ fans.”

    Truly, I am full of self-loathing.

    If you really want to see the ST vs. B5 enmity acted out, check out the Finnish Fan Flick, “Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning.” (URL: http://www-uk.starwreck.com/download.php) You’ll like it better if you know Finnish or Swedish, but there are also English subtitles, which are often funny in their own right, in an original Iron Chef sort of way. While this is a foreign parody, the writers and producers knew their subject(s) well. Also, production values seem much better than even such legendary parodies as “Spaceballs,” imho. This was a “cheap” film, but I was able to watch it for long stretches without getting a “low-budget” impression at all. The people who put this movie together are truly gifted, and I wish them all the success of two universes. 🙂

    Finally, to get back to the “Serenity” topic, I haven’t seen any of the Serenity actors on late night TV — has anyone? If they’re not sending Joss and his crew out on the talk show circuit to promote the movie, they’re not serious about boxoffice. I suspect that, as mentioned in an earlier posting, Universal is counting on the DVD sales and other post-theatrical arrangements for the bulk of the profitwhich I think they expect to be substantial…

  28. I hated Serenity. There wasn’t anything at all original in it. Just a mix of Cowboy Beebop, Star Wars and Kill Bill…with zombies. The impossible science and plot holes (they can talk wihtout lag over distances of millions of miles but they can’t upload the hologram, they have to deliver it personally???) drove me nuts.

    Am I asking too much if I want my science fiction with some science in it, less explosions and more thought provoking ideas?

    I am sorry if I missed all the deep meditations on the nature of freedom (please) because the constant running around was just too distracting.

  29. If you really want to see the ST vs. B5 enmity acted out, check out the Finnish Fan Flick, “Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning.”

    I saw the “trailer” for that. (Although somebody has to work on the translation in the subtitles.) It did my heart good to see Omega class destroyers turn Star Fleet junk into so much molten slag. 🙂

  30. Akira says, ” It did my heart good to see Omega class destroyers turn Star Fleet junk into so much molten slag. :)”

    James says, you should watch the movie through to the end. It gives you more of what you like, but perhaps not ultimately in a way that you would endorse. (How’s that for a tease?)

  31. Wallace and Gromit may have absorbed some of the potential audience.

    I saw Serenity in a hellish New Jersey multiplex during the first real rain (flash flood type rain) the area has seen this year.
    The people next to me seemed to be enjoying it a lot and I was surprised afterwards to overhear them saying, “I hear this is based on a TV show”. I had assumed they were fanboy types.

    A number of people I talked to at random about the film said they were waiting till a couple of weeks had gone by before going to see it. Better not wait too long.

    Julian I’m sending your essay to a friend who teaches philosophy overseas, hopefully targetting some like-minded future fans. Loved it.

  32. Jeff P. says, “No mention of the fact that the studio has put the first nine minutes of the movie online?”

    I’ve heard of that, but haven’t found it. Where is it?

  33. ‘Star Trek’ fans hate ‘Babylon 5’ fans.

    …and Farscape fans hate them all.

  34. So, why is the Alliance afraid of 30,000 Reavers?

    It isn’t. The people of the outer planets are afraid of the Reavers; the Alliance pretty much ignores them, since they aren’t a threat to the core worlds.

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