04 February 2011

Browncoats: Redemption

Suffering from a Firefly jones I found and ordered this little gem. After a not unreasonable wait it showed up at my doorstep. As I had to work when it arrived I didn't have time to review it, but since then I've had a chance to sit down and watch it.

The scenery and acting is par for the course for a low-budget fan film (I have seen numbers of 20K and 25K, total, for the entire film). Not that there isn't a lot of heart in the effort, it's just that without the expertise that an accomplished studio and a seasoned cast brings to the table the result is always going to be less than polished.

In the acting there are some that are better than others, but in the end they are all delivering lines, and it's pretty clear. The cast is made up of unknowns that have few films to their credit, many of those being low budget B-movie specials (ninjas and vampires feature strongly in them), and several of the actors have only been in this one. One of them, Chris Lark, was employed in exactly two scenes and was apparently cast only for his resemblance to Nathan Fillion. Another, Guy Wellman (playing medic Cameron Allen), is actually one of the better actors in the film.

The intonation and timing of the dialog is off, sometimes jarringly so, and it does detract from the overall effort. Line delivery is flat, and the emphasis never seems to be on the right words in the right places. The Chinese is stilted and forced, a bit of practice would likely have helped the delivery. It's kind of like watching the high-school drama club put on a production; no matter how much energy each individual brings to the scene it's always pretty clear the actors are not greatly experienced. I have also seen it written somewhere that shooting the film only took ten days start to finish, perhaps if there had been more time to rehearse the finished product would have been more refined.

The choice of roles is somewhat confusing as well. For example, there are both a chief engineer and a mechanic for Redemption, which is a smaller ship than Serenity who only has a single mechanic to care for her. Jobs are arranged by a businessman who travels with the crew, yet serves no other discernable purpose and is not the Captain. Initially there is no pilot save the Captain, and the medic is never seen practicing his craft so it's not real clear going just by the action in the film what his purpose is until near the end where the Captain is telling the story of when she met him. They could have eliminated or combined several characters and I don't think anyone would have noticed.

There is one scene that doesn't seem to fit, and that is a rocket attack delivered by what is apparently supposed to be Adelai Niska as the ship approaches Ezra. There doesn't seem to be a real reason for it, and the crew's reaction is muted to say the least. The captain, for instance, should have launched into the scene spitting and snarling (imagine Malcolm Reynolds in the first scene of Serenity ripping a strip off of Kaylee because the primary buffer panel just flew off of his "gorram ship"), but instead she walked - WALKED! - to the bridge for a pleasant chat with the pilot. This doesn't really bode well for the "willful suspension of disbelief" and would have been left on the cutting room floor if it were up to me.

The music, while appropriate for the 'verse, is understated and overly mute when it shouldn't be, for instance at the changing of the scenes. Otherwise it adds what it should where it should. The scenery is more contemporary and less Firefly, I can't really put my finger on it but there's more plastic and less wood and other natural looking materials evident, which gives it more of an artificial feel. Redemption herself appears to be made of painted canvas (in other words, obviously a set), but at least the layout looks good.

And now with the bad parts out of the way, let's move on to the high spots. The plot is consistent and well drawn, and the scripting appears to be good, if less than appropriately delivered. The two times we see the ship, once taking off and once entering atmo, are extremely well done and could have been used as-is in a higher quality production. Given a bigger budget, improved sets and experienced actors this would be a great film. As it is it's still good, and since the profits all go to charity it's an acceptable trade-off.

The actors appear to be big fans of the Firefly universe, and it's quite evident that what they lack in spit and polish they make up for in sheer joy and exuberence. There are plenty of references to both the series and the movie "Serenity" (for instance, in the opening scene the ship has just delivered a cargo of beagles and the discussion is how cows may be a better cargo) so it ties in well. It's as if a bunch of fans got together to make a movie.

And in fact, that is exactly what happened.

If you are looking for a well made polished film at the production level of Firefly or Serenity this is not the flick for you. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a fun tale set in the same 'verse, you might do well to check it out.


Brigid said...

I hadn't even heard of this. I'm afraid I'd be disappointing, expecting Firefly level of quality, still it might be a fun afternoon's viewing.

Larry said...

It is definitely a fan film, but if you approach it from that angle it is an entertaining bit.
Thanks for dropping by Brigid!

BruHa said...

Thanks for the heads up Larry, I will have to check it out. Been a fan since I saw the first episode. BTW Read your posts about NAS Cecil Field. Yep, It's sad seeing your old stomping grounds gone. I did a whole bunch of environmental work out there and watched things just disappear. My old Barracks and the club hit hardest. :-(
(AQ in the IWT shop VA-82 & VF/A-82 '86-'90)

Larry said...

I was the safety guy at Strike Fighter Wing during the shut-down (97-2000), so I was pretty heavily involved in it. VFA-82 went to MCAS Beaufort SC along with VFA-86.
When you were in 82 I was a Tomcat guy (VF-31), I went to Hornets after a round at Pax (90-93). We probably know some of the same people (I was always an AT).
IWT = Individuals With Testicles ;p
Thanks for dropping by BruHa!

LC Aggie Sith said...

Thanks for the tip. Got meself a copy, and will watch it as soon as I get it :)

Larry said...

It's a good way to dispose of an hour and a half or so, plus there are some extras on the DVD that are kind of fun (like interviews with Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk).
Thanks for dropping by Aggie!

tree hugging sister said...

I'm going to have to tell Ebola! He (and Crusader) got us going on Firefly, so I'm sure we'll get an in-depth review on this.

(A-6E Intruders VMA(AW)242 MCAS El Toro, USMC '80-'92) (OO-rah!!)

Larry said...

Be sure to at least post a link to any reviews that happen, and OO-rah back at you! (I worked with Marines at VFA-106 just before I retired, but that's another story for another day.)
Thanks for dropping by tree hugging sister!