Failed movies from failed series...?

Ever heard of a show called Firefly? I'm a fan. A hardcore fan. Ever heard of the movie Serenity? It's a continuation of the characters and story line in Firefly. Again, I'm a hardcore fan. I just want to get the fact that I LOVE the show(s) in the record before we go where this post goes. Stay with me here.

Firefly was canceled due to the infinite wisdom of Fox television. All television executives are omniscient, just ask the guys at NBC who canceled Star Trek in the 60's. They knew it was junk and was never going to make any money. Don't let the fact that Paramount has milked millions out of the franchise (and founded the 5th broadcast network with not much more than Star Trek to carry it) since that point fool you, Star Trek needed canceling. In much the same way, the red-headed (browncoated) stepchild that was Firefly needed canceling, because Fox only agreed to let Joss Whedon do it so that they could keep him for another season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You don't promote and fund a 'gimme' long term. And they didn't. 13 episodes filmed. 10 episodes aired. No promotion to speak of. You're outta here!

But Firefly wouldn't die, I'm sure the old guard Star Trek fans out there understand why that is. Writing. Talking. Promoting. And lo and behold the show that needed canceling is resurrected as a feature length film. Some said "that doesn't happen" (Trekkies know better, but we let them have their moment. Kids are so cute) and marveled at the feat. And, really it was a feat. An excellent film that preserved the atmosphere of the original show, and completed the main story arc left unfinished by Fox needing to cancel the show. It was on screens all too briefly, and passed onto disk (a copy of which is already in my library) within a few short months.

And then the rumblings started from naysayers, TV executive lakeys, and Hollywood insider wannabes concerning whether Serenity the movie was a success or failure, and whether or not this should "shut the fans up".

Personally, I don't feel like shutting up, and I don't count the shows short time on screen as a failure. Why you say? Because in comparison it's just not.

I'd like to point out a show (no, not Star Trek) that had a similar fate, not so long ago. A critically acclaimed series with a very short life was resurrected as a movie (that was also critically acclaimed) that went out of theaters nearly as fast. What was the show? Twin Peaks. The movie was Fire Walk With Me. My point is this, even with the media circus that surrounded the show and the subsequent movie, if you look at the numbers here or here, you will see that the show did not in fact do an impressive amount of business. A recoup of about half of the 10 million dollar budget spent on it. But the critics loved it...

In comparison, Serenity's numbers are just rosy here and here. All told, Serenity has made back the money spent on it, and we aren't even done with the video sales yet. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. And still, I hear the "What if's" and the "If only's". What's done is done. The movie came out when it did, competed with the films that were out then, and left the theaters when new films crowded into the fall schedule showed up to push it out. Gotta have all the good films out right before Oscar time. Don't ask me why, it must be that same omniscience that the TV execs have.

So why should we wear long faces and walk silently? Because the film wasn't as popular as Lord of the Rings? Didn't make the kind of money Titanic did? The film didn't have the history of Lord of the Rings to promote it to every adult in the world, or the potential 200+ million dollar hickey that motivated the blitzkrieg of media exposure which ensured Titanic's (undeserved, in my opinion) box office sales. Serenity was good enough on it's own merits to pay back it's investors, and good enough on it's own merits to inspire loyal fans of the series. I say we crow to the moon and demand a second film! Who's with me?

1 comment:

  1. I'll take Serenity/Firefly any way I can get it, but I'd rather have it as a TV series. The movie was a treat and yes, I have the movie disc in my collection now, too, along with the Firefly series disc set. Comparing the two, however, clearly shows that Firefly benefits from the additional time to develop characters, to interweave plot threads, and to let us soak in the ambiance.

    Had Serenity appeared without Firefly coming before it, we would have been amazed at the richness of characters, dialogue, plot, and millieu, and felt cheated that none of these things could be explored properly within the confines of a 2-hour action movie, yet grateful that the movie at least took a stab at it. I felt that way, for instance, after seeing "The Truman Show." There was just so much more to see. "The Truman Show" was the incredibly concentrated distillation of what should have been a long-running regular series, or at least a mini-series: a sampler, if you will. Just so, "Serenity" gave viewers an excellent representative sample of all of the elements that made "Firefly" fans so enthusiastic -- all except the joy and amazement of watching something remarkable unfold at a pace that alternately teases and delights, while allowing some "down time" to let thoughts and feelings settle. That omission turns out to be very significant.

    I wonder: is there any way that Firefly could return as a less-frequent, HBO/Showtime-style series, distributed via cable, or even directly on DVD? I'd certainly subscribe. Sure, if more movies come, I'll buy tickets for the whole family. But Serenity/Firefly has so far seen its best, truest expression as a television series; all the good aspects of that approach need to be part of whatever future "Serenity" may have.

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