Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Is Joss Whedon Serenity Hotter better than George Lucas Star Wars?


Much scandal and raising of eyebrows here in Britain as readers of our top sci-fi magazine, SFX have voted Serenity as the best sci-fi film of all time, beating the expected winner, Star Wars into second place. Usually the British press couldn't give a flying Ewok about sci-fi (other than Doctor Who, which enjoys the status of "national treasure") but this poll has been all over the news. Baffled non-sci-fi-fans have been asking how little-known Serenity can have defeated Star Wars - a film which, in the popular imagination, is effecitvely synonymous with sci-fi. Well, how indeed?

First of all, I don't really think that anyone really believes that Serenity is a better film than Star Wars. But I do think that lots of people - including me - think that Firefly, the TV series from whence Serenity came, was all-in-all a finer piece of entertainment than Star Wars. A vote for Serenity was effecitvely a vote for Firefly - a much-loved and unbelievably-cancelled-in-its-prime TV show.

Secondly, for hard-core sci-fi-fans, the best sci-fi has always been on TV (Star Trek, BSG, B5, Dr Who, X-Files, Buffy, Angel etc etc), whilst most non-fans usually only encounter sci-fi at an "event" movie like Star Wars or Spiderman (which, on an unrelated note, I think is the most overrated piece of poop this side of 5oCent). This poll seems to me to have been taken as an opportunity for sci-fi fans to show that they value "their" sci-fi over more populist, non-fan material.

Thirdly, these "BEST EVER" polls are largely specious exercises in filling up magazines. They were fun for a while, circa the turn of the millenium, but I think now people are wise to polls and surveys asking them to identify an objective best. Rather than go for the obvious answer (in this case Star Wars), fans tend to respond with something that makes them appear individual and knowledgeable about the genre (Serenity). It's why people always say they prefer the Beatles' White Album, when really, they only want to listen to The Greatest Hits, 1961-66.

Or maybe I'm wrong and Serenity IS better than Star Wars...

17 comments:

SQT said...

Great post Skippy.

I loved Firefly too. I wonder if people also voted Firefly because the latest Star Wars trilogy was not so great. The original Star Wars came out in 1977, and though a classic, might not be as well known by people who, say, vote in certain "best ever" polls. So their opinion about the Star Wars saga would definitely be tainted by the wooden acting of Anakin and Amidala and the ever regrettable Jar Jar Binks.

Fab said...

I'm also a fan of Firefly and have Serenity on dvd, but to say it is the all time greatest best ever movie in sci fi history ... a bit over the top, no? I've seen all the Star Wars (remastered and new ones) and they are great (some not - guess which one?). I don't like all those best ever lists. You can like things for different reasons. To compare movies is to look for specific things, when for me the differences are what I look for. I love Serenity, I love Star Wars, but to me they aren't equal. They are what they are: movies I like. Period.

Fab said...

sorry if I'm taking all the space here! I just wanted to add what a pity it is Firefly was cancelled. Now I'm watching Stargate just to see Morena Baccarin (Inara) play again. Also to see my favorite Farscape duo. Claudia Black is funny in her role as Vala.

Morgen said...

Firefly not having more than one season is an enduring tragedy. Thank the gods that I have it on DVD.
Serenity WAS better than the 3 most recent Star Wars movies, but yes - the first 3 were iconic.
I would hazard to say that Serenity, in my opinion, is the best sci-fi movie since Aliens.
Just my two cents worth.

...now I'm having a jonesing to watch the Jaynestown episode of Firefly for some reason...

UFR said...

Firefly is great but I don't think I can go so far to say that it is better than Star Wars. There are things about Firefly that make it better than Star Wars. Firefly had better developed characters and storylines and they tackled some pretty deep social issues on the show.

I think the poll is really about people wanting to give Firefly the props it deserves since the series did not originally receive the praise it deserved in the first place.

That said, I really don't think that Firefly has struck the same chord with peoples phyche as Star Wars has. Here we are some 30 years later and Star Wars is as popular as ever. Will anyone but the most hardcore fans even remember Firefly 30 years from now?

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I haven't seen Serenity, but I agree that tv sci-fi is consistantly superior.

Hey there, Skippy said...

SQT - you're right; the last three Star Wars films have definitely tainted the entire franchise for alot of people. There was a sitcom in the UK a few years back called "Spaced" (written by and starring Simon Pegg of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" fame) which featured a running gag about how the lead characters would kill George Lucas for ruining their childhood memories for them.

fab - You're right; I think it is waaaay over the top to say Serenity is the best EVER. I think though, that if Firefly had been allowed to continue it could have been one of the all time greats.

Morgen - I love Jaynestown! So funny. As was most of the series. My favourite line was River, to Jayne: "I can kill you with my mind"

ufr - dead right about the cultural significance of Star Wars. I think only LOTR has ever matched it.

JLP - word.

Crunchy Carpets said...

I love Spaced.

I think it must be a generational thing to a certain extent..ANYTHING is better than the new StarWars

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

I never gave Firefly a chance. I haven't seen it beyond a few minutes here and there and I really liked Buffy and Angel.

With that in mind, I would definitely say that Serenity is better than the last thee Star Wars movies.

Hey there, Skippy said...

I have to 'fess up and admit that I thought that the last TWO Star Wars movies were pretty good, particularly Sith - I mean what's not to love about Yoda fighting the Emperor and the line, "I've waited a long time for this. My. Little. Green. Friend."?

Kate S said...

I'm inclined to agree with you - it was probably because of the fabulous Firefly. I liked Serenity, but the Firely series itself was better than the movie.

Alex said...

Serenity was above average. No big whoop; I'd watch it twice.

When I was a kid, I watched Star Wars 13 times the first week it came out on VHS. When you take into consideration factors such as, How much ground did it break?, or What makes this endeavor unique?, Serenity has made basically zero contribution to the genre. Yes, it mixed genres, but so did Shakespeare. Hell, Apuleius did it 2000 years ago!

Anyway, if you want to name a t.v. series, then you have to go with Doctor Who or the original Star Trek. Neither are my personal favorite (that being Farscape, due to originality, character depth, and actions actually - GASP! - having consequences, which seems to get glossed over in most scifi programs), but they did the most for the genre.

And yes, if we're speaking strictly movies, then Star Wars was the most important. Sure, it was (and is, despite the diehard original fans who are now-30-somethings' disbelief and disgriuntledness) a children's story, but it made a valuable contribution to movie history, paving the way for more adult science fiction to appear.

avery said...

You can line them up and compare them side-by-side for their wild west flair, strong females, and rebellious/anti-establishment themes. But, I agree with Fab that the potential comparison lies within the differences -- mainly between the creators' styles. Lucas is a master of creative foresight and special effects, yet has a tin ear when it comes to dialogue (and casting). Whedon, while not as broad-scoped in vision, is a master of both artful characterization and crafting superficially easy-on-the-brain storytelling that always manages to have a thought-inducing nugget tossed in.

Which is better? I don't know. I like them both for different reasons. But, I don't think its feasible at this point to put such a young movie as Serenity in the "ever" category.

Peter P said...

Firefly/Serenity was so much better than Star Wars.

Somehow I really do not like the theme of Star Wars. I would probably cheer for the Dark Side.

Of course Serenity is not my favorite movie in general. That honor goes to Wicker Man with Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward.

Peter P said...

Star Wars was much better developed as a story than Serenity though.

But if we can do without space aliens I am all for it. I find it hard to believe that there are other civilizations out there.

Sarah said...

Agreed. A vote for Serenity is a vote for Firefly. I would certainly name it a better scifi movie than the Star Wars prequel that came out the same year, though. When I discovered Firefly (after tons of people telling me I HAD to watch it and would love it), it felt like discovering Star Wars all over again. It is really the only show/movie I've found that lives up to my childhood ideal of what Star Wars was to me.

I think a list like that is a product of its times. You have to remember that a lot of hardcore Star Wars fans (like me) have been soured by the prequels, which weren't as good. Firefly/Serenity was low-tech, well-written, funny scifi about a whole ship full of Han Solos (whose ad libbing ironic humor is sorely missing in the overly self conscious new Star Wars movies). Star Wars fans jumped all over it and wouldn't let it go.

I love both! But Star Wars is my #1 by a hair.

Morgen said...

peter p: you're scaring me with the "wickerman" lovefest there...

jean-luc: get Serenity into your DVD player, and ENGAGE!