Finally, the one I’ve been hinting at for far too long.
With the success of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Joss Whedon proposed to Fox a space western. Whedon had been inspired by The Killer Angels, a book chronicling the Battle of Gettysburg, and wanted to the series to follow a group of people trying to continue their lives after being on the losing side of a civil war. Firefly featured a Stagecoach-esque ensemble cast of characters. However, problems with the network started early, with Fox wanting a second pilot, citing the original as being too dour and not having enough action. Worse, Fox would air episodes out of order, and Firefly didn’t have the magic reset button installed to make episodes interchangeable. The show, ultimately, was cancelled after one season with several filmed episodes not aired. However, fans picked up on the show’s potential despite the network meddling. When the DVD boxed set was released, several episodes were corrected back to the original concept, with additional parts removed because the show could be watched in a proper order.
The cancellation and the lack of interest by other networks in the series led Whedon to try selling Firefly as a movie. Universal Pictures signed on after the President of Production watched the series on DVD. After a few rewrites, the script for what would become Serenity was finished and filming started. The movie, Serenity, would wrap up several dangling plot threads from the series, including the Hands of Blue and what happened to River before Firefly began.
The movie was released in 2005, remaining in theatres for five weeks. During that time, Serenity fell short of recouping its budget. Despite the lack of financial success, critics were positive about the movie. Part of the failure at the box office might be from the idea of /Firefly/ being a “failed” TV series, despite the failure being caused by network interference. The original show also didn’t have a large fanbase, though said fans were enthusiastic about getting people out to the movie. Yet, DVD sales, especially the HD DVD*, were high.
So, successful? Financially, Serenity failed in theatres, but DVD sales will have helped make up the small shortfall between box office and budget. Yet, the movie continued the series and used the big screen to tell the tale. Serenity wasn’t just a double-length episode of Firefly. The film used the larger format and the budget to tell a tale that both fit within the setting but felt more epic. With the original cast and Whedon still there, respect** for the original work was more than present. Universal was willing to support the effort. What might have helped Serenity was having Firefly treated properly by Fox; but, if that happened, there might not have been the need for the movie.
Next week, super adaptation!
* Yes, HD DVD lost in the DVD wars, but the victor wouldn’t be decided for several years. /Serenity/ was one of the first movies released in the format.
** Yep, there’s that word again.