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Dom Mooney's Website

October 2005


I've just added some thoughts on Serenity and Pride and Prejudice in the film part of the media section. I've also re-instated the conversion rules for starship designs in the Traveller RPG (from High Guard to Marc Miller's Traveller!).

Two very different films

The last two weekends we've been to the cinema to see films with friends and family. The first of these was Working Title's new cinema adaptation of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. This was always going to be a brave film to make, especially after the BBC TV version had become the definitive version for many people, even to the extent that Colin Firth almost reprised the role in Bridget Jones' Diary.

Now, I wasn't a big fan of the BBC version – possibly influenced by the many times that I had been forced to read it when doing my English Literature GCSE back at the end of the eighties – but Jill was, and we both had different reactions to the film. I really enjoyed it, especially Donald Sutherland's fantastic performance as Mr Bennett. The look of the film was far closer to how I imagined it when I read the novel than the more opulent BBC version was. Jill had two main objections; firstly, that Kiera Knightley was not as good at portraying a strong character with a passionate spirit as the actress in the TV series was, and secondly that Mr Darcy wasn't played by Colin Firth. Now, I could argue that the former didn't seem to be an issue to me, and the latter was a positive advantage, but I think that I'd lose!

The second film we went to see was Serenity, Joss Whedon's Sci-Fi film. Whedon is justifiably respected as a scriptwriter for his more recent TV shows - Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which captured the hearts of a wide range of the teens to thirties market in a similar way that Chris Carter's X Files did at the start of the nineties. As the two shows wound down, Whedon was working with Fox on a new Sci-Fi show called Firefly. This was set out on the frontier, an ensemble piece about the crew of a free trading merchant ship 'Serenity'. The core of the crew are survivors from the losing side of the civil war between the frontier and core worlds. Much like Buffy, and the earlier SF series Babylon 5, the storyline had an ongoing plot arc and was character driven. There was a dark, but delicate, humour to the whole show. But it tanked in the US, and was pulled after only 11 episodes were made.

Now, Fox themselves demonstrated an ineptitude that is near unbelievable. They skipped the pilot, and showed the series at varying times and out of sequence. Is there any surprise that the show tanked? Anyway, Whedon – and Firefly's – fan based agitated hard and managed to get the whole show released on DVD. All of a sudden, it was a big seller, and Fox looked somewhat silly. Whedon still had the movie rights, and a deal was signed with Universal. The result is Serenity.

Serenity follows up the story from where the series ended, winding up some of the plots, but leaving others to resolve in the future. It's been very cleverly written to ensure that you don't have to have seen the series, as most of the key background facts are revealed without resort to a character driven info-dump. The background of the Tam twins (unjustly fugitive siblings from the core worlds) is probably the most complex part of the back-story, and that is carefully revealed along with one of the movies' villains. The whole story is action filled, but character driven, building to a satisfying end which I won't reveal here. We both really enjoyed this (and even my mum did!), so try and see this if you can!

Saturday Night In

Last night, we were planning to see some friends, but they cancelled, so we took the opportunity to watch two – very different – films. Sin City and The Breakfast Club.

Sin City was stylistically fantastic, feeling very much like a comic book (or graphic novel, if you're feeling posh). Shot mainly in black and white, colour is used for emphasis, much like the girl in the red coat was used by Spielberg in Schindler's List. The story itself is very dark, and the heroes – themselves always almost flawed – seem to be doomed against the uncaring bleakness of the city. I'm not sure how true it is to Frank Miller's original, but it was very good, possibly one to buy.

I haven't watched 'the Breakfast Club' for perhaps ten to fifteen years, but I bought it yesterday because I saw it in the local store. My better half had been looking for it for a while, but it's only just come out on DVD. It was as enjoyable as I remember, possibly because it was giving me flashbacks of being a teenager at the same time as the film. I'm glad we got this.

It also made me realise how much rubbish we see out of Hollywood these days. CGI and explosions don't beat plot and character development. Something George Lucas should have realised, especially when you see what was cut out of Attack of the Clones if you watch the deleted scenes. All the character development and rounding out that the original films had!