Thursday, October 06, 2005

Just as Shakespeare did

Even though I’ve waited two years, I still haven’t seen Serenity. Trying to avoid any spoilers, I’ve stayed away from all reviews, but a quick glance at Rotten Tomatoes has it at a healthy 81%. That’s encouraging.

Then I see Orson Scott Card is comparing Joss Whedon to Shakespeare and Tolkien. Let’s see what else he has to say about Serenity:
I'm not going to say it's the best science fiction movie, ever.

Oh, wait. Yes I am.

Let me put this another way. Those of you who know my work at all know about Ender's Game. I jealously protected the movie rights to Ender's Game so that it would not be filmed until it could be done right. I knew what kind of movie it had to be, and I tried to keep it away from directors, writers, and studios who would try to turn it into the kind of movie they think of as "sci-fi."

Because I know that science fiction doesn't have to be all mindless action. Or even mindful action. I can praise a movie like I, Robot and mean it, without for a second thinking that what I'm seeing is great sci-fi.

I can enjoy the first Matrix and see it as a kind of magic sci-fi, but recognize that in the end, it's all about the mystical quasi-religious ideas and the special effects, and not about human beings at all.

Because for me, a great film -- sci-fi or otherwise -- comes down to relationships and moral decisions. How people are with each other, how they build communities, what they sacrifice for the sake of others, what they mean when they think of a decision as right vs. wrong.

Yeah, even comedies. Even romantic comedies -- it's those moral decisions.

Wow, that sounds so heavy. But great film is heavy -- out of sight, underneath everything, where you don't have to be slapped in the face by it. On the surface, it can be exciting, funny, cool, scary, horrifying -- all those things that mean "entertainment" to us.

Underneath it all, though, it has to mean something. And the meaning that matters is invariably about moral decisions people make. Motives. Relationships. Community. If those don't work, then you can gloss up the surface all you want, we'll know we've just been fed smoke. Might smell great but we're still hungry.

So here's what I have to say about Serenity:
This is the kind of movie that I have always intended Ender's Game to be (though the plots are not at all similar).

And this is as good a movie as I always hoped Ender's Game would be.

And I'll tell you this right now: If Ender's Game can't be this kind of movie, and this good a movie, then I want it never to be made.

And that is high praise.

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