Serenity

As I sit here in my Browncoats t-shirt, Firefly and Dollhouse boxsets worn and well loved on the shelf, it could be said that I’m a little biased about Serenity, Joss Whedon’s Firefly spinoff, created to tie up some of the loose threads after the incredibly popular and successful TV show was inexplicably cancelled after just one hugely entertaining series. Don’t be fooled, it’s not just another Star Trek, Battlestar or Farscape, Firefly is entirely its own creature, described more as a western, that just happens to be set largely in space, in the distant future after the Earth’s resources have been depleted and mankind has sought domicile elsewhere, ‘terra-forming’ other worlds to create habitable Earth-like planets.
All I can do is compare this to the TV show, but this is a mistake, and something I really don’t advise. The show had fourteen 45 minute episodes to introduce the characters and build on their relationships, steadily building a fan-base whilst taking the characters on various adventures and quests, whereas Serenity must introduce said characters, display and possibly develop their respective personalities and relationships, and also take them on some kind of journey, all within the space of a couple of hours, whilst covering as little familiar ground as possible, so as not to annoy the existing fans. It does this well enough, with an early extended steadi-cam shot establishing the members of the central crew-come-family, their individual characteristics, unusual manner of speech (“she is starting to damage my calm”) as they make their way around the good ship Serenity, even introducing new characters, like Chiwetel Eijofor’s nameless operative and David Krumholtz’s Mr. Universe, essentially a trial for the character of Topher in Dollhouse (and what is Inara but a doll herself?).  Some of the dialogue and mythology is a little thick for the uninitiated, but if anything it should pique their interest, enticing them to watch the show and embrace the culture.
Personally, after the events of Serenity, I’d rather they didn’t continue Firefly with any more series (although I don’t think there’s much danger of that) as certain characters are lost and conclusions reached that made the original show what it was. To find out exactly what I’m talking about, go forth and view at your pleasure, I guarantee you’ll find it shiny.
Choose film 8/10

Independence Day

Much like Titanic (also on the list, some other time) this is a film that only really reaches its stride in the second half, once the iceberg has hit and the world starts to sink. Ignoring the obvious, huge and much-discussed plot holes (what if the alien spaceships didn’t operate on Mac OS?) this is actually a very enjoyable popcorn film, with Roland Emmerich unleashing his full hatred on mankind in the form of giant spaceships playing a lethal game of chess with the Earth. The cast contains many tongue-in-cheek performances by actors more known for comedy (Will Smith, Randy Quaid, Jeff Goldblum) and displays people from all walks of life, be they a drunken former abductee or a Clinton-esque president, berated for being too young, all bonding together to save their planet. At times it is a little too patriotic though, as we are shown late in the film that the rest of the world have been waiting for the yanks to come up with a solution (“About bloody time” complains a typically posh Englishman), but then in a big dumb action movie you can expect some big dumb ideas (Smith’s first human interaction with an alien sees him punching it in the head). Also, the US patriotism is probably more of a money-making plot, seeing as the director is actually from Germany.
Choose film 8/10