And apparently Amy Acker, Alexis Denihoff (Angel), Sean Mayer and Nathen Fillion (Firefly) are joing him. See the interview here. Apperently Joss Whedon took a month off after finishing The Avengers and decided to make a black and white, indie version of Much Ado About Nothing. I think the question everyone wants to know is whether its better then the Kenneth Branagh version with Keanu Reeves. The question everyone is afraid to ask is whether it will be better then The Avengers.
I admit it: I hadn’t seen Joss Whedon’s ”Firefly” series until about two weeks ago. I know, I know — calling yourself a geek and then admitting something like that is practically an engraved invitation for a geek lynching. Bespectacled geeks and nerds everywhere are making torches from old issues of Witchblade and brandishing foam pitchforks from their LARPer arsenals, ready to storm my Level 85 geek castle. Actually no, no one’s reading this damn thing anyway.
See, I’m not a Buffy fan. My wife liked it. Several of my friends and acquaintances did too, all (my wife included) people for whom I felt trust and respect. But watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer generally makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spork. A magical, vampire spork. I thank the TV gods every time I turn on the tube that the channels are no longer filled with interminable Buffy reruns. As compelling as hours of female high school drama crossed with the trials and tribulations of hunting vampires in a small town must be, I just can’t sit through an episode. So suffice it to say that I was instantly wary of anything else produced by Joss Whedon. I was also skeptical of the whole “space western” concept (and you can drop your Star Trek comments right there, bucko; Star Trek may be Wagon Train in space, but there’s no damn horses). Firefly had horses. And cows. And revolvers. And dusters. And hard-eyed cowboy drama. And spaceships too. It all seemed a little silly.
And the first few episodes are a little silly, in a fun way, until you get really immersed in Whedon’s universe. Pulling off a concept like Firefly is all about execution, and Whedon managed it. The universe was fully-realized, the actors were talented, and they bought it, which makes all the difference. Particularly when you’re dealing with a small-budget science fiction show, the burden falls to the actors to make the story and the setting believable.
A character suddenly lapsing into Mandarin Chinese in the hold of a space freighter while talking about the herd of cattle he and his shipmates have to deliver to a planet run by dusty cowpokes would seem utterly ridiculous without a talented actor behind the wheel. Whedon had all the explanations for why his world was the way it was, and they explained them subtly as the show went on, but it was the actors who made the audience care.
Nathan Fillion dexterity with the setting and his character, Malcolm Reynolds, gave the show focus. The Captain of Serenity is a hard-edged war veteran with a painful past and a nihilist streak, but it was Fillion’s gift for humor and the grudging morality he worked into Reynolds that made the character both believable and lovable.
And maybe that’s the show’s ultimate strength: it’s funny. Laugh out loud funny, at times. Which conveys, indirectly, that the show didn’t take itself too seriously, which made it all the easier for the viewer to get comfortable with the setting and premise.
The other actors held up their end of the bargain, too; Alan Tudyk was a reliable laugh and an interesting contrast to the grizzled fighters in the crew. The actors who played the doctor and his sister lent a feeling of vulnerability to it all, and the preacher, Ron Glass, acted as a moral compass, daring Reynolds and his gang to be smugglers with hearts of gold.
Whedon plays with convention and makes it better, always putting his own spin on it. The show’s writing is always good, often great, and at times displays a courage that it never got credit for. These characters dare you to put aside your preconceptions and believe that they’re out there, in the black, on the final frontier, and that ultimately it’s no different than being on the American frontier in the 19th Century. Same characters, same stories, same emotions, same conflicts. But in space.
I’ve only got the last episode left to watch, then the movie. Discovering something like Firefly after its original run is bittersweet, because while the age of DVDs allows us to enjoy shows like these even after they’re cancelled, it also underscores the fact that they’re not making any more of it, despite the ongoing cult fanbase.