Can’t stop the signals

Don’t forget that SERENITY opens today. If you like sci-fi, you will almost certainly like this film. I don’t think it’s as revolutionary as many claim and, in fact, the more I think about it the more I think it’s sort of “the Adventures of Young Han Solo” or maybe “Han Solo if he didn’t meet Luke”, but it’s good stuff and I doubt you’ll be let down.

I haven’t read a lot of reviews except for some by Grand Rapids area bloggers, but there’s a round up at Instapundit and also at Drezner. Most seem to be generally positive. I’d suggest seeing the movie before reading any in-depth reviews, and avoid spoilers.

I hope this blogger thing went well for Grace Hill Media and Universal. If it did, we’ll see more of it in the future. Not only cool because bloggers get to score free stuff, but because I think we’ll see better feedback on things. For instance, I have no personal obligation (no, really!) to anyone to write a great review despite the free passes. This was a good movie, and I said so in my “review”, which wasn’t really a review anyway.

As I noted, I was pretty sure going in that this film was going to be cheesy and mediocre-at-best, and I was planning to say so. And one of my first reactions after seeing and liking it was “oh no…I’m going to look like I’ve been bought”.

Of course, those inclined to like the film are going to be the ones signing up to get free passes and then write about it, so you’re probably always going to see more positive buzz than negative in the blogosphere. And I’ve no doubt that many CAN be bought. But this is a relatively inexpensive way to shine a light on your project and get “word-of-mouth” going, which is, of course, the most effective advertising you can get.

The key is that if something sucks we need to be sure to say that it sucks. Few take professional film reviews at face value because they lack credibility. The blogosphere, despite obvious short-comings, has a measure of credibility that the biggies don’t and this sort of “grass-roots internet” marketing has great potential if we don’t lose that cred by acting irresponsibly. Irresponsibility is what cost Legacy Media its cred when reporting on movies (among other things) and we need to be better.

UPDATE: I just posted this comment on Drezner’s post:

Don’t get me wrong. It’s cheesy.

But good. Not only good, but better than at least 90% of the sci-fi out there. I don’t think it’s particularly revolutionary, like many like to gush. But it’s a solid story with good characters in a good setting.

You rarely see more than one element of the story-characters-setting triumvirate in sci-fi, and often you don’t see ANY of them.

This is good stuff.


  1. I don’t think it’s as revolutionary as many claim and, in fact, the more I think about it the more I think it’s sort of ‘the Adventures of Young Han Solo’ or maybe ‘Han Solo if he didn’t meet Luke’…’ Well, that plus there are no fantasy elements at all (e.g., ‘The Force’), and the science as presented is strictly kosher (e.g., no ‘hyperspace’ or ‘lightspeed’ travel). As far as that goes, for a mainstream Hollywood product, that’s pretty f***ing revolutionary. (No, haven’t seen it yet, but I’m a Firefly fan, newly-minted.)

  2. Well, the girl’s mental powers/capabilities aren’t exaclty ‘un-Force-like’. And if Han Solo never met Luke his adventures probably wouldn’t have ever involved the Force, anyway. As far as the technology, there’s no doubt that this particular take is refreshing, but it’s hardly ‘revolutionary’ for sci-fi. I don’t know enough about the series to know exactly how things work there, but they’ve got to have some sort of super-duper-high-speed travel technology. They aren’t cruising between star systems at sub-light speeds. Not in less than years. I haven’t watched the TV series, so I don’t know if it’s ‘revolutionary’ or not. I just know what I’ve seen in SERENITY, and while it’s very good it isn’t because it’s unlike anything else before it. Considering this is a ‘good film from Hollywood’, though, I guess we can all agree that it is a bit out of the ordinary, though…

  3. Agreeing with you on the larger points, disagreeing on the smaller ones. There’s no evidence that Firefly or Serenity takes place in multiple solar systems — everything I have seen points to a single system with many terraformed planets and moons (or possibly a multi-star cluster). Mal does mention ‘edge of the galaxy’ a few times, but nobody ever mentions any star but ‘the sun’, which indicates a singular system. Which cuts out FTL travel completely. Further, a point was made that all interplanetary ships have some kind of nuclear power, and have been shown to have nearly constant burn (that is, they’re essentially ‘torchships’) between destinations, unless there’s a specific reason not to use it. Such as the episode ‘Out of Gas’, where they were trying to evade detections. River Tam’s apparent telepathy is not entirely outside the bounds of possibility (though it IS rather unlikely), at least as presented in the series. Does she predict the future, or something equally impossible, in the movie? Either way, it’s not presented as mystical, but as the result of invasive, destructive, and multiple brain surgeries with a specific intent. When I said revolutionary, I was referring to having hard SF in the medium of TeeVee or film. I can think of a few films that qualify as hard SF, but very few are films people would consider as being SF — Coppola’s ‘The Conversation’, the old Ealing comedy ‘The Man In The White Suit’, e.g. The only space films that come close to counting are ‘2001’ (except the final sequence) and the recent ‘Red Planet’ starring Val Kilmer. And now (I hope), ‘Serenity’. Is there anything in Firefly that ain’t been done in print SF? Nope — in fact, it’s a loving tribute to several different authors’ bodies of work. But for TeeVee and Movie skiffy, it’s quite revolutionary, even if it doesn’t seem so. (And now you’ve got me thinking of yet another post I can do on Firefly, even though I still haven’t published my first! Thanks!)

  4. Okay, maybe I’m talking out of my axe since I haven’t seen the series… But if this is in a single system the whole idea of ‘the vastness of space’ just kind of goes away. People on that planet beyond Reaver space would just have used 20th-century radio technology to communicate. Some kid with a ham radio set would have told the entire human race about what was going on. There wouldn’t be any ‘unknown’ planet out there. As for interplanetary travel, I’m with you on that and agree completely. Regarding the telepathy thing, though, you can’t just say ‘this is like ‘real’ ESP, so it’s nothing like The Force’. In that case, the worthless explanation of The Force in SW Episode I was revolutionary because the Force was no longer spiritual or magical in nature. It’s effect, story-wise, isn’t a whole lot different than the ESP in Serenity. The Alien movies didn’t have hyperspace or ESP. The Terminator movies didn’t, either. And I’ll grant that they were the better for it, without at doubt. But then Serenity isn’t really breaking new ground in those respects if those super-major films did it already. I hope I’m not coming across like a severe critic of Serenity. As I’ve said, I really like it. And I’m speaking from the position of one whose only knowledge of the setting is what’s in the movie, so some of my premises are bound to be wrong. But that’s what the masses are going to be thinking, too. I’ll be watching for your posts.

  5. I can buy the communications lapse. Broadcasting is easy. Communication is hard. You not only have to radiate the signal — someone has to pick it up. With hundreds of terraformed moons (as they stated in the opening narration) then it is likely so polluted with signals that even if you could recieve it clearly, if no one was expecting to receive it, would it ever be heard? I can grab my little FRS radio and shout my lungs out into it about a government plot, but if I am in the middle of the Arizona desert, it is very likely that no one will ever hear it.

  6. Actually the Alien universe did have ‘hyperdrive’, but they reasoned that since they were going FTL, the time dilation would be reversed. The faster you go past the speed of light, the longer it seems to take to make the trip for the crew. You may get there in a month (to the rest of the universe), but your crew would all be Geriatrics by the time they got there, hence the Cryo sleep. If they didn’t have FTL, then ‘Newt’ would have been an old woman by the time they got to the colony in Aliens. As for the planet being unknown, most transmissions in the Serenity universe seem to be sent on the ‘Cortex’. How hard would it be for the ‘Cabalistic’ government with the resources the alliance has at thier disposal to ‘filter’ things coming from controlled sources like a world on the edge of the system? Thats what made Mr. Universe so key…and why the government probably kept a very close eye on him. He could ‘hack’ and ‘override’ the ‘safties’ that they put in place.