Power Line Night at the Movies: A Report

Tonight we enjoyed the first-ever Power Line Night at the Movies, with a free private showing of Serenity, which is opening on Friday. It was a lot of fun; we had 120 or so Power Line readers in attendance; as it turned out, we could have had more, since they moved us to a big theater to make sure we had enough room. It was great to meet a bunch of our readers, and I think everyone had a good time.
So what did I think of the movie? First, a disclaimer. People always ask us how we find the time to maintain this site. A big part of the answer is that there are a lot of things we just don’t do. Like golf. Or, with rare exceptions, watch television. Or go to movies. I didn’t mention this to the PR person for Universal who contacted us about reviewing Serenity, but before tonight, I haven’t gone to a movie in well over a year. So there is no reason why anyone should pay attention to my opinion about a film.
Further disclosure: Serenity contains more violence than all of the movies I have seen in the last twenty years, combined. Still more disclosure: the last science fiction movie I’ve seen in a theater was Star Wars. The original Star Wars, which I think came out around 1977. So I’m not exactly the target audience for this film.
With all those disclaimers out of the way, how did I like the movie? Quite a bit. A lot, actually. When I watched the trailer last week, it struck me as a Star Wars knock-off. And there are many parallels and what can only be conscious homages. But the emotional content of Serenity is considerably darker and, if you will, deeper than Star Wars. And the script is funnier. It’s very funny, actually. And the characters are better.
There is the question of violence: I’ve never in my life gone to an “action” movie on purpose. So to me, the violence was sometimes appalling. But it had a cartoonish quality that made it less painful–while, at the same time, undercutting the film’s more serious aspirations. Suffice it to say that I am very much a pre-video game person.
Some have suggested that Serenity is a conservative movie–or libertarian, anyway. I wouldn’t make too much of this; I’d be hard-pressed to say when I last saw a film that was actually conservative. But the plot definitely contains an allegory of Communism–a government that purportedly mandates virtue and enforces peace, but in fact enables sadism. The main villain is a miniature (but far more charming) Stalin, a self-described “monster” who thinks it’s OK because he’s bringing about a better world, which, like Moses, he himself will not be permitted to enter.
The actors are good. The space ship’s captain, whose role is such an obvious echo of Han Solo that comparisons are inevitable, holds his own against Harrison Ford in the role that made Ford famous. A fair amount of the plot rests on the ability of the Asian-American actress who plays River to seem special and interesting; she is, in fact, special and interesting. The other members of the crew are excellent; Zoe and Jane (Jayne? He’s a particularly murderous guy) stand out.
Everything considered, I think Serenity is likely to be a sleeper hit, and may become a cult classic. The film is well suited to the internet marketing scheme that Universal has apparently decided on. What have they got to lose? The industry is in the dumpster, the movie is based on a TV series, Firefly, that lasted a mere seven episodes, and no one has ever heard of anyone in the cast. So where do you go to generate buzz? The web.
I hope this trend continues. We got an email from someone at Warner Brothers a couple of days ago, asking how they can get us to do private screenings and reviews of their movies, too. These folks have figured out that the major bloggers have audiences that exceed those of most newspaper and magazine movie reviewers, and that we can help generate word of mouth traffic and, better yet, controversy. That’s great, I think. I’d love to do a free screening for local readers every few months. Maybe Deacon can break into the D.C. market, too. Tonight was, I think, a good start.
A SECOND OPINION: Our pal Ed Morrissey was in the audience; his review is here.

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