For the first time in several months, I went to see a movie in the theatre two nights in a row. Now that I have weekends free-though offset by severely early mornings the rest of the week-they have recently tended to be filled with gut-wrenchingly hilarious game nights, satisfying writing sessions and movie screenings. Lately, I seem to have been watching a fair amount of depressing films or those filled with a high level of discomfort inducing content-see particularly, Towelhead, or don’t see it if you’re like me and thought that you couldn’t be so disturbed but quickly bowed to the effects of a narrative primarily concerned with pedophilia and childhood sexuality. Thus, I have been shifting my choices a bit to more light-hearted fare to get me out of that rut. There is, of course, a place for darker films, but I occasionally prefer my movies to be of a relaxing nature.
Which brings me to this weekend. I was thrilled to see that featured on this week’s midnight movies at The Egyptian a few blocks from my apartment was Serenity. The fact that I sat down to watch it on Saturday night in January and came out of the theatre in February a few weeks away from the conference where I would be presenting on it was exciting. That and I had been writing about it all day. A great opportunity at an opportune time. I love this movie.
I had never seen it on the big screen before and while I knew it would be a dramatically different experience, I really wasn’t prepared for it to be so deeply affecting again even after so many repeat viewings, including those with commentary. I cried at parts I had never cried at before-specifically when Simon is cleaning the blood off of River’s face after her "activation" on Maidenhead. River is crying and says "It isn’t mine. The memory. I didn’t bring it and I shouldn’t have to carry it, it isn’t mine." To Simon, she nearly begs, "don’t make me sleep again." When watching this scene, I realized the significance of River’s innocence and the burden she bears. The image of a young woman who has been taken advantage of is a powerful one. The comparison that I thought of while watching-and it likely reaches farther than analogy-is that River has been raped. Her body, but of more consequence, her mind, has been invaded against her will and the Alliance has placed things there that are foreign to her. In the wake of those events, River is reeling from the psychological damage that has been inflicted upon her and the desperation to recover. To see that tragedy play out on screen is utterly heartbreaking.
As other characters were torn, slashed, and shot during the film and I discussed it later with a friend who saw it then for the first time, a simple thought came to me. I think one of Whedon’s core principles which makes his work so successful is that he hurts people-his characters anyway. I would say that Whedon isn’t afraid to hurt people, if not for the fact that I believe he is afraid to hurt his characters-as would anyone who cares for someone-but sees it as necessary for their growth and the impact of the story unveiled on screen.
I left the theatre with an enormous satisfaction about my experience with Serenity in the theatre. Rather than watched it, I feel like I experienced it which should be the case with any movie you see in the theatre vs. DVD, but when you watch Serenity on that scale, enclosed in the dark, it’s special. To me, the screening opened up my eyes to the emotional scope of the film and how different Serenity is than so many other movies of that genre, but also how different Serenity is from anything because it transcends genre as a text wrought with meaning. Have I mentioned that I love this film? The phrase "character-driven" is overused, but with Serenity, it rings true. These characters could be placed in any number of situations and the beauty would not be in the set pieces, effects, or the burning afterglow of a Firefly engine, but the manner in which these characters interact and most of the time, love each other.
And the Browncoats gained another member as my friend-who stayed up late to see it-with no previous Firefly experience loved the movie and looks forward to his introduction to the show and sometime soon, another "different" tome, Buffy.