Folks, I wanna tell ya. It ain't often a new movie can crack my top ten. It's even more rare that one can trump (and easily!) my Sacred Holy Trinity that is [i]Blazing Saddles[/i], [i]Blues Brothers[/i], and [i]Ghostbusters[/i].
I'm sure there aren't too many people out there who don't already know the history of the FOX show, [i]Firefly,[/i] that [i]Serenity[/i] was based on, but I gotta think there are more than a few FOX executives shaking their heads at the missed opportunity of keeping this franchise. The inept mishandling of the show from the beginning pretty much guaranteed it a doomed and limited existence on prime time TV. That didn't stop the millions of rabid [i]Firefly[/i] fans who organized one of the largest petitions to save a TV show in history, forcing FOX to quickly release the collected series onto DVD, which became one of the top selling DVDs of 2003.
One of the bright points for this film is, thanks to [url="http://imdb.com/name/nm0923736/"][color=#800080]Joss Whedon[/color][/url]'s writing and directing and the performances of the cast, you really don't have to have watched the series to understand what's going on, but it helps. I highly recommend both. As for the movie itself, it's, well, I'll say it: it's what Star Wars SHOULD have been. OK, perhaps not the original trilogy, but decidedly the second. The film is a witty, daring, thrilling, scary, fun time with gasp out loud moments and a hold-on-to-your-seat climax. After seeing it I was buzzing on adrenaline for two hours! The talented Mr. Whedon has more than proven he's the master of ANY medium and can deftly handle a feature film as well as TV or comic books. Here, he has pulls off a seemless transition from small screen to big, keeping the characters, premise, and superb writing of the series all in tact. Guys, I have to let you know, it's really not that easy.
Joss has never shied away from challenges, though. For instance, in the first place, pitching an outer space-based show with no aliens (or how about a high school cheerleader who fights vampires, for that matter)? And a Western outer space-based show at that! Still, his vision and talent were strong enough to make it work. As for the transition to the big screen, any other neophyte director would have cringed in terror of using an establishing 10-minute continuous camera shot following Captain Mal through the entire ship set, interacting with various crew members as he went. Any other director, period, would have serious qualms about working with a cast which had collectively little feature film experience. That speaks volumes for how well Joss knows and trusts his crew.
As for the crew of the Firefly-class transport ship, Serenity, rarely does an ensemble cast ever get so individualy defined and developed, yet interact so well together. From [url="http://imdb.com/name/nm0277213/"][color=#800080]Nathan Fillion[/color][/url]'s battle-weary curmudeon with a heart, Captain Mal Reynolds to [url="http://imdb.com/name/nm1132359/"][color=#0000ff]Summer Glau[/color][/url]'s enigmatic ass-kicking River Tam, to [url="http://imdb.com/name/nm0000284/"][color=#0000ff]Adam Baldwin[/color][/url]'s (he of the most big screen experience) gun-loving, muscle-for-hire, wise cracking Jane Cobb, you end up caring about each and every one of the characters. Something not easily accomplished with such a large cast.
The film starts out with the political intrigue of a secret government experiment (Glau) escaping containment and we meet the agent in charge of bringing her back (played excellently low-key by [url="http://imdb.com/name/nm0252230/"][color=#0000ff]Chiwetel Ejiofor[/color][/url] from [i]Dirty Pretty Things[/i]). We're then introduced to the space-faring crew (rounded out by [url="http://imdb.com/name/nm0868659/"][color=#0000ff]Gina Torres[/color][/url], [url="http://imdb.com/name/nm0876138/"][color=#800080]Alan Tudyk[/color][/url], and [url="http://imdb.com/name/nm0821612/"][color=#0000ff]Jewel Staite[/color][/url]) Glau and her brother, Simon ([url="http://imdb.com/name/nm0536883/"][color=#0000ff]Sean Maher[/color][/url]) attach themselves to for protection, and, thanks to the aforementioned 10-minute continuous establishing shot, the entirety of the ship's set. We soon find out these guys are up to no good, but we're also made aware of their motives and begin to sympatize with their charaters, and we soon find out there's far, far worse things in the galazy than bank robbers. From there, it's a white knuckle ride of chase scenes, space mutants, cyberninjas, and whores (OK, the proper term is "companion" (played by [url="http://imdb.com/name/nm1072555/"][color=#0000ff]Morena Baccarin[/color][/url]), which, in Wheedon's version of 500 years in the future, is an honorable profession).
All-in-all, a very entertaining popcorn flick at the very least. At the very most, one of the best films you'll ever see.
Now, for those who plan to see this film... DON'T PANIC!
Saw that coming, did ya? If you did, then there's a good to excellent chance you thoroughly enjoyed, or [i]WILL[/i] enjoy this film, changes and all (I'll get to those later). If you [i]didn't[/i] see that coming, well, don't worry about it, just ignore the bit about the changes and keep an open mind (something apparently many filmgoers are sorely lacking nowadays). I don't know why people are so [i]completely[/i] polarized by this film, but after reading some of its reviews and some of the audience responses, I just had to write my opinion.
I... [i]LOVED[/i] this movie! Really, the plot was well-thought out and very clever, the special effects were seamless, the acting was excellent with many likeable characters (yes, even Mos Def, I kid you not!), and we are assured of more to come! Now, I had serious doubts about Mos Def, a rapper, as Ford Prefect, but he really turned in a charming performance. Sam Rockwell, as Zaphod Bebblebrox, pulled off the [i]BEST[/i] interstellar, two-headed, David Lee Roth, clueless idiot (oops, sorry, that's redundant) impersonation ever, and Zooey Deschanel was absolutely captivating and beautiful as Trillian. Of course, Marti Freeman as Arthur will go down in history as one of the best castings ever.
So, getting back to changes and keeping open minds...
First off, for those who've never read the books, you've got to know one thing: Douglas Adams was completely mad. Not the kind of J.D. Sallinger "lock yourself in a lighthouse" mad, but more like the loveable old uncle who scurries about chasing, and trying to feed, invisible cats. Yes, the man was loony, but in a good way. His work reflects this in very... eccentric ways, so be prepared for, well, eccentricity. Believe me, it'll help with the viewing experience as you watch a sperm whale fall from the sky.
Now, for those of you who know about the whale, I promised to talk about the changes, didn't I? Well, Mr. Adams himself was one of the screenwriters for the film and OKed every change made from the book. He was aware how meandering... no, strike that... [i]chaotic[/i] the books were and made certain changes that would appeal better to a cimematic adaptation. Now, if that doesn't give this film an official Hitchhiker "thumbs up", I don't know what would.
Basically, it all boils down to this. It's silly. Real silly. Reall silly and wonderfully fun, if you let it be. This isn't a movie that' going to dazzle you with star-powered performances or cover up flaws with a ton of mind-boggling special effects (although the effects ARE quite nice), but it is a fun film that will give your inner child an excellent workout if you let it.
You don't have to be stoned to appreciate this film, but it'd sure help. Yes, this is typical teen stoner fare in the strictest Cheech & Chong manner, but unlike [i]Dude, Where's My Car[/i], there is a great likeability and connection with the two main characters.
John Cho plays Harold, a quiet, neat investment banker looking to be content with slipping under trouble's radar. Kal Penn, Kumar, is his roomie and the irresponsible ying to Harold's "don't rock the boat" yang. Both characters are smart, funny, and make wonderful use out of subtle facial expressions you have to see to appreciate. Let's see Sean William Scott try to make a subtle facial expression.
The other nice aspect of the film is the excellent cameos throughout. Chris Meloni, Jamie Kennedy, and Neil Patrick Harris as himself break up what could have been simply a cheesy drug flick. Other oddball characters and some pretty surreal situations add just enough laugh-out-loud moments to keep this interesting.
First off, let me say I'm a big comic book geek. Always have been, always will be. With that declaration out of the way, I've got to say that [i]The Incredibles[/i] is by far THE best superhero film ever.
There are other films of this genre I hold dear ([i]Superman[/i], [i]Unbreakable[/i], and [i]Blade[/i] all come immediately to mind), but, for out-and-out story, plot, characterization, action, and, yes, animation, nothing comes close to this film. It's a loving tribute to superheroes with a healthy dash of James Bond thrown in. And it works. Oh my, yes. Pixar gets an A+.
The story revolves around what happens when the world gets fed up with superheros and the damage they cause. Nope, doesn't matter that they fight for truth and justice. Once the first law suit is filed the superheroes are forced to adopt aliases and "real" lives. For Mr. Incredible, Bob Parr, the strain of not performing heroic deeds is just too much to bear. With his best friend, Lucias, (AKA: Frozone, played charmingly by Samuel L. Jackson) they tell their wives they're "going bowling" when they're actually patroling for criminal action and lives to save. Thus, Mr. Incredible is covertly contacted for a very high-paying job on a remote tropical island, and the adventure begins.
One of the most amazing things about the film is that during the trials and triumphs of these heroes you never catch yourself falling into the old second-guessing bit: "Oh, I would have done that differently." It's striking how clever the story is, and how intelligently written and capable the characters are portrayed, especially for a cartoon. Another thing that struck me was the comeraderie shown between Mr. Incredible and Lucias (most "buddy" films could learn a lot from these characters). That the film has a strong family theme doesn't hurt, either.
Now, if stylized computer animation or superheroes aren't for you, you probably won't get the same sense of awe I did. However, if that stuff is right up your alley, then...wow.